Sunday, February 20, 2011

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure 1951, Bronze, Jardine Tulliers, Paris. By craniv boyd

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure 1951, Bronze, Jardine Tulliers, Paris. By craniv boyd


A woman is made out of bronze and she lies resting, fatigued having lived the life of one of the baby-boomers born in 1951. She is a child of the postwar era and reclines frozen for most to see outside Musée de l'Orangerie transfixed not by television and popcorn but by the hand of English sculptor Henry Moore.


What Peit Mondrian did for trees and the urban grid of Manhattan in his canvasses, Henry Moore has done to the human figure in clay then bronze, a distillation, a process of refinement and abstraction, a focusing not the way a camera would but the way a existentialist philosopher would on the essence of woman. The reclining figure bears strong resemblance to the sculptures of pre-Columbian Aztec and Maya peoples, they retain in their materials the old world tradition of lost wax and bronze casting, rather than hewn from stone. The choice of materials is one of duration and substance, bronze a medium of sculpture, and one used by artists and crafts people from times that predate attic Greece.


Reclining figure is dated in appearance. 20th century modern art vintage, it is firmly nineteen fifties, a work that borrows from the classical period of Picasso, yet reaches beyond and captures and affirms a kind of feminine humanity that is devoid of pulchritude. Moore's figure is not sexy or sexualized it is a woman who is, undisturbed and stationary in a moment of inactivity. Moors figure is strong in her absence of man, solid looking and durable, somewhat other womanly reality than a waif being abducted in marble also in the same garden, but further back. Moore's reclining figure could be a citizen of the mythical city of women, educated and taking a pause from utopian life-style where one was allowed to improve ones prospects. By contrast the mythical waif being abducted by a centaur a few hundred meters east and closer to I.M. Pei's glass pyramids is and looks like a sexual victim, and possible inspiration for Marquis de Sade's behavior and attitudes towards women. In the U.S. judges and law makers question the influence of misogynist "lyrics" of gangster rappers and Marilyn Manson on today's young, what about 17th century sculptures influence on the minds of the youth of that day? Does a heroic Baroque or Rococo illustration of abduction in over life-size marble encourage or deter sadism in men towards women?


Henry Moore and his representation of the female form contain no such misogyny, they portray and present the female form as an enduring character, epitome of stability, a Demeter figure rather than a Venus, an Ur type, a woman of agelessness and timelessness, striking in the removal of personal facial landmarks and mimesis of digits and feet so as to distinguish Reclining Figure from this specific individual as opposed to that one: Henry Moore in effect has established his own personal 20th century ideal of woman. The gender of the figure is apparent, yet somehow also kept at bay, both within the title and the soft contours of this human form. Reclining Figure is soft looking does a soft looking nature presume the feminine sex. There is something proto feminist about the title, to create a Bronze statue of a woman and title it figure as opposed to woman, to withhold the ostentatious claiming of gender in words in the naming of the work, to leave the form of the work to communicate its content.


The vintage look of a bronze representation of the female form in sculpture by an artist active in 1950's England and a representation of an artist active in England in the 2000's working with the same material (bronze) and subject: (the female body) can tell us something about how we view art or how some individuals view art. Henry Moore has made a work that synthesizes his accrued knowledge of the history of art and his awareness for the art of his contemporaries his work reclining figure is that a personal human scaled work earnestly produced for the most part by the hands of Moore himself. Recent visitors to Skidmore Owens & Merrill modernist building of the Lever House in midtown Manhattan, would have seen an approximately 6 meters high woman of bronze in the courtyard enclosed by the colonnade there. A tall woman with her leg taking a tentative step forward, one might ask what does a giant woman have to fear what cause for reticence in her posture? The artist to ask would be Englishman Damian Hirst, his answer to your question concerning the pose of the tall woman could be done hypothetically wordlessly, he would turn to you and pull a crumpled up photograph of a Degas sculpture of a young Ballet dancer he kept in his back pocket. You would then see that the pose of the 6 meters colossus woman was identical to Degas fin de siecle modest presentation of youth. You could see the way that Damien Hirst synthesizes the history of art, anatomy as medical doctors are familiar with it by mimicking an anatomy dummy. Hirst returns to a recurrent theme he employs, that of the mother and child. Damien Hirst's contribution to the space near the lobby of the Leaver house was Degas, looming over spectators at 6 meters high, pregnant in the third trimester with and the spectators could know this not only by the girth of the colossus, but by the cutaway section that showed the skull of the mother, her facial ligature her fatty mammary tissue and the healthy fetus within the mothers womb. This current sculpture was most certainly not executed by the artist's own hand, it has the impersonal authorless accurate touch of the plastic anatomy dummy with removable organs. It is comical in the way that things not commonly seen together are humorous, the odd couple of the impressionism of Degas and the anatomical accuracy of Medical school. Humorous is not quite the adjective immediately applicable to the sculpture of Henry Moore, perhaps given a foreign context or odd juxtaposition Henry Moore's sculpture could appear droll, Reclining Figure is a serious work made by a serious artist one palpates this rigor not from the scale of the work, which is modest but through its form and contents. Seeing Hirst's sculpture of a woman, one is accosted by formal bombast in the sheep's clothing of sensationalism and the aesthetic sensibility of the ad man. To present a big woman that draws inspiration from recent celebrated art history, French impressionism, and to increase the scale of the art object so that it must be good because of its super size. One is faced with an educational totem of woman that looks like a frightening taboo when looking at Hirst's sculpture. With Moore awe is a feeling imbued with subtle means, "woman is" whispers the work through a voice cultivated and distant, awe becomes awful in the colossus that was on avenue of the Americas, work that screamed in a horse cockney "look at my witty approach to motherhood and French impressionism!"


 Reclining Figure now 59 years old could very well be women born the same year, leaning back and resting after the hippy dippy 60's and disco 70's resting and watching. By craniv boyd. 

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