24 May 2014 § Leave a comment
To use an old cliche it seems like death was a great career move for the British sculptor Lynn Chadwick. Once acknowledged as a leader of a group of exciting young sculptors that included for example Reg Butler and Kenneth Armitage, and championed by renowned critic Herbert Read he was touted as a successor to the likes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He enjoyed a burst of fame in the 1950’s that culminated in 1956 when he won the International Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale but from that point onwards until his death, aged 88 in 2003, he was largely ignored by the art establishment and unknown by the British public. Until now.
He has enjoyed a recent and highly deserved renaissance, started by his retrospective in the Tate in 2003 and followed by a number of important galleries, that has led to a series of exhibitions this summer. Four of his works were recently installed in front of the RA and now Osborne Samuel May and Blain Southern are featuring extensive solo shows. In addition there are also exhibitions this summer in Berlin and New York.
Blain Southern‘s impressive new Hanover Square space is an ideal venue to enjoy a range of seminal bronzes from the 1950s and 1960s, amongst them Teddy Boy & Girl (1955) – one of the works that earned Chadwick the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1956 – as well as the monumental Stranger III (1959). These, along with Beast XVI (1959), Black Beast (1960) and Moon of Alabama (1957), serve to illustrate not only Chadwick’s unerring interest in human and animal forms, but the mainstay of his artistic practice; the manner in which he blurred the lines between figuration and abstraction.
Existential angst and despair is his favoured theme. There are howling beasts and attenuated figures with jagged heads, torsos reminiscent of bat wings and spindly, insect-like legs but while Chadwick is best known for his bronze works on occasion also worked with other materials. His group of Formica on wood ‘Pyramid’ and ‘Split’ sculptures – clean geometric shapes produced in 1966 – are shown in the main galleries and are surprisingly fresh and modern. Downstairs a group of welded stainless steel beasts represents Chadwick’s late exploration of the medium of steel in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Make sure to take the opportunity to view this impressive group of works but Chadwick’s new reputation doesn’t come cheap. It will set you back a cool £150k for one of the smaller works climbing to close to a £million for the larger ones. Enjoy the free entry and start saving!
Blain Southern until June 28
Alistair Sooke review in the Telegraph here.
Jackie Wollschläger review in the FT here.
Lynn Chadwick home website here.