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Hirshhorn Museum Presents “The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture” featuring Nine International Sculptors

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Media only:
Gabriel Einsohn (202) 633-2822 einsohng@si.edu
Public only:
(202) 633-1000 http://hirshhorn.si.edu
Media Preview:
October 25, 10 a.m. to noon.
R.S.V.P. to Gabriel Einsohn at einsohng@si.edu.

Hirshhorn Museum Presents “The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture” featuring Nine International Sculptors

This fall the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden dedicates the entire second floor of the museum to an exploration of sculpture. On view from Oct. 26 to Jan. 7, 2007, “The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture” features pieces by nine influential and emerging international sculptors and examines the ways in which the artists respond to the history of modern sculpture and their efforts to create forms inspired by challenging, often elusive concepts. The exhibition propels this exploration firmly into the 21st century with these artists’ shared commitment to the study of sculpture as a medium and to creating freestanding, autonomous forms made from a variety of traditional and unexpected materials. Despite their physicality, these sculptures lie somewhere between an object and an idea. Genuinely experimental, the artists in the exhibition respond intelligently to the history of sculpture while offering insights into how the medium can still challenge and expand our ways of understanding forms and ideas.

“There is a pronounced psychological dimension to these works, which appear by turns lively and poetic, abundant and controlled, vulnerable and solid, chaotic and composed, ordinary and exceptional,” says Associate Curator Anne Ellegood, organizer of the exhibition.

Artists in the exhibition include: Andrea Cohen, Björn Dahlem, Isa Genzken, Mark Handforth, Rachel Harrison, Evan Holloway, Charles Long, Mindy Shapero and Franz West. Each artist will be represented by several pieces, while three of the artists-Rachel Harrison, Evan Holloway and Charles Long- also have been invited to select and create installations of sculptural works from the Hirshhorn’s collection in galleries interspersed with the exhibition.

The Hirshhorn is recognized as having one of the pre-eminent collections of 20th-century sculpture in the country-from the figural works of Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse to the abstract, geometric constructions of Alexander Calder and David Smith. Selections by Harrison, Holloway and Long will offer visitors a glimpse into the individual influences and perspectives of each artist and provide an original look at works from the museum’s holdings. This engagement with the collection underscores the Hirshhorn’s commitment to sharing with visitors the creative points of view of today’s artists in a range of ways that extend beyond the traditional exhibition of their work.

In addition to his participation in the exhibition and as part of the Hirshhorn’s “Directions” series, Mark Handforth will create a site-specific large-scale painted aluminum star just outside the entrance to the museum where Alexander Calder’s “Two Discs” has been on view for many years. The installation will begin in Winter 2007. With one leg bent and slightly imperfect, the piece brings a sense of absurdity and melancholy to recognizable signs and symbols of the urban environment. Enlivening the plaza and sitting on the bustling Independence Avenue side of the museum, the sculpture will offer a fresh dialogue between the Hirshhorn Museum and the Washington, D.C. community.

The accompanying catalogue published by the Hirshhorn Museum features essays by art historian and critic Johanna Burton and Anne Ellegood.

Programming for this exhibition includes a free lunchtime gallery talk by Evan Holloway at 12:30 p.m. and an evening panel discussion featuring Mark Handforth, Rachel Harrison, Charles Long and Franz West, moderated by Johanna Burton and Anne Ellegood at 7 p.m. on opening day (Thursday, Oct 26). Andrea Cohen will lead a free lunchtime gallery talk on Friday, Nov. 3 at 12:30 p.m. Visit www.hirshhorn.si.edu for more details. Visitors and media are encouraged to check the Hirshhorn’s web site for new podcasts of related artists’ interviews and programming.

The exhibition is made possible by the Hirshhorn’s Board of Trustees with additional support from Barbara and Aaron Levine, the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation, the Peter Norton Family Foundation and the museum’s National Benefactors. Support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by Ray A. Graham III.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, has some 11,500 paintings, sculptures, mixed media installations and works on paper in its collection. The Hirshhorn maintains an active and diverse exhibition program and offers an array of free public programs that explore the art of our time. The museum, located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free.

Note to editors: Additional information on individual artists follows.

“The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture”

Andrea Cohen (born 1970, American, lives in Brooklyn) creates sculptures that are like large, gestural drawings in space. Packing peanuts, pipe cleaners, origami paper and tree branches overlap, intersect, drape, stack and wrap. Together, the materials create a map of lines that are interconnected and reliant upon one another, reflecting the social networks of modern life. Inspired by Chinese and Japanese landscape paintings, Cohen uses natural and synthetic materials to create freestanding, human-scale, autonomous objects that comment upon the hybridity of nature and artifice.

Björn Dahlem (born 1974, German, lives in Berlin) might be likened to an amateur inventor. He calls his seemingly slapdash assemblages of everyday materials “thought models” and “mental habitats.” Interested in theories about the origins of the universe, he uses astrophysics, quantum mechanics, astronomy and cosmology as inspiration. From this, he creates rudimentary, quirky, yet elegant, physical models of abstract ideas and forms, such as black holes and superclusters, and calls attention to how our understanding of reality is often “a collective state of mind.”

Isa Genzken’s (born 1948, German, lives in Berlin) exuberant and colorful sculptures are overflowing with imagery and materials. Incorporating the historic concerns of the medium of sculpture-the pedestal, arrangement, scale, volume and materials-into original assemblages, Genzken’s sculptures capture the tension between growth and ruin, creation and destruction, past and future.

Mark Handforth’s (born 1969, British, lives in Miami) sculptures take the form of bent signs and lampposts, broken fluorescent tubing and kicked-in metal garbage cans. Linked to the ready made and large-scale modern works of such artists as Mark di Suvero and Anthony Caro (whose works are on view in the sculpture garden), Handforth adds humor and narrative to abstraction, creating melancholic artifacts of the urban landscape. Distorting the ordinary, he encourages us to doubt the reliability of our perception, making us aware of how our subjective experiences and emotions impact our understanding of our surroundings.

Rachel Harrison (born 1966, American, lives in Brooklyn) builds rectilinear and biomorphic abstract sculptures and accentuates them with store-bought commodities such as children’s toys, wigs and images of famous paintings. Deeply engaged with modes of display, her work examines the status of sight and its role in various belief systems-from religious beliefs to celebrity worship to the notion that material value will bring us happiness-continuously questioning how meaning is determined.

Evan Holloway’s (born 1967, American, lives in Los Angeles) sculptures range from abstract and linear-posing formal questions about scale, color, line, shape and symmetry-to figurative, with references to popular culture, historical narratives and social ideologies. Inspired by music and color theory, economics and mathematics, Holloway creates distinctive, often elegant and sometimes strange forms that are constantly in dialogue with the history of 20th century sculpture.

Charles Long’s (born 1958, American, lives in Los Angeles) recent sculptures incorporate debris that he gathered on the Los Angeles River bed near his home after high tides or floods-such as shopping carts, chairs and smashed beer cans-combining these materials with metal, papier-mâché and plaster forms and structures. The resulting works are eccentric and poetic constructions in muted tones. They are notably personal, psychological and mysterious, and represent a shift from the artist’s biomorphic, pop abstractions for which he became known in the 1990s.

Mindy Shapero’s (born 1974, American, lives in Los Angeles) sculptural practice is intertwined with drawing and writing. Largely through a process of automatic writing in the Surrealist tradition, Shapero has been crafting anachronistic, mythological narratives that are equal parts fairy tale and Gothic nightmare and inspire the formal language of her sculpture. The act of seeing plays a central role in Shapero’s practice. Her sculptures are steeped in pattern and repetition and express a desire to capture the ethereal and fleeting in physical form-from weather patterns to psychological states of mind.

Franz West (born 1947, Austrian, lives in Vienna) offers alternatives to modernist sculpture’s unquestioning adherence to the principles of geometry and creates his amorphous, colorful, roughly surfaced forms from performance, action, psychology and narrative. Interested in human behavior and creating a social environment, West has likened his sculptures to making the invisible visible. His ungainly, imperfect and humorous works often reference the human body and encourage a critical position toward all things established and predictable.

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