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Henry Moore. Opposition of Masses

This event is postponed until further notice

Release date: Thursday, 12 March 2020

    Opening at Hauser & Wirth Somerset this spring, Henry Moore. Opposition of Masses is a major solo exhibition curated by Hannah Higham of the Henry Moore Foundation in collaboration Mary Moore, the artist’s daughter.

    A comprehensive body of work extends across all five gallery spaces, in addition to an open-air presentation of seminal works including The Arch 1963-69, Large Interior Form 1953-54 and Locking Piece 1962-63. The exhibition derives its title from a phrase scribbled by Moore in an early notebook, capturing an incisive moment at the beginning of his career-long exploration of sculptural form. This axiom reveals not only the artist’s interest in formal experiment but his profound understanding that knowledge, especially of the physical world, is gained through juxtaposition.

    “To understand or feel anything deeply, you must know its opposite. ”

    Henry Moore


    “Henry Moore is one of the most significant Modern Masters of the 20th century, it has been an honour to work alongside the Henry Moore Foundation and Mary Moore on the first comprehensive presentation of his work in the South West. The exhibition will provide a focused view on Moore’s career from 1934 until 1986, highlighting an intuitive relationship between art, architecture and human experience. The curation resonates deeply with the ethos of Hauser & Wirth, encouraging new perspectives on historic monuments and the local landscape.”

    Alice Workman,

    Senior Director at Hauser & Wirth Somerset


    The exhibition takes as its starting point the artist’s early fascination with the Neolithic site of Stonehenge and continued exploration of the upright abstract form. Moore first encountered the prehistoric monuments under the moonlight as a young man in 1921, fifty-two years later he returned to the subject and embarked on a series of lithographs. Moore was fascinated by the relationship between the towering masses of ancient stone, their size, and the mysterious ‘depths and distances’ evoked on his visit. His exploration of these oppositions was paralleled by simultaneous investigations into material and volume, which are presented throughout the exhibition as a series of concurrent experiments. From the soaring and colossal Arch which greets you at the main entrance, to the intricate palm-sized stringed figures, Opposition of Masses offers a visual biography of Moore’s relentless interrogation and comprehension of form.
    As visitors arrive at the Threshing Barn, they encounter four towering bronze Upright Motive sculptures. Between 1955 and 1979 Moore created nine large-scale Upright Motives and a substantial group of related maquettes and reliefs in bronze and plaster. The interplay of these works is reminiscent of prehistoric monoliths or Celtic cruciform, often presented together to allow a dialogue to take place between each individual sculpture and the space in between. The motives are ambiguously figurative, while firmly rooted, evoking the organic growth of trees and stalagmites. Deep grooves and intriguing orifices encourage close-up inspection, while moving through and around them collectively causes reflection on different modes of human expression.
    The Workshop Gallery features Moore’s celebrated series of lithographs depicting the site of Stonehenge, dating from 1973. In these works, we see Moore continuing to explore the relationship of the stones to each other and to the spectator, from tightly framed examinations of surface to wider views. During the early 20th century there was an increasing interest in similar Neolithic sites, thanks to recent archaeological discoveries. Stonehenge was viewed as a highly wrought work of art, its powerful and primal forms capable of soliciting a profound emotional response. While Moore was fascinated by the ancient and enigmatic history of the site, of even greater impact was the grandeur of the sculptural idea. In the 1920s and 1930s Moore, alongside other avant-garde sculptors, championed the principles of direct carving and truth to materials. By working directly with stone and allowing its natural properties to emerge, Moore bridges ancient with modern. Works such as Square Form 1934 marries a surface incised with rune-like glyphs with a solidity of stature that speaks of the universal power of prehistoric stones.
    Upon entering the Pigsty Gallery, the viewer is immersed in a deeply personal selection of artworks and objects, curated by Moore’s only child, Mary Moore. The collection contains over 100 items from her father’s studio and home, providing an immersive insight into the working life of the sculptor and intimate memories she holds through these objects. The unique experience brings together Moore’s visual library and the vocabulary of ideas that he developed during his working life. The artist tools, wall reliefs both in plaster and their final bronze state and a juxtaposition of maquettes in various processes of construction allow you to enter into Moore’s creative mind. Mary has also selected familiar ethnographic works, including Mayan, Aztec, Oceanic and Classical objects that sit seamlessly alongside found natural materials, which the artist frequently collected from the landscape.
    Mary Moore states:

    “Studio and home, merged and flowed, one into the other. Sculptors make the best fathers; games involved maths, weight, space and measurements, in fact these formed part of the celebrations for my seventh birthday party. In the house were ethnographic sculptures, impressionist paintings and objet trouvé – all emphatically reinforcing the world my father was exploring in the studio. Similarly, in the studio were familiar daily objects from the house: spoons, tennis balls, saucepans, cheese graters, covered in plaster or wax. I was effortlessly encouraged to use my visual muscle all the time, allowing my world to become truly three-dimensional. I only hope my display in the Pigsty is able to convey some of the excitement I experienced as a child – the unimaginable variety of form that the everyday holds for each one of us.”

    Through his experimental studio process, Moore arrived at a fluency of sculptural language which he could employ in a variety of materials and on different scales. In bronze, stone and plaster, in relief and in the round, earthbound or poised on points, the works within the Rhoades Gallery embody Moore’s understanding of gravity and weight, volume and space.

    In Relief No. 1 1959 figurative elements emerge from the flat ground indebted to Moore’s architectural experiments of pressing shapes into soft clay and plaster. At this human scale the work also evokes casts of the body and may be reminiscent of archaeological sites such as Pompeii, also visited by Moore. The petrification of the body was a common theme in folklore and permeates ancient sites such as Carnac or the Merry Maidens in Cornwall, where dancing women or pagan soldiers were turned to standing stone. The emergence of figures from stone is clearly seen in Two Standing Figures 1981 in which Moore also evokes the counter to petrification, the sculpture brought to life. It is not only the mass of the two rising figures but the envelope of space between them that animates the work.

    Throughout the Bourgeois Gallery, we see how Moore repeatedly explored the theme of internal / external forms, enjoying the visual excitement generated by presenting one form through another. Observing similar structures in armour and in nature, such as shells of crustaceans, seed pods and our own skulls, he connected the theme to ideas of growth, nurture and protection. Moore made frequent visits to the varied museums of London. The mathematical models of the Science Museum precipitated a number of works in which he used string in juxtaposition with a curvilinear mass, offering both formal and symbolic possibilities, such as Stringed Figure 1938 cast 1966. String could simultaneously enclose and reveal space, creating a transparent and permeable surface. At the Wallace Collection, Moore was fascinated by helmets and over the course of his career made a series of helmet head sculptures, drawings and related works, which powerfully convey protection, enclosure and strength, such as The Helmet 1939-40 and Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior 1963. Natural or technological, ancient or modern, Moore absorbed and synthesised these sources into works which investigate the interdependence of forms, volume and void, and the generative mystery of semi-obscurity.

    The exhibition is organised as a collaboration between Hauser and Wirth and  the Henry Moore Foundation. An exhibition catalogue of the same title will be released by Hauser & Wirth Publishers in July 2020. Contributors include Mary Moore, Hannah Higham and Richard Deacon. £35 / $40.

    Press Contact:

    Laura Cook
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    Charlotte Sluter
    +44 (0)207 183 3577

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