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Ideal Standard Forms: The Influence of Classicism on Modern and Contemporary Sculptors' Drawings

15 Nov 2019 – 23 Feb 2020

In the Henry Moore lnstitute's galleries, Edward Allington: Things Unsaid, makes evident the influence of classicism on Edward Allington. His approach focused on issues such as kitsch, reproduction and the questioning of classical philosophy.

There are many examples of sculptors who continue to turn to the objects, subjects and conceptual threads of classicism and this display accommodates just a small selection. Perhaps the most dedicated observer of the subject, whose work is exhibited here, is Ian Hamilton Finlay, whose two-dimensional work presents us with a simplicity of line and economy of words which mirrors the elegant language of classical architecture. Similarly, sculptor Keir Smith had a lifelong interest in the Renaissance reinterpretation of classical form. Smith's work is represented by an exquisite Christmas card showing designs for The Dark Cave, a frieze of fifteen sculptures depicting the history of building, which were realised on the facade of Henrietta House in central London.

Simon Starling's sculptural project Infestation Piece (Musse/led Moore) 2007-08 has multi­layered references. Starling's copy of Henry Moore's Warrior with Shield 1953-54 was submerged in Lake Ontario, Canada, for approximately eighteen months. Moore's original sculpture alludes to his interest in ancient sculpture and also perhaps the recent losses of the Second World War, while Starling's work raises issues of foreign cultural influence and the copy.

Just as Starling explores Moore's artistic legacy, one cannot help but see his reclining figures in Gavin Turk's shadowy forms, although they are more directly identifiable as contemporary reimaginings of Giorgio de Chirico's painted nudes, themselves modern responses to Roman copies of Hellenistic prototypes.

Rose Garrard's striking mixed media drawing is part of a series made in 1988 titled Talisman. The drawings were inspired by an ancient Greek text - The Thunder, Perfect Mind - given to her by a friend during a period of convalescence. The poem is unusual for the time in that it is written for a female voice. Garrard responds to the images conjured up by the poem, with an intention to highlight the epoch-long history of female behavioural conditioning.

Eduardo Paolozzi's interest in classicism also began with a significant encounter, a visit to the Glyptothek in Munich, an outstanding collection of Greek and Roman statuary. True to his signature style Paolozzi featured classical heads and figures within collages and alongside objects from diverse time periods, perhaps, like Allington and Starling, alluding to something of a mistrust of Platonic absolute values and ideal standard forms.


This display has been organised by Kirstie Gregory (Research Co-ordinator, Henry Moore Institute) with the help of William Cortes (PhD student, University of Udine).