Sophie Ryder's Upside Down, Kneeling
Sophie Ryder’s Upside Down, Kneeling was on view at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park from May 1, 2012 through November 1, 2012.
This is not Peter Rabbit.
While Sophie Ryder's menagerie of iconic and mythical beings may, at first glance, seem simply whimsical, while her work clearly reflects a traditional British interest in the animal world (see George Stubbs, or Francis Bacon, or Gooch, Garrard, or Ferneley, or yes, even Beatrix Potter), there is a post-Feminist edge present which elevates her artwork well past the invaders of Mr. McGregor's garden.
The hare is a nocturnal animal and widely associated with the phases of the moon as well as lust and fertility. Ryder's Lady-Hares are a personal invention – a bit of British wit, myth, and Surrealist sexuality. They are the artist's response to the Minotaur, which currently populates a host of video games but whose most important predecessor in recent art history appeared as a recurrent symbol in Pablo Picasso's graphic work. Picasso and numerous adolescent males fill their Minotaurs with masculine threat. Ryder's re-invented Minotaur exudes an attitude of protection, more partner than aggressor. (to see other examples of Sophie Ryder's sculpture, visit her website. The wire-bound Lady-Hares seem available, but always on their terms. The scale of the sculpture has something to do with this… coming upon a Lady-Hare so large that we are dwarfed is, well, intimidating. With Upside Down, Kneeling Ryder presents us with her conundrum: Is this a woman wearing a full-head mask, or a mythic creature ready to mate?
Another astonishing aspect is the artist's command of an unruly material. Recognizing the expense and sheer difficulty of creating works this size in bronze (her early work is executed mostly in bronze), Ryder struck out on her own, developing and then mastering an approach in which she first establishes a solid stainless steel framework and then somehow coaxes and hammers skeins of wire into sculpture that looks rock solid from a distance but dissolves into a riot of gestural line as we approach.
Her mastery is evident in the "alive-ness" that she brings to her figure. The hands, feet, and head are rendered with remarkable subtlety. This becomes particularly evident in early morning or late afternoon sun. Then, we can observe Ryder's understanding of anatomy and gain a deeper appreciation of her achievement - that is, creating a personal, monumentally-scaled mythological universe and sharing it with us.
Upside Down, Kneeling 2008
galvanized steel wire over galvanized steel frame
On loan from Karen and Robert Duncan
Many thanks to Robert and Karen Duncan for sharing this very special piece with our audience.
Major funding for the Solo Exhibition Series has been generously provided by BMO Harris Bank. Other funding has been provided by Pathfinders of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park.
Neil Goodman in the Park
Solo Exhibition Series
June 28, 2010–October 31, 2011
Neil Goodman in the Park was on view at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park from June 29, 2010 through October 31, 2011.
Neil Goodman in the Park and the artist's visit have been made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Harris Bank.
Installation of Neil Goodman in the Park
Wind, Four Corners, Ray, Ballast, Alcance
(foreground to background, left to right)
If you think you are familiar with Neil Goodman's large-scale sculpture, then Neil Goodman in the Park will prove a revelation.
Goodman's work is often associated with the gritty industrial surroundings that he views on his daily trip to work—the iron and steel factories and refineries of northwest Indiana. It has been seen in galleries with strong architectural settings where its presence is signaled by a quiet assertiveness.
The installation at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park provides the viewer with an opportunity to re-assess the artist's hand. Goodman placed the five artworks in an open, grassy glade interspersed with trees and flanked by shrubs near the university's east entrance. In this setting, contrasting with the riotous backdrop of the hedgerow, the sculptures reveal the artist's attention to detail and his unerring sense of original, yet quirkily comfortable, composition.
But first you have to find them. Goodman generally sculpts with a refined line, not mass. Beautifully controlled, modulated, and articulated line. The artist's energetic line, matte black and cast in fiberglass, might recall sumi e brushstrokes, almost calligraphic in their articulation of form against the lush green surroundings. Four of the five pieces are bravura displays of what the artist does best: creating sculptural presence from empty space. Never an outline; these linear pieces are forms consumed with defining space, and, more particularly, volume. And what volume!
As you approach the open side of Wind (see photo above), the artwork beckons you forward and fairly begs you to step through its open "door." But the visitor will hesitate as they stand between the sculpture's "leaves." Once you've entered this area, the edges of the sculpture disappear from your peripheral vision.
You are forced to crane your neck to follow the line and in this process survey the space—the volume—in which you stand. Of course, this piece, like several others in the group, works as a framing device as well, providing a focus for our gaze as we survey the installation.
Ray and Alcance (translated from Spanish, Alance means Reach) are the two most clearly related works. Ray appears pyramidal (and, indeed, it might be instructive to compare it to Richard Hunt's Outgrown Pyramid II, which is sited not more that 30 yards away), but it is missing a third "foot" which would make it so. Goodman has casually referred to the piece as 'jaws' and the gaping opening could be a stand-in for a toothless Great White's grin. Unlike Wind, the scale of Ray discourages entry; the space is uncomfortably angular and the apex of the vertical section stands about head-high on an adult. Again, the artist has orchestrated our response to implied volume.
Alcance is different altogether. It is significantly larger and its legs, catching the light on their softly curved flanks, seem to pulse. Modulated edges hint at interior movement of water or, perhaps, the growth pattern of some sort of stalk.
Where Ray is all about open angles, Alcance is all about closing, as if the piece is about to snap shut when we venture too close or too far inside. Its cantilevered, acute triangles seem to push the limits of self support—seem to reach—to the point of comfortableness.
In the context of the aforementioned works, Ballast is almost the anti-Goodman work. Visually heavy, massed, and repeating, the piece makes formal reference to Constantin Brancusi's Endless Column without quoting it. Here, the artist pushes himself, setting and reaching the goal of creating a work which sucks the viewer's attention into its solidity, into the black, articulated mass of the work, refusing to trade on the ethereal openness of his other pieces in the exhibition. Ballast provides an excellent opportunity to examine Goodman's surface treatment. We see gentle scoring and scumbling of the original, wax surface that has been cast in fiberglass. This activates the matte black forms and reveals the hand of the artist.
Four Corners 2004
Often, guileless simplicity can provide complex encounters. Take an 'X'. Find a way to articulate it in 3-dimensional space. Knock it off balance.
The open/closed form of Four Corners builds on a simple theme creating movement and surprise as you examine the many interrelationships of form that occur as planes and lines overlap, intersect, and rearrange themselves with one-another.
Ray, Ballast, Four Corners—all 2004
(foreground to background, left to right)
Walking among these works, the visitor will quickly recognize an inviting presence in the consistently original, yet comfortable, forms Neil Goodman presents.
In this setting, we can begin or renew our acquaintance with this artist's sculpture and enjoy the counterpoint of natural form which surrounds it.
Experiencing Neil Goodman in the Park presents us with an opportunity unavailable within the confines of a gallery: the time and chance to search for and find these almost invisible artworks within the landscape.
He asks us to move inside the work, to physically become part of his vision. We are happy to do so.
Programs and events presented by the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park are sponsored, in part, by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and The Pathfinders, an organization of supporters for the park.
Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park hosts Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir's Horizons
Steinunn Thorarinsdottir's installation of Horizons was in view at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park from June 29, 2009, through September 30, 2010.
An exhibition of 12 life-sized figures by the Icelandic artist Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir (pronounced Stay-nun Thorens-daughter) arrived at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park during the first week of July, 2009.
The work, entitled Horizons, consists of twelve 'ungendered' figures cast in iron. Each figure features an insert of polished glass. The work will remain on view at Governors State University until September of 2010.
"Thorarinsdottir's work touches on themes of loneliness and isolation with threads of hope implied by glass inserts that provide an aura of spirituality," said Geoffrey Bates, Director and Curator of the park.
"This is the first of what we plan as a series of temporary exhibitions of contemporary sculpture that will change on a regular basis. Horizons will provide yet another reason for the public to explore the paths of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park."
Þórarinsdóttir has exhibited widely in Europe and the U.K. and has been commissioned by both the Icelandic and English government for major sculptural installations. She is currently working on a commission for the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
Horizons has been seen in New York and Texas and will continue to travel after its stay in University Park.
The work was featured in the January 2009 issue of Sculpture Magazine and is the subject of the documentary film Horizons by independent filmmaker Frank Cantor, which won the CINE Special Jury Award in Washington as the best short documentary of 2008.
Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir has studied at the Portsmouth Academy of Art and Design in England and the Accademia di Belle Arte in Bologna, Italy.
The artist has been named the Distinguished Lecturer for the Governors State University College of Arts and Sciences for the autumn, 2009 term and will be visiting the campus in October. For updates on events surrounding her visit, please contact the sculpture park line at 708.534.4486, email staff at firstname.lastname@example.org., or visit this site.
The Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park acknowledges the support of Harris Bank as a partial sponsor of Horizons at Governors State University.