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Sculpture and photography: Edward Allington, Euridike 1986

NinaPearlman24 April 2019

Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture at UCL Art Museum till 7th June 2019. Part of UCL’s Year of Sculpture.

‘The exhibition is a beautiful teaser for what one hopes might one day be a larger retrospective’. The full review in Apollo Magazine can be viewed here.
Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), photographed in UCL Art Museum, 2012,

Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), photographed in UCL Art Museum, 2012, by Heini Schneebeli © Heini Schneebeli and the artist’s estate

For Edward Allington photography was part and parcel of making, experiencing and understanding sculpture. He wasn’t alone in this. Sculptors worked with photography in the late 19th century and the bond between the two mediums dates back even further, to the birth of photography itself. Artists like Rodin and Brancusi experimented with the new medium of photography early on, documenting their practice, using it to communicate with their audiences and collectors, as well as exploring juxtapositions of works in the studio. Photographing classical sculpture was integral to the work of photography pioneers such as Henry Fox Talbot and Roger Fenton, whose work influenced the type of photography and lighting favoured by art historians and museum registrars.

Combining sculpture and photography for Allington would have also been inspired by the work of American artists in the second half of the 20th century such as the architectural interventions of Gordon Matta Clark – comprising of carved or sliced derelict suburban buildings, or the landscape interventions of Robert Smithson – undertaken in remote and uninhabited areas. Iconic site-specific interventions by these artists, into spaces and places that already exist,  such as Matta Clark’s Splitting (1974) and Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) would have reached Allington’s attention by way of a documentary photograph. It was the photograph that travelled and reached audiences far and wide. It was also the photograph that became the object of consumption. Allington, recognising that sculpture ultimately spends much of its life in storage or inaccessible, and therefore its visibility is mediated through photography, was determined to see photography become an integral part of his sculptural practice.

When Allington conceived of his small bronzes in the mid-1980s he was preoccupied with 19th century European parameters of scale – namely something small enough but with sufficient presence to occupy a space in a vitrine or a study of a connoisseur. He found inspiration in the small surrealist sculptures of Alberto Giacometti of the 1930s, that drew on the surrealist principles of assemblage, and produced a set of component forms which he proceeded to assemble into sculptures. These component forms, drew on Giacometti’s aesthetic language which itself assimilated African and Oceanic influences. Giacometti’s series of Disagreeable Objects (1931) often included phallic sensibilities and spikes. Echoes of this language are evident in Allington’s Euridke, 1986, pictured here.

Of the small bronzes Allington had written that it had been his intention to allow the small bronzes to ‘find their place in the world with the minimum positioning needed to clarify my intentions’ [1]. By this we can assume he meant, simply placing them in aforementioned environments.  However, as he became interested in increasing the scale of these works and formalising their position, giving rise to his own iconic series Pictured Bronzes, Allington embarked on one of the most significant collaborations of his career – with Edward Woodman. ‘Working with a photographer, […Woodman], I contrived to remove an ornament or object from the setting, and replace it with the bronze, which was then photographed. The completed work comprises the bronze, displayed upon a white shelf in the gallery, with a white framed photograph of the work in its ideal setting. Thus pictured, the bronze is complete’ [2]. The exhibition features a film in which visitors can see Allington and Woodman’s collaborative working method [3]

A recurring theme for Allington was sculpture’s capacity to subvert its surroundings and for sculpture’s capacity to change as a result of its placing. He was interested in casting sculpture in a role that animated its environment and everything in it.  He maintained that everywhere there is a space in which sculptures cohabit and interact with other things and that most sculptures are made with ideal settings in mind yet are more likely to exist in storage, a home, an institution or a photograph. The reference to the photograph was a nod at once to the conceptual work of the 1970s mentioned above, but also to the classical sculpture of ancient Greece, known to us only through descriptions in Greek texts and the Roman copies inspired by these descriptions. The copies were then subsequently photographed and enjoyed wide circulation by the European elite classes who embarked on Grand Tours to sites of cultural significance from the mid-17th century until the Napoleonic wars of the end of the 18th century.

Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), bronze, exhibition installation UCL Art Museum 2019

Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), bronze, exhibition installation UCL Art Museum, Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture, 2019. Photograph: Mary Hinkley

UCL Art Museum is not a white cube. Far from it. Its form is that of a traditional print room, with cabinets filled with prints and drawings that date back to the 15th century and extend all the way to the 21st. Scattered around are examples of sculptures, various copies used historically at the Slade School of Fine art to aid instruction and training of young artists as well as Victorian busts. The museum walls are yellow, Farrow & Ball Print Room Yellow, to be precise, and these are populated with plaster models by the acclaimed British neo-classicist sculptor John Flaxman, revered by Allington. These walls are not a fit for Pictured Bronzes, works that are in dialogue with a ‘white cube’ aesthetic.

Allington was interested in Flaxman for many reasons. A son of the industrial revolution, Flaxman was a pioneer in the art of reproduction techniques using novel methods such as plaster. So significant was the plaster revolution that when his Italian contemporary and friend the renowned Anthony Canova himself turned to plaster, it is said to have marked the end of the reign of terracotta in Italian sculpture.

Reproduction techniques preoccupied Allington. They were central in his own meditations on authenticity, origins and truth that recur in his own writings [4]. A frequent visitor to the museum and occasional collaborator, Allington undertook another site-specific exploration with the small bronzes. Together with a photographer, this time with Heini Schneebeli, he placed the small bronzes in UCL’s museums, including amidst skeletal reproductions in UCLs Grant Museum of Zoology, and amidst various artefacts in the UCL Petrie museum of Egyptian Archaeology. The image featured here reflects his purposeful placing of Euridke. In this work – the photograph that was later exhibited with the bronze sculpture, Allington was creating a conversation about sculpture and the art of reproduction and that which is lost. To the right of Euridike is a terracotta bust of George Grote, one of the key founders of UCL and a renowned Greek scholar. Grote also donated a significant collection that followed the principles of 17th century collecting where copies of works of significance carried value as collectables in their own right. These works were then used by art students at the Slade for the purpose of copying, itself instrumental to the process of learning. In terracotta sculpture the clay model is fired up and becomes the final work. When clay is used as the basis for a plaster cast the clay model is destroyed while the cast itself allows for endless reproductions.  Above and behind Euridike are examples of Flaxman’s plaster models, themselves studies that would later be scaled up and translated into marble. To the left is a sculpture of Henry Crabb Robinson, another founder of UCL, friend of Flaxman and many of his contemporaries, who was instrumental in bringing Flaxman’s studio work to UCL after the artist’s death. His efforts resulted in thirty-nine of Flaxman’s models being set into the walls under UCL’s dome with the full scale model of St Michael in the centre. The sculpture of Crabb Robinson is painted plaster, the paint imitating bronze. Euridike is also painted, in a green that echoes the naturally occurring patina that forms on the surface of bronze as a result of aging and exposure to various environmental changes.

Euridike is a cast, its placing casts its surroundings into a story, a story about casting and other reproduction techniques, institutional history, art education. The resulting work ultimately challenges our ideas and beliefs about origins.

For the exhibition Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture we chose place Euridike in a similar positioning but as we were not reproducing Allington and Schneebeli’s casting, merely referencing it, we chose a different painted plaster sculpture from our collection, a copy of Hermes of Olympia. We think Allington would have approved seeing as the origins and attribution of the original sculpture are widely disputed and copies abound. The photograph is not a work of art but a documentation of our exhibition installation, photographed by Mary Hinkley, and is purposely distinct in format from Allington and Schneebeli’s work.

 

Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture is part of UCL’s Year of Sculpture and continues till the 7th June, Tues-Fri 1-5pm. It is reviewed in Apollo Magazine here.

[1] Edward Allington Pictured Bronzes, with essays by Shin Ichi Nakasawa and James Roberts, Kohji Ogura Gallery Nagoya Japan in co-operation with the Lisson Gallery London, 1991, appendix p.V.

[2] Pictured Bronzes, appendix p.V.

[3] Edward Allington: A Sculptor at Work, edited and directed by Peter Colman for the Henry Moore Centre for Study of Sculpture by Leeds University Television in 1993.

[4] See for example, Edward Allington, ‘Venus a Go Go, To Go’ in Sculpture and its Reproductions, eds. Anthony Hughes and Erich Ranfft, London: Reaktion Books, 1997, pp.152-167.

 

 

Object of the week 378: Tess Jaray, Always Now

NinaPearlman22 March 2019

Today’s entry has been written by Viktoria Espelund. Viktoria gained her MA in History of Art From UCL and has worked with the UCL Art Museum team throughout her studies as a volunteer and later in a professional capacity as well.  We are thrilled to see her knowledge and expertise gain a wider audience through her recent contribution as a writer to a current exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Art in Birmingham. Her experienced is shared in this post.

Always Now (LDUCS 7876) is a print by the British painter and printmaker Tess Jaray RA (b. 1937, Austria).  This print is one of nine works that are held of Tess Jaray in UCL Art Museum’s collections and is incredibly special to me, being the first ever work I saw by the artist now showing new work at the Barber Institute in Birmingham. The aquatint derives from a painting completed in 1982. Whereas the painting is painted with a soft colour palette of lilacs and blues against a cream-coloured background, the print has been executed in bright turquoise on paper.

A turquoise geometric print by Tess Jaray 1982 from UCL Art Museum's collections number 7876

Tess Jaray, Always Now, 1982, aquatint, UCL Art Museum LDUCS 7876

Tess Jaray has been an influential figure in the British art world since the 1960s. As both a Senior Royal Academician and an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, her career spans more than fifty years, throughout which time she has produced a vast body of work. Jaray arrived with her family to the UK as an infant in 1938 as part of the flight of Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Aged sixteen she embarked on her journey as an artist and enrolled first at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London later at the Slade School of Fine Art (1957-1960), studying under the likes of William Coldstream, Bartos Dos Santos and Ernst Gombrich. Jaray has further been a great influence on younger British artists through her writing and the thirty years spent teaching at the Slade (1968-1999).  (more…)

Object of the Week 375: Tomás Harris, Self-Portrait, c.1951

22 February 2019

Today’s entry has been written by Emeline Kaddour, as part of her History of Art Material Studies (HAMS) placement at UCL Art Museum. During her placement Kaddour catalogued our Tomás Harris holdings in preparation for a pop-up exhibition and lecture by Inigo Jones, freelance writer, on ‘Who was Tomás Harris?’ The event was well-attended, and included Neil MacGregor, founding director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin and former director of the National Gallery and British Museum.

Today’s object of the week is a self-portrait by the artist, art dealer, collector, writer and double-spy Tomás Harris (1908-1964). It is owned by the UCL Art Museum as part of a larger collection of Harris’ works which include an early drawing, 15 prints (8 of them were recently accessioned), 26 printing plates and an oil painting. The museum also holds Goya prints that were formerly part of Harris’ own print collection.

Tomás Harris, Self-Portrait, c.1951 (LDUCS-3008)

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Object of the Week 364: Cast of rickets

NinaPearlman25 October 2018

Dr Nina Pearlman is Head of UCL Art Collections and curator of  Disrupters and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL (UCL Octagon Gallery till February 2019)

My object of the week is a plaster cast of a child’s leg deformed by the disease rickets (UCL Pathology Collection P59b), included in the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition in the display case that features UCL women scientists. Amongst these scientists is Dame Harriette Chick (1875-1977) who is credited with finding the cause and cure for rickets. Her many contributions to preventative medicine were recognised with both a CBE and a DBE.

This object gives me pause to ask, how were women scientists perceived in the early twentieth century? What anti-feminist sentiments did they have to contend with and how did they go on to make groundbreaking and lasting discoveries despite the persistence of the anti-feminist agenda, at the time labelled anti-suffragist?

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The Museum of Ordinary Animals opens at the Grant Museum

JackAshby21 September 2017

Throughout my career in museum zoology I have detected (and contributed to) a certain snobbery when it comes to some species of animal. It seems that as far as museum displays are concerned, not all animal specimens were created equally. Our new exhibition – opening today – seeks to address this.

The Museum of Ordinary Animals tells the story of the boring beasts that have changed the world: the mundane creatures in our daily lives, including dogs, pigeons, cats, cows, chickens and mice. These animals are rarely represented in natural history museum displays. They are not special enough. Do we even need to go to a museum to see animals that we can find on our plates, on our laps and on our streets? People would rather see dinosaurs, dodos and giant whales.

Domestic dog skulls. Humans’ first domestication was that of dogs from wolves. Today humans have forced the descendants of wolves to become the most anatomically variable of all species.

Domestic dog skulls. LDUCZ-Z1046 and LDUCZ-Z1338b
Humans’ first domestication was that of dogs from wolves. Today humans have forced the descendants of wolves to become the most anatomically variable of all species.

Nevertheless, this exhibition puts these everyday species front and centre. It investigates some of the profound impacts they have had on humanity and the natural world, how they were created, and the extraordinary things we have learned from them. (more…)

The trace is the appearance of nearness

MartineRouleau30 May 2017

Blog post written by Liz Rideal, Leverhume artist in residence at UCL Art Museum and Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art

Installation view of Terme Di Diocletian by Liz Rideal

Installation view of Terme di Diocleziano by Mike Dye

The trace is the appearance of nearness, however far removed the thing that left it behind may be. The aura is the appearance of a distance, however close the thing that calls it forth. In the trace, we gain possession of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.

Walter Benjamin

All of the UCL Museums exist in compact spaces, the Art Museum is no exception with John Flaxman‘s (1755-1826) sculptural bequests crowding the walls, leaving small gaps for temporary exhibitions. The advantage here is that the plethora adds to the excitement around what is available to see, and the Legacy exhibition of Richard Cooper Jnr (1740-1822) makes an unusual eighteenth century complement to the permanent display. Cooper Jnr’s prints are exhibited so that one can compare, contrast and appreciate their repetition of landscape format and small scale. We can recognise the tropes made familiar by his precedents, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Claude Lorraine (1604/5-1682) and lesser known but more famous in his day, Herman van Swanevelt (c.1603-1655) with their reiterated Italianate views made popular by print and available in albums. It emerged that the museum curatorial assistant George Richards’s Masters was on The Dutch golden age. A landscape print of Richard Cooper Jnr’s ‘after Swanevelt’ was in the display, consequently I was able to expand his knowledge of this artist through sharing art historian Sue Russell‘s research into Swanevelt, thus making further connections – another unimagined benefit of my Leverhulme research grant.

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Meanderings in the Vault

MartineRouleau24 November 2016

Vault artist in residence Kara Chin and Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis introduce a screening of Magnetic Rose, a Japanese animé that follows four space travelers who are drawn into an abandoned spaceship that contains a world created by one woman’s memories, alongside It’s a Good Life, an episode of the Twilight Zone television series.

h - Version 2

This double programme started with an exchange between Kara and Martin about themes found in science, urban planning, art, films and other cultural productions. The essence of this discussion can be found here. Kara Chin is hosting a screening of the Japanese animé Paprika, also discussed here, on the evening of the 29th of November.

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Unlocking the Museum’s Vaults

MartineRouleau27 September 2016

Unlocking the Museum’s Vaults

IMG_0267

Image: Kara Chin

After 6 years of curating a collaborative group exhibition with the Slade School of Art, UCL Art Museum has launched its first artists’ residency. This summer, we invited 4 Slade artists to delve into the collections, to mine the staff for information and to produce new work in response to their experience. The resulting exhibition and series of public programmes, entitled Vault, is now on show at the museum until December 2016.

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Spectacular Revolution

MartineRouleau27 May 2016

Blog post for UCL Art Museum, Revolution under a King exhibition by Dr Susannah Walker, UCL Art History Department.

LDUCS_A_Versaille

Anonymous, A Versaille a Versaille, 1789, etching and engraving, UCL Art Museum

Despite its Enlightenment origins, one of the French Revolution’s legacies is a rich strain of macabre imagery that has entered popular culture: Marie-Antoinette’s hair turning grey at the prospect of the guillotine. The assassinated radical journalist Marat slumped in his bath. The apocryphal tale of the bals des victimes where survivors of the Terror were said to have worn short hair and a red ribbon at the throat in reference to the guillotined head.

The dark humour of popular prints may be at the origin of this cultural response. One bitterly ironic anonymous image of Revolutionary leader Robespierre imagines “having had all the French people guillotined [he] beheads the executioner with his own hand.”

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Conservation of Public Art in the UCL Wilkins Building

SusiPancaldo11 March 2016

Have you ever noticed – as you hurry off to class, the library or an event – that UCL’s campus is filled with works of art?

The Wilkins Building, at the heart of the UCL Bloomsbury campus’ main quad, is particularly rich in sculpture. Outside the building, of course, are the iconic lead athletes on the steps below the dome.

Lead statues of the Capitoline Antinous and the Discophorus, Wilkings Building

Lead statues: Capitoline Antinous and Discophorus, Wilkins Building

These figures have a fascinating history and I will write more about them another time.

Inside the Wilkins Building, there is an abundance of works on permanent display too. Adjacent to the Jeremy Bentham auto-icon are two large, ancient Egyptian limestone lions in excavated by Sir Wm.M.F. Petrie. There are a number of 19th and early 20th century sculptures on either side of the Octagon Gallery; wall paintings in the Whistler Room (soon to be opened to the public); and upstairs, within the library, a myriad of sculpture in and around the 1st floor Flaxman Gallery. (more…)