Stage Fright: Curated by Rachel Harrison
Guided by a desire to illuminate and to inspire reflection on the sculptural form, Dominique Lévy of LGDR invited Rachel Harrison to curate a presentation of 20th-century sculpture. The exhibition that emerged presented a group of works that consider modernism’s devotion to that most fundamental of subjects: the human figure. Stage Fright featured works by Louise Bourgeois, Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, Marisol Escobar, Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein, and Alina Szapocznikow that represent the body in extremis—shown ruptured in pieces or pared down to the essentials—in surrogates that stand for the whole. A stack of bronze discs forms an unequivocally genital tower that lists to one side; a bronze bust’s scored features individuate a polychrome face the size of a fist. Taken together, the works on view incarnated various conceptions of personhood as routed through objects, whether rendered with aching specificity, as in the clefts and folds of Szapocznikow’s plaster Ventre (Belly) (1968), or invoked as a generic type, as in the leather panes of Duchamp’s widow/window or Marisol’s totemic couple The Blacks (1962), named for a popular play by Jean Genet that ran off-Broadway the year the work was made.
A mid-century polymath (playwright, model, novelist, activist, poet) whose own work explored the vulnerabilities of embodiment, Genet visited Giacometti’s studio and published an account of the sculptor’s abstracted figuration:
Tonight, as I write this note, I am less convinced by what he said to me, for I do not know how he would model the legs. Or rather the rest of the body, for in such a sculpture, each organ or member is at that point of prolongation of all the others in order to form the indissoluble individual, so that it loses even its name. ‘This’ arm cannot be imagined without the body that continues it and signifies it to the extreme (the body being the prolongation of the arm), and yet I know no arm more intensely, more expressly arm than that one.