JERRY GOROSKI is the consultant appraisar to whom I refer inquiries about Scriver bronzes. He is formally trained and certified to do assessments and knew Bob Scriver as well as working for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls. His gallery is called "Open Range Art."


Monday, September 12, 2005

Sculpture Review Summer, '05
“The National Sculpture Society is the oldest organization of professional sculptors in the United States. It is master sculptors and architects like Daniel Chester French, Augustus St. Gaudens, Richard Morris Hunt, and Stanford White who founded the NSS in 1893 and have comprised its active membership since. Current membership continues to contribute to the great public sculpture in this nation, as well as being represented in museum, corporate, and private collections around the world.”
“The first sculpture exhibition in the United States was staged by NSS in 1895. Today, an exhibition schedule in the Park Avenue Atrium in New York, NY provides a venue for the public to view some of the best contemporary figurative sculpture in the country. The Park Avenue Atrium is a permanent showcase for exhibitions by the Society.”

Long before there was Cowboy Artists of America, there was the National Sculpture Society. When Malvina Hoffman and Joy Buba proposed Bob Scriver for membership in the Society in the Sixties, this was probably his highest moment -- for these were sculptors and these were the very sculptors he admired most.

Not cowboy or Indian sculptors, these were nevertheless the first to respond to the notion of the American West as it formed. Today there are cowboy, Indian and wildlife sculptors (both in identity and subject matter) among the membership. The only restriction is excellence. Oh, and you have to be able to figure out what the piece is. Bronzes might be embellished, distorted, augmented, experimental or not even in bronze, but the sculpture should be figurative to some degree.

Let's take a look at the Summer '05 issue of "Sculpture Review," a smashing, gorgeous, always unexpected, thought-provoking magazine. My favorite. Lately it has been organized around themes, which is a brilliant idea because it brings forward work I never heard of, never could have imagined, had no idea existed. This issue is an excellent example. The theme is "humor, satire and caricature.

If you thought Tonto and the Lone Ranger fist-fighting in heaven was funny, take a look at these two mismatched ladies on the cover in their naked alabaster asymmetry. One is huge, bulbous, grinning. The other, the more aggressive, is ancient, suffering a bad case of osteoporosis, her hair in a knot. She tries mightily to sock her opponent, while the massive one simply holds her away. "Battle Eternal" by Henry Clews.

With only a little forcing, you could find parallels between Henry Clews (1876-1937) and Charlie Russell (1864-1926). They both left prosperous families in search of their own worlds, they both married dedicated and supportive wives, they both became discouraged with society, and they both had sides both sweet and devilish. But the Clews did not live in a log cabin: they rebuilt a chateau at La Napoule between two Saracen towers near Cannes.

At first Clews was an admirer of Rodin, much influenced, but in later years he developed a strange, semi-Oriental style that to me suggests Jabba the Hutt. He could and did make tender and romantic portraits, but then could indulge in "biting satire" against "catacombs of unbelief, artificial pleasure, false happiness, machine idolatry, and suffocating idolatry." One doesn't know whether to laugh or to shudder.

Far more comfortable, even pleasurable, caricatures are by Elie Nadelman (1882 - 1946) who has a New Yorker cover sensibility. Faces taper to pointed noses, legs taper to pointed feet, ladies have ample poitrines. There is another category, small glazed potteries of gesturing blobby ladies with bumpy pets (poodles, probably). I have never heard of another sculptor who created busts in plaster, then plated them electrically as though they were baby shoes!

A series of small portrait busts by Daumier (1808-1879) are laugh-out-loud exaggerations of the features the subjects undoubtedly would least like to have pointed out. Strange noses, twisted mouths, ridiculous expressions, all stuffed into the tops of 19th century collars and bows. These are known politicians. How one longs for portraits of some of today's "Celebrities!"

Then, just as one is thinking that such lively art is a far cry from those Greek statues we usually see around Important Places, here is an article on "Caricature and the Grotesque in Helenistic Sculpture." That beautiful marble boy pulling a thorn from his foot is countered by a twisted little shepherd in exactly the same pose -- but he's only achieved terra cotta.

This magazine is meant for artists more than for customers, so the advertising is mostly for sculpture supplies and services. Still, sculptures illustrate the ads. I'm a little discouraged to see that ads for Western McEstates, usually featured in slick cowboy "lifestyle" magazines, have penetrated even to this market.

This is the only magazine that I know of that seriously discusses sculpture from several points of view: bios of the artists, the impact of the cultural context, influences of friendship, the materials, the methods, the achievements and the "so-what?" step -- why does this work count? What does it do to the viewer?

Usually you can find this magazine in one of the better bookstore newsstands or even in a library that hasn't been flayed to the bone in order to buy computers.

If you do find yourself in this sort of library, refer to the URL's at the top of the page and there will be plenty to contemplate anyway. This time when I looked, I came upon a portrait bust by Adrienne Alison of "Fundator Johannes Strachan (1778-1867)," that is, Bishop Strachan, founder of a girls' school in Toronto and looking entirely capable of keeping girls in line. Strachan is my maiden name. Every time I work on the family genealogy, he pops up, but I've never seen what he looks like before! I think my father had a nose like his.

1 comment: said...

I am looking for "Arlene" by Bob Scriver it's a bust of a female...