The Sculpture Show
Well-managed and educational group sculpture show also contains big impressions
Those who find their attention can escape the orbit of this show’s central spectacle – Ron Mueck’s striking ‘A Girl’, a life-like model of a quite grumpy-looking newborn baby girl rendered as a vast monolith many dozens of times the size of nature – will discover more challenging and memorable works that offer a potted glimpse of the history of 20th century sculpture and beyond. Although the curatorial division of eras and themes is well managed and educational, however, this is still a show where the big impression matters.
So there are forays into Cubist and Impressionist sculpture – the latter featuring an early bronze model of Rodin’s fearsome ‘A Call to Arms’ – and concisely themed views of both German interwar sculpture’s miserable images of poverty and postwar Britain’s garish reflection of the nuclear age, the latter exemplified by Eduardo Paolozzi’s gnarled bronzes. Later-era works become more brash: Damien Hirst’s unsettling bronze figure ‘Wretched War’; John Davies’ fearsomely life-like mob of mannequins ‘For the Last Time’; Duane Hanson’s ever-jovial ‘The Tourists’.
It’s a wide-ranging show that doesn’t offer a distinct thematic take on the medium of sculpture – how could it? – but rather provides as much perspective on the bounds of the medium as possible. Collage and assemblage are explored as alternative forms, as well as Michelangelo Pistoletto’s industrialist prints on polished steel, Rachel Whiteread’s photographic series ‘Demolished’ and Turner Prize-winner Martin Boyce’s light sculpture ‘Untitled (after Rietveld)’, a low-key tribute to the design and ambience of a late 20th century office environment. Scots artists are well represented, including Douglas Gordon, Jim Lambie, David Shrigley (presenting a piece of paper lying on the floor) and Karla Black, and detailed explanations suffice when the work is incapable of reproduction, for example Charles Ray’s photographs of his body and a plank of wood as ‘sculpture’.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One, Edinburgh, until Sun 24 Jun