PRINT December 1963

Erik Gronborg—The City of Paris Award

ERIK GRONBORG, A YOUNG SCULPTOR from Berkeley, has received the highest award at the Paris Biennial, the City of Paris prize, which will honor him with a one­-man show at the Museum of Modern Art during next year’s museum season in Paris. Gronborg is one of eleven sculptors associated at one time or another with the Art Department in Berkeley, and chosen by Herschel Chipp as the American entry in the Biennial. Their sculpture received a special group prize in addi­tion to Gronborg’s award.

The works sent to Paris were in a variety of media, and the three sculptures Chipp selected from Gron­borg’s oeuvre were of wood. Gronborg had worked with wood on a smaller scale in Denmark for several years before he came to the United States in 1959 and to the University of California at Berkeley in 1960, where he has worked since that time, most particularly with the casting operation there. During this period his sculptural image has remained uninfluenced by the styles of the Berkeley faculty, and it would be ex­tremely difficult to find any similarities even with the work of Harold Paris, the artist to whom Gron­borg feels most akin.

Wood forms vary with the type of wood used, as the artist lets each material demand a treatment appropriate to its character. The immense shapes of the two black sculptures at Paris are great, blocky, grain-stressing soft woods; the Last Victory, also shown at Paris, is of hardwood emphasizing linear repetitions of elongated, thinner pieces turning on two opposing axes—a nervous thrust of movement away from the weighty stability of Volund and Har­-Dangervidda.

During the past year, Gronborg has worked a new series of torn torsos with thin, flat sheets of highly polished bronze and aluminum. These very sensual armless and legless bodies evoke, on one hand, the plasticity of incomplete classical figures, and, on the other, a paper-thin wafting of brilliant surface. Fleet­ingly touched, slightly modeled, yet wholly felt and understood contours are completely described. How­ever, the first impression of sensual nubility or, for that matter, any real corporality, is denied by an awareness of the flatness of the metal and by the omnipresent gesture of one torn corner. This frag­mentation of the human image is strongest in Cry For My Love, where genitalia are placed alone on a fluid surface. This isolation denies the use of the fragment, and its removal to a rectangular frame denies the obvious physical linking, so that we are forced to espouse the forms on another more pristine, more spiritual plane. Flesh denies flesh as act, sensi­tive surface becomes absolute, flesh and metal are one.

Alice A. Boulle