New York

Lynn Chadwick

Marlborough | Midtown

By offering New York audiences their first major exposure in 15 years to the powerful vision of Lynn Chadwick, this exhibition had the ability to teach us all a valuable lesson on sculpture in general and contemporary sculpture in particular.

With this selection of 29 works, dating from 1973 to 1985, Chadwick could be seen as more than deserving of his high reputation as one of England’s greatest sculptors. Ranging in size from small maquettes to monumental sculptures, all in bronze, the examples of single figures and of seated or walking couples were breathtaking to be hold. What is so special about these works is their commanding presence, which causes the audience to see them not merely as stationary mass but as forms miraculously imbued with human spirit. These are figures that, in a metaphorical sense, come to life, mainly due to the tensions between the abstract and representational elements Chadwick employs.

Chadwick reduces the human body to a system of biomorphic and geometric modules that he uses as the structural basis of a splendid race of archetypal beings. In Diamond, 1984, two lifesize figures sit directly on the ground. With their narrow diamond heads and angular faceted torsos, they are nevertheless poignantly human, an effect achieved through Chadwick’s distinctive handling of each sculpture’s pose and gesture and certain representational details. The figure on the left, with its small breasts and swelling belly, is overtly female, and she is the starting point, the wedge into the compelling psychological dimension of the whole composition. The figure to her right, with its faceted chest (which in this context brings to mind the lapels of a jacket), looks male, an interpretation supported by the square set of his shoulders and the heaviness or weightiness of his seat. Their sexual identities thus established, speculations about the figures’ ambiguous relationship to one another follow (as do parallels to significant early Egyptian and Greek seated stone sculptures). What Chadwick has done, clearly evident in Diamond and other sculptures in this exhibition, is to turn reality into a dreamspace, which is what sculpture of quality and endurance is all about.

Ronny H. Cohen