Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Met Breuer Presents a History of Human Figures in Sculpture

Degas and Doppelganger

When the Whitney Museum moved to its beautiful new home in lower Manhattan, back in 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art leased its former home on Madison Ave. Renamed the Met Breuer, in honor of the building’s architect Marcel Breuer, the new Galleries have been home to some major exhibitions of modern art. Some of these have been instillations dedicated to particular artists, but two in particular have utilized the Met’s extensive permanent collection.

In 2016 the museum staged “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.” This exhibit featured pieces of art that were literally incomplete, either purposefully or due to the incidents such as the death of the artist. The museum explored the question – “When is a work of art finished?” The pieces exhibited were all from the Met’s permanent collection. The exhibit reminded me of the story about Cézanne. He was known to show up at exhibitions of his work, pull out a set of paints, and continue working on pieces that were already on display.

This spring, the Met has reached into its vaults for another extensive show, one that
Rubber Soul, Monument of Aspiration by Mary Sibande
explores human figures in sculpture. “Like Life – Sculpture, Color and the Body,” on display until July 22, 2018, is a fascinating survey of the history of the art form. What makes this exhibit special to me is that the works are arranged thematically rather than chronologically. One gallery starts with classic statues of white marble, and then expands to white monochrome statues from the 20th century, composed of other materials. Another is a filled with figures laid out for burial. There are galleries of realistic statues, and others of figurative representations. In all, it is a comprehensive over view of the many ways the human figure has been portrayed.

Jewish Woman of Algiers by Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier
La Capresse de Colonies by Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier

New Salome by Max Klinger

 The other exhibit at the Met Breuer is “Leon Golub – Raw Nerve” (on view until May 27, 2018). Leon Golub (1922-2004) was a painter who used his oversized works to comment on the issues of race, war and power. This exhibition is being staged in celebration of the Met’s acquisition of Gigantomachy II as a gift from the Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts. In all, over two dozen pieces are on exhibit, including my favorite – Two Black Women and a White Man. I like the juxtaposition of the figures, the man simply ignoring the women sitting on the bench, while there is some concern the women’s eyes. 

Gigantomachy II

Two Black Women and a White Man

What I love about the Met Breuer is that it is a small museum by New York City standards, but it has the resources of a mega-museum. You can see all of its world class exhibits without being overwhelmed. And, if you want more, the Met’s main building is just a few blocks away.

Getting There:
The Met Breuer is on Madison Ave. between 75th and 74th street in Manhattan, NYC. You can take the #6 train to the 77th Street station and then walk 2 blocks west and 2 blocks south.

The admission fee for non-NYS residents the Metropolitan Museum of Art is $25 for adults; $17 for seniors; $12 for students. Residents of NYS with id may pay what they want. Tickets may be used at the Met, the Met Breuer and the Met Cloisters for up to 3 days.

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