Barbara Chase-Riboud Breathes Life Into Bronze, Eileen G’Sell, δημοσίευση στο Hyperallergic [22/1/2023]Marilena Pateraki
ST. LOUIS — Sober and imposing, bronze has a way of making human achievement feel both unimpeachable and paralyzed in time. Before a bronze, we are apt to feel puny, breakable, shedding lashes and skin cells as our temples gray. To cast in bronze is to reconcile matter with mythos, to conjure the illusion of solidity within earthly experience.
But such is not always the case. Barbara Chase-Riboud: Monumentale: The Bronzes, on view at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation through February 5, foregrounds six decades of the American artist’s daring approach to our oldest alloy. Less monolithic than lithe and sinuous, Chase-Riboud’s large-scale sculptures balance lightness with depth, soft with hard. Wool, cotton, and silk fibers twist into metal, prompting the eye to reassess material differences within her undulating surfaces. The aggressive kineticism of Futurism, one of Chase-Riboud’s many influences, is tempered by a keen appreciation of the erotic and lyrical — the burnished arc of a woman’s hips, the warmth of a hand braiding cord into rope.
Near the museum’s entrance, Chase-Riboud’s early charcoal drawings are juxtaposed with sculptures from the 1960s, revealing an interest in curvilinear shapes that linger between representation and abstraction. The long limbs of a pregnant woman in one drawing mirror those in her bronze sculpture “Nostradamus” (1966), the body of which was cast with various animal bones collected from a taxidermist. “Time Womb Jacqueline” (1970) is one of her few aluminum works, shimmering like a giant broach at the visitor’s service desk.
Dominating the main gallery space are selections from three of Chase-Riboud’s most enduring sculpture series — Zanzibar, Malcolm X, and La Musica — each reflecting her growing mastery of lost-wax casting, a process by which thin sheets of bronze can be manipulated to create layered, visually fluid surfaces. It is here also that the artist’s sociopolitical and ideological concerns first subtly manifest. While not representational in any immediate sense, each work materially and structurally gestures to the clout and complexity of the historic figures for whom they are named.
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