August 15, 2012, by Jonathan
The mind in sculpture
The Gagosian Gallery, just round the corner from King’s Cross Station, is a wonderful place, and not only because they let you into their shows for nothing. Currently they are showing late work by Henry Moore, an artist of whom I am not at all fond—his bland reassurances of humanity cut no ice with me. Well, very little anyway. The gallery has, as usual, just a few pieces, and in the relatively low ceilinged space the works take on a monumentality they sometimes lack in the open where they so often are. Not everything is a success; there is a much-as-we-would-have-expected baby in arms. But the largest, green-weathered and least human form, pictured above, really is worth a look.
I went with the painter Victor Bateman, whose eye on such occasions is very valuable. We were last there together four years ago for the Richard Serra—a memorable show with starkly resistant objects that seemed about to topple over onto the viewer. One huge rectangle of steel with abrasive surfaces defied all attempts at empathy. Another, more complex structure was one you could walk through, but once again there was no impression of human contact. (To get some sense of this look up Jonathan Jones’ intelligent review.) It takes courage in an artist to close off the door to empathic contact—that mysterious process by which we sometimes imagine minds and feelings for the objects, even abstract ones, we see. A hundred years ago philosophers and psychologists were engaged in a somewhat chaotic attempt to understand what this involves, and surely it is important for art. But Henry Moore gives in to its temptations too easily for my taste. Serra, perhaps our greatest sculptural artist, resisted it magnificently.
The show ends in a couple of days; it is worth the short walk from the station.
LATE LARGE FORMS
MAY 31 – AUGUST 18, 2012
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