Kinder Sculpture

 

Jul 2009 Journal

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Art notes

Lithuanian-born sculptor Jacques Lipchitz is a jewel in the crown of the Ben Uri, which has launched the first major UK survey of his work for 20 years. Now, the Ben Uri is showing 152 of his drawings until 26 July in its show Jacques Lipchitz, Master Drawings: The Anatomy of a Sculptor.

Lipchitz joined the Cubist movement in 1911, settling in Paris. He became interested in his Jewish heritage around the time of the birth of the state of Israel in 1948, following his marriage to Yulla. Powerful female figures, shapes spiralling or embracing a child share this sculptural volume. Many suggest dancing movements in space, yet his love for pencil on paper is as evident as his energy in stone. The sculptor’s focus on Israel and the Jewish community illuminates several of his studies for Miracle or Between Heaven and Earth, which feature the Hebrew word ‘Yerushalayim’ at the top of the page.

Lipchitz spent the second half of his career in America, which considerably reduced his influence in the UK since much of his work is in overseas collections. Complex and anguished in the 30s and 40s, with a strong narrative theme, the drawings become more whimsical and linear in the following decades, when he was planning his great work Between Heaven and Earth. Some of that earthiness is recaptured in his studies for Our Tree of Life, between 1962-72, and, as the drawings literally spring to life and leap off the page, there is little doubt that this artist’s real power lies elsewhere - in the magisterial and elemental sculptures for which he is renowned.

The long-awaited reopening of the Whitechapel Gallery is a moment when the history of the East End and its future fuse – particularly in its nod to Jewish artists David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and Isaac Rosenberg, founding fathers of the Vorticist movement in the former Whitechapel Library 100 years ago. The gallery’s expansion follows a £13.5 million campaign supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Designed by Belgian architects Robbrecht en Daem in association with artist Rachel Whiteread, the gallery opened with a display of rare documents and letters from its century-old archive.

The annual Bloomberg Commission launches there with a tribute to the Spanish Civil War, a life-size tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica by Goshka Macouga. Created for the Republican cause during a time when art materials were hard to come by, the original painting is deteriorating but remains a milestone as a piece of political art. This is a near-perfect transition to the weaving process, even if lacks the original’s depth of colour.

Elsewhere, you can find colourful sculptures in epoxy resin, films and kilns, and the newness is reinforced with the smell of plywood and new paint. Many artists were working during the East End’s vibrant rough-and-tumble days of a century ago. Bridget Riley’s swirling, dizzy lines, Leon Kossoff’s View From Dalston Junction, Frank Auerbach’s Camden Theatre – you can almost feel them in the act of painting.


 


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