Beginning May 12, 2017, Luxembourg & Dayan is pleased to present Figures Toward Abstraction: Sculptures 1910 to 1940, an exhibition that materializes an ongoing decades-long dialogue between Daniella Luxembourg and internationally admired architect Daniel Libeskind, about the nature of abstraction in art, in architecture, in history, and in life.
From a certain perspective, abstraction appears as a gesture of withdrawal. Figures Toward Abstraction traces one such retreat”away from realism and classical figuration”as manifested in sculpture of the rst half of the twentieth century. Taking its lead from the underlying parameters of abstraction in sculpture, namely the medium’s material and spatial inquiries, the exhibition brings together a rich selection of works by modern masters Rudolf Belling, Alberto Giacometti, Julio González, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, and Henri Matisse.
These works are presented in an installation designed by Libeskind, in a spatial experience that opens with a quote from “Archaic Torso of Apollo”, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. The poem itself stages the abstraction of one historic vestige of realism (the titular Greek statue) and serves as a touchstone as the exhibition unfolds across three floors of the gallery. Each constellation of sculptures on view attends to a different set of conversations, inspirations, and collaborations”as well as disagreements and rivalries”that emerged between these pioneers of Modernism.
Though these works stage a departure from the human figure, they nonetheless retain the body “particularly the traditional nude”as their structural basis. In Matisse‘s figurative bronzes and Laurens’ Femme accouchèe (1927), the figure remains palpable, however deconstructed. Elsewhere, in Giacometti‘s cubist compositions and González’s bronzes of the late 1920s and 1930s, it becomes harder to discern. Through this selection of works, Figures Toward Abstraction highlights moments of cross-pollination and correspondence between realism and abstraction, suggesting that any retreat necessarily recalls its point of departure.
The exhibition also features Rudolf Belling’s seminal Dreiklang (1919), on display for the first time in the United States. The composition of Dreiklang is rooted in three intertwined figures that have been rigorously abstracted, foregoing referent for geometric unity. In fact, the work counts among the earliest completely abstract sculptures of the twentieth century. This assertive abstraction famously led to its derisive inclusion in the Nazi Party’s Degenerate Art Exhibition of 1937″a reminder of how seemingly formal concerns can intersect with, and in this case resist, ideologies.
Figures Toward Abstraction extends Luxembourg & Dayan’s ongoing examination of seminal Modernist sculpture for a contemporary audience.