Study from the Human Body at the Stephen Friedman Gallery
The human form has since the beginning of art itself been a central theme and inspiration for artists. From stone age murals to the Sistine Chapel, man’s physical capacity to adapt to his infinitely evolving environment, as well as the great fragility of the human body, is a catalyst from which have been created some of the world’s greatest masterpieces.
Two works of art by two of the most influential artists of the 20th century – Study from the Human Body by Francis Bacon, and Reclining Figure by Henry Moore – are the inspiration from which a new exhibition of contemporary art at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in Mayfair has brought together a series of fascinating pieces by some of today’s leading international artists. The pieces have been chosen and displayed next to others of a similar basic theme. Huma Bhabha’s Chain of Missing Links – an abstract depiction of a man constructed using pieces of Styrofoam, rusted metal, plexiglass and even an animal skull, evoking our primeval origins as well as addressing our postmodern dissolution with society – points the visitor towards the faux, bronze-cast, defaced African masks.
Yoshimoto Nara’s Julien depicts – in his trademark, anime-inspired style – a nude young boy urinating; his adolescence accentuated by the patched-together nature of the canvas itself which recalls swaddling bands. Tom Friedman’s Being is made entirely of tiny Styrofoam balls, reminding the viewer of art’s infinite ways of representing humanity’s physical and psychological diversity. Stephan Balkenhol’s Woman in Black Dress is typical of his work – a generalisation of one of the many millions of types of people that roam the streets of the city every day.
The centrepiece is the large installation Life Model by David Shrigley. The Turner Prize-winning piece features, amid a circle of chairs, a parodist’s version of the perennial live model. The muscular male model of the likes drawn by pupils of the classical art academy has been replaced by an proportionally exaggerated, puppet-faced figure that emulates reality by way of its blinking eyes, every so often urinating into the bucket beneath. Visitors are encouraged to sit on the chairs and sketch it, just like in a real life-drawing class.
Although such an exhibition can only ever offer a small taste of the infinite variety pertaining to the representation of art’s leading protagonist, it will nevertheless open one’s eyes to modernity’s take on an age-old theme.
Study from the Human Body is at the Stephen Friedman Gallery from 14th March until 26th April 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.