Lynn Chadwick: Retrospectives at Blain Southern
The Blain Southern gallery in Mayfair has just opened a major new retrospective on one of the most significant English sculptors of the 20th century: Lynn Chadwick. The exhibition is a joint venture together with the gallery’s two outposts in New York and Berlin. The London branch focuses mainly on his output from the 1950s and 60s, with the basement floor dedicated to work from the years around 1990.
After experimenting with Calder-like mobiles in the 40s, Chadwick began creating abstract, animal-like sculptures, of which a few of his most significant are on display here. The gaunt formations that characterise works such as Black Beast and Beast XVI look like prehistoric alien creatures roaming along a barren landscape, exhibited as they are in the empty white halls. The texture of their surfaces is rich, like the precious skin of a reptile.
A copy of Stranger III – of which the original is on permanent display close to Piazza Duomo in Spoleto, Italy – with its warship-like body is surreal and arresting, and with its heavy mass perched on three spindly legs feels true to its name: disturbing and unexplainable but impossible to ignore. Other pieces recall the stylisation and geometric aesthetic of prehistoric or tribal art. Trigon – as its name would suggest – seems to be a stylised depiction of a man holding a Greek harp – the simple, angular shape of its head and body reading like a neolithic cycladic idol. Manchester Sun recalls an ancient Mayan sundisk, its moulded details eroded with the passing of time.
The strange shapes and strained surfaces exude the same mystique that you feel when visiting a ancient historical site or viewing some archaeological artefact of which the meaning eludes. Also on display are his triangular, minimalist pieces from the 1960s. Large mono-coloured pyramids that are beautiful in their simplicity. On the basement floor are smaller versions – maquettes – of some of his “animal” sculptures from the early 90s. Welded in stainless steel, his roaring Crouching Beast or Beast Alerted are generalisations of typical animal behaviour. Their form – a series of boxes and other geometrical shapes – recall drawings by the Mannerist artist Luca Cambiaso, who summarised his figures into square blocks and triangles: a cubism before Cubism.
The show limits itself to a few choice periods, thus rendering the exhibition incomplete, but the works are nonetheless enthralling enough to merit a visit.
Lynn Chadwick: Retrospectives is at Blain Southern until 28th June 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.