Barbara Chase-Riboud: Infinite Folds at the Serpentine Gallery
The first UK exhibition dedicated to the works of visual artist, sculptor, novelist and poet Barbara Chase-Riboud celebrates her 70-year career with a focus on her large-scale sculptures.
Many of her works are inspired by her extensive travels, which led her to absorb different approaches to art-making and combine them in her own unique way. Incorporating cast bronze or aluminium alongside wool and silk, her pieces are often characterised by a juxtaposition of materials and contrasting elements designed to challenge the norm. She describes this playful merging of opposites as “reversing and upsetting the established order and hierarchy of parts, as only a true revolutionary does”.
A recurring theme is memory, and the commemoration of historical figures. A series of drawings imagines monuments dedicated to political and artistic figures such as Nelson Mandela, Malcom X and Marquis de Sade. Another room showcases obelisk-like structures evoking ancient rituals, while other smaller figures are reminiscent of the forms of Alberto Giacometti (whom she met in 1962), although they are more conceptual.
From sculptures such as Adam and Eve (1958), in which two abstract figures are entwined under a tree, to her recent Numero Rouge (2021), where crimson-stained bronze and red ropes are combined, most of her creations have enigmatic shapes that invite closer inspection. The towering two-metre-high La Musica Josephine Red/ Black (2021) is a black patina bronze homage to dancer, singer and activist Josephine Baker, whom Chase-Riboud felt inspired by to due to their parallel journeys as creatives moving from the US to Europe.
References to history, legacy and power are central to Chase-Riboud’s creations but are not visually evident. What is immediately striking are the intriguing forms that captivate with their unique structures and an air of mystery. Overall, this is a well-deserved celebration of the prolific artist.
Barbara Chase-Riboud: Infinite Folds is at the Serpentine Gallery from 11th October until 29th January 2023. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.