Although Per Kirkeby worked in many genres alongside painting, there is no doubt that he saw himself as a painter. He even accepted the term ‘painter-sculptor’ to characterize the kind of sculptural art that has a clear relationship with painting.
The Louisiana Museum at Humlebaek, Denmark, now focuses on how the artist’s sculptural oeuvre unfolded as an independent practice and at the same time showing the constant interaction between image and sculpture in his mature work.
The exhibition falls into a number of chapters that alternate between intense, compact statements and rooms of a more monumental calm, where each work can become the object of experience and reflection.
The bronze sculpture entered Kirkeby’s world during a period of artistic crisis in his painting. This was also a time, where he was deeply impressed and inspired by the work of Auguste Rodin.
This happened in the first half of the eighties, and Kirkeby was soon busy with plaster and bronze; the motifs were body fragments such as heads and arms, later develping and evolving still closer to the forms of nature – a torso e.g. looking very much like a tree trunk.
From here on Kirkeby embarks on the large formats – monumental and heavy sculptures which would normally stand beneath the open sky. The pictorial world is mythological – inspired by (the often ultimately tragic) heroes of antiquity: Hercules, Laocoön and Jason.
The exhibition also brings together subjects and models of Kirkeby as well as some of his large paintings complemented by sketches. These are juxtaposed with some of the artists – Giacometti, Jorn, Leroy and more – whose works are reflected in Kirkeby’s oevre.
And Kirkeby’s sculptures have a number of extraordinary qualities in several respects. One of the obvious ones is the way he manages the surface of the sculpture.
“Not rarely, it looks as if the sculpture is more painted forth than actually formed. Many of Kirkeby’s bronzes resemble frozen brush strokes, as if lifted out of the painting and given body,” states museum director Poul Erik Tøjner.
PER KIRKEBY – BRONZES
LOUISIANA MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Through 21 June 2020
Louisiana Museum website
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