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Small retrospective exhibition of Eduardo Paolozzi's sculpture on view at the Cass Sculpture Foundation
Eduardo Paolozzi, Yantra (1973-74). Cast, extruded and welded aluminium. Courtesy Neville Holt & Estate of Eduardo Paolozzi ©.

CHICHESTER.- To coincide with Pallant House Gallery’s retrospective exhibition, the Cass Sculpture Foundation announces Eduardo Paolozzi: Sculpting History. This exhibition features some of the artist’s most important mid and large-scale works in materials such as bronze, plaster, aluminium and steel. Spanning across a period of more than half a century, these works explore the changing modernist, abstract and pop art styles within Paolozzi’s work.

The exhibition displays a selection of works looking at Paolozzi’s attention to figurative deconstruction during the early 1950’s. Works such as ‘Untitled Figure’ (1957) pre-empt the increasingly minimalist sculptural explorations in examples such as ‘Fepho’ (1967) and ‘Untitled’ (1968) of the late 1960’s. These later sculptures reflect Paolozzi’s use of materials such as polished bronze and chrome plating to produce highly designed reflective surfaces and clean sculptural lines.

The exhibition also features Paolozzi’s more recent investigations from the last twenty years. A series of mid-scale head sculptures from the 1990’s reflect the artist’s earlier interests with human form as combined with his later preoccupations in the techniques, structures and functionality of machines, engineering and different industrial processes. The combination of these two seemingly oppositional concerns culminates in the production of works such as ‘Head’ (1993) and ‘Untitled (Head)’ (1996) both cast in bronze.

One of the most integral aspects of this exhibition is a large-scale work that reflects the proliferate display of Paolozzi’s sculpture within public collections around the world. ‘Yantra’ (1973-74) is a large-scale work composed of 3 main structural components each measuring over 200 cm in length and height. Originally commissioned by Sir Terence Conran for the Habitat playground in Wallingford, one of the main artistic intentions for this work was the encouragement of both individual and collective interactivity with sculpture. The work was originally created as part of a group of 4 other sculptures; ‘Kalasan’, ‘Manuk’, ‘Suwasa’ and ‘Trishula’. These works, dating from the mid to late 1970’s encompassed Paolozzi’s move away from coloured and patterned abstract forms and towards a direction influenced by geometric shapes and patterns and the use of alternative materials such as aluminium and steel. The work’s title relates to notions of a centralised structure and form, from which other components are said to emanate. Earlier traces of this kind of stylistic approach can be found in works such as ‘Crash’ from 1964; also a large-scale welded aluminium work constructed out of fragmented and interlocking parts which bend, curve and twist together like a maze of untraceable truncated mechanical pipes and cylinders.

Sculptures such as ‘Crash’ (1964) demonstrate aspects of Paolozzi’s work initially signalled by earlier works like ‘Shattered Head’ from 1956. Both of these examples can be seen as a reflection of the ongoing relationship that emerged between Paolozzi and the English writer and novelist J G Ballard. Both figures were interested in the emotional, physical and psychological effects of car crashes as versions of interrupted narratives and discourses. It is widely conceived that Paolozzi’s 1964 sculpture entitled ‘Crash’ later influenced J G Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same title. Their fascination culminated in an unrealised plan to host a play (Crash) at the ICA in 1968. Paolozzi’s sculptural explorations into denigrated versions of physical human forms from the 1950’s and early 1960’s, as well as his fascination with test dummies, were planned features of the play’s content and effect. The approaches of both Paolozzi and Ballard are deeply rooted in the modernist traditions and tendencies of science fiction; an idea that can be easily seen in the imaginative forms of Paolozzi sculptures such as ‘Hermes’ (1994) and ‘Large Head’ (1994).

This interest in disrupting presupposed or fixed narratives also marks Paolozzi’s place in first generation Pop Art and the founding of the Independent Group in 1952, alongside other prominent figures such as Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson and William Turnbull. The founding of the Independent Group was created in reaction to the increasing social and media changes which were emerging during the post-war era, most significantly the emergence of mass culture and the cult of the image. This aspect of Paolozzi’s work is most significantly marked by his collages, prints and paintings dating from the late 1940’s through to the 1960’s. This exhibition features a number of mid-scale sculptures symbolising the transition between Paolozzi’s earlier collage work and its later evolution into three dimensionality during the mid and late 1970’s. Works such as ‘Pikabio’ from 1975 represent the artist’s exploration of geometric reliefs and abstract components in a way that simultaneously reflects his sculptural concerns and evolving practices. Whilst seemingly appearing as an assemblage of different parts and shapes, ‘Pikabio’ remains essentially sculptural in its physical nature and essence. Standing at 90 cm tall, this work enacts the nature of Paolozzi’s collage works from this time, enabling the viewer to understand the physical assemblage and composition of different shapes and components.

In an interview with Frank Whitford in 1994, Paolozzi described the power of collage as “one of the great tools in modernism”. He later exclaimed that he “always thought collage could be introduced to sculpture.... Where you would cut sentences out of books, and then collage them together at random, the same might be true in sculpture by moving elements around that you get something that's beyond one's deliberate conception”.

As well as producing a substantial number of his sculptures in bronze and other metals, Paolozzi made a large body of work in plaster. The exhibition presents a selection of plaster mid-scale and maquettes sized works representing the artist’s processes from conception through to casting. In particular the plaster version of Paolozzi’s ‘London to Paris’ (2000) is being featured. This mid-scale sculpture is a smaller representation of the monumental work in bronze and wood on the Foundation’s grounds. Originally commissioned in association with the Royal Academy, Flowers East Gallery and the Cass Sculpture Foundation, this is known to be one of Paolozzi’s last monumental sculptures and incorporates the assemblage, figurative and abstract stages in his earlier sculptures.

Central to this exhibition is the crossover of Paolozzi’s artistic discourses from different stages and influences throughout his career. Paolozzi played an enormous role in the configuration and proliferation of art forms such as collage, painting, printing and filmmaking but was also one of the most significant, varied and important sculptors of the latter half of the twentieth century. His work is considered amongst some of the most important contributions to the history of sculpture in the last half of the twentieth century.

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