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"Temporary sculpture museum" opens in Chicago next month
John Chamberlain, Untitled, 1963, Welded, painted, and chromium-plated steel automobile body parts. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard L. Selle, 1972.3.

CHICAGO, IL.- The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, launches its 40th Anniversary season with Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways, an expansive exhibition of some 175 works from the Smart’s collection and promised gifts. Essentially transforming the entire 8,800 foot gallery space into Chicago’s only sculpture museum, albeit a temporary one, Carved, Cast, Crumpled commemorates Smart’s inaugural 1974 exhibition of modern sculpture. The exhibition (September 27–December 21) opens with a weekend of special programming featuring live music as part of the 8th Hyde Park Jazz Festival (Sept. 27) and a family-friendly Smart Fest (Sept. 28).

“From an ancient Chinese ritual vessel to a cast bronze model of Rodin’s iconic The Thinker and Chicagoan Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, the range of sculpture presented all together in a single exhibition is unprecedented in the city,” said Anthony Hirschel, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art. “As we celebrate four decades of collecting, Carved, Cast, Crumpled offers an opportunity to experience the richness, diversity, and depth of the Smart’s collection and its growth over 40 years in an entirely new way.”

Added Senior Curator Richard A. Born, who was a graduate student at the University of Chicago when the Smart opened in 1974, “Carved, Cast, Crumpled asks a deceptively simple question: what is sculpture? It does so through both focused presentations of objects from distinct eras or cultures as well as juxtapositions of works that are not typically seen side-by-side.”

Carved, Cast, Crumpled is comprised of sculptural works in diverse materials and formats and a handful of related drawings by sculptors. The exhibition takes over the whole Museum, transforming both spaces normally dedicated to temporary exhibitions as well as those that are home to longer-standing installations of the Smart’s collection. Among the approximately 175 works, highlights include small-scale sculptures by modern masters like Auguste Rodin, Jacques Lipchitz, and Henry Moore; ancient Chinese mingqi tomb figures and Asian Buddhist devotional statues; European bronzes of princes, putti, and classical heroes; and boundary-breaking work by postwar artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, John Chamberlain, Robert Irwin, and Michael Rakowitz.

A central presentation of 16 works in the Richard and Mary L. Gray Gallery features groups of objects selected from the major areas of the Smart’s collection. These juxtapositions of different types of objects explore fundamental qualities of sculpture—including materiality, functionality, figuration and aura/presence—across historical and cultural contexts.

The bulk of the exhibition is arranged predominantly according to the four areas of strength in the Smart Museum’s collection—Modern art and design, Asian art, Old Master and nineteenth century art European art, and contemporary art—as follows:

· The Modern art presentation in the Elisabeth and William M. Landes Gallery is organized around several thematic sections of Modern sculptures and sculptor’s drawings. Special attention is paid to relationships between abstract and figurative works, as well as relationships across stylistic approaches and materials. This presentation features early twentieth-century works from Europe and America. This section also will present findings from a technical study of the material composition of two dozen bronze sculptures which was conducted in collaboration with the Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS). (Curator: Richard A. Born, Senior Curator)

· The Asian works featured in the Janis Kanter and Thomas McCormick Gallery span a wide historical and geographic breadth: from ancient Gandharan statuary, to early modernist Iranian and Egyptian sculpture and contemporary works from China, Japan, and Korea. The works are organized according to historical and cultural usage as well as visual relationships. Such pairings reflect the diverse ways in which three-dimensional objects—both religious and secular—have been conceived, created, and utilized, from ancient times to the present. (Curator: Richard A. Born, Senior Curator)

· The presentation of European sculpture from 1500 through 1900 in the Edward A. and Inge Maser Gallery offers a diverse variety of media (bronze, terracotta, marble, porcelain), subjects (portrait busts, allegorical figures, animals, decorative objects, coins) and geographical origins (Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, and Russia). A special tabletop installation of smaller works emphasizes their original uses, whether as tableware or as tools in the scholar's study. Throughout this section, visitors are able to appreciate the high level of craft in the use of sculptural materials to convey dramatic, narrative, and realistic detail. (Curator: Anne Leonard, Curator and Associate Director of Academic Initiatives)

· The presentation of works from the Smart Museum’s Contemporary collection in the Joan and Robert Feitler Gallery and Joel and Carole Bernstein Gallery surveys the variety of forms that can be thought of as “sculptural” in present contexts: from performance documentation to inflatable inhabitable structures. As in other presentations, there is a special emphasis on relationships between figuration and abstraction, and on relationships among different media. (Curator: Jessica Moss, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art)

Among the works on display are recent acquisitions or promised gifts, never before on view at the Smart before, including: an early mixed-media mobile Sunami by Alexander Calder, Surrealist bronze abstractions by Jean Arp, drawings by Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, the mirrored Vermeer Box by June Leaf, and the wood tower Monument to Martha by H. C. Westermann. In total, Carved, Cast, Crumpled showcases a foundational component of the Museum’s collection, one that can be traced back to the Joel Starrels, Jr. Memorial Collection of modern sculpture featured in the Smart’s inaugural exhibition in the fall of 1974.

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