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Helaine Blumenfeld's first exhibition at new gallery space
Helaine Blumenfeld OBE, Meridiana, Bronze, 2016, Holland Park, Courtesy Hignell Gallery, ‎Henryk Hetflaisz.

LONDON.- Hignell Gallery announces ​Hard Beauty, an exhibition which presents a personal portrait of the​ career of ​sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld OBE. Curated by Director Abby Hignell, Hard Beauty ​is being held across two floors of the gallery space in Shepherd’s Market, Mayfair, from 22 September to 27 November 2016.

The exhibition offers a new insight into Blumenfeld’s impact on contemporary sculpture at a pivotal moment in her career, where she joins a new gallery space and creates work that speaks to this daring change. The exhibition features new pieces in bronze, marble and terracotta​. Moments of uncertainty and change have punctuated her career - allowing vulnerability to lead to opportunity. Blumenfeld continues to take risks in her work and career that imbue her sculpture with an energy and vitality resonant of the artist herself.   

Examining the narrative arc of Blumenfeld’s career, ​Hard Beauty ​ explores her innovative sculptural practice, the tension between progress and destruction, intimacy and resistance; revealing the constant evolution of Blumenfeld’s approach to the medium and its ability to evoke powerful emotion and articulate universal concepts in its form.

Helaine Blumenfeld is one of the most accomplished and respected figures working in sculpture today. Blumenfeld has developed a practice inspired by Cycladic sculpture and Futurism, creating a sculptural vocabulary that is entirely her own. Excelling in a male dominated field, Blumenfeld ​exhibited alongside Henry Moore at the Alex Rosenberg Gallery in New York in 1985 and ​became ​the first female sculptor to win the international sculpture prize ​‘ ​ Premio Pietrasanta e la Versilia nel Mondo’ ​ ​ in 2007.   

Best known for her monumental public commissions, Blumenfeld is passionate about bringing sculpture into the public domain, creating works that have become integral to the cultural landscape in the UK. Most notably, ​‘Tempesta’ overlooking Hyde Park in London, installed in 2012, as well as the recently unveiled bronze ‘Meridiana’ in Holland Park. Blumenfeld’s pieces represent some of the definitive examples of public sculpture in the UK. 

Helaine Blumenfeld’s facility at positioning her sculpture in the magical zone between abstraction and figuration has been the key to her success. Her luminous work plays with duality, introducing a remarkable lightness to carved stone. Testing the limits of her material, Blumenfeld creates impossibly thin, undulating structures through a profound understanding of the boundaries of her materials. Recent pieces have seen her expand her practice to experiment with Silver Nitrate patinas - a nod to her father in law, the acclaimed photographer Erwin Blumenfeld.    

Highlights of the exhibition include Blumenfeld’s new pieces that achieve remarkable delicacy in white marble, with ​Two Sides of a Woman, seemingly weightless and conveying movement suspended in time as well as ​Crescendo, a bronze piece which seems to suggest the wings of a bird or the petals of a flower in bloom. This dynamic of strength and frailty, movement and stillness in her work reflects the changing roles in a relationship - the tactile work encourages the viewer to shift their perspective and explore how the piece subtly changes from alternate viewpoints. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introduction by author, Nicola Upson.   

Of her latest work and accomplished career, Helaine Blumenfeld comments:   ‘This is an exhibition of new sculptures that reflects the continuing importance of risk as an essential part of my creative process. Every aspect of creativity involves and requires risk. Risk is a condition of the creative process. To be creative, I must be in touch with my inner vision. This means exposing what is most vulnerable, which requires courage. It means being able to accept and embrace uncertainty. The ability to contradict my own forms is at the basis of every break-through I have made as an artist. I feel I must always challenge my own aesthetic to go beyond the boundaries of what I have already created. There is no growth without change.’

Timothy Potts, Director, Getty Museum said: ​‘Blumenfeld is a force of nature; an extraordinary artist, and a great contributor beyond her work itself. She’s been an incredible advocate for public sculpture, for the arts and what they can do in communities and the effect they can have on people. And that of course is what the arts are there to do. I’ve been very privileged to experience this first-hand.’ 

Internationally-acclaimed sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld OBE was born in New York in 1942. She studied at Columbia University, New York, followed by Oxford University. She later completed a PhD in Philosophy at Columbia in 1965. Following her studies, Blumenfeld moved to Paris to study sculpture at the Ecole de la Grande Chaumière (1962–63), where she studied with Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine.

Helaine Blumenfeld moved to England in 1969 and soon after, exhibited at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge. 1975 marked a turning point in Blumenfeld's career when she first visited Pietrasanta, Italy, and began carving in marble as well as in bronze. In 1985, she had a seminal joint exhibition with Henry Moore at the Alex Rosenberg Gallery, New York.   

In 2007 Blumenfeld became the first woman to win the Il Premio Pietrasanta e la Versilia Nel Mondo, adding her name to the list of winners of this honour including Botero, Pomodoro and Marc Quinn. In 2008 the Royal British Society of Sculptors held a major retrospective of her work and in 2011 Blumenfeld was awarded an honorary OBE to mark her achievements in sculpture.    

Blumenfeld has exhibited her work extensively both in the UK, including recently at Salisbury Cathedral (2013) and London’s Berkeley Square (2015), and internationally in Europe and the United States. Her numerous public commissions include a monumental marble sculpture called ‘Tempesta’ at The Lancasters overlooking Hyde Park, which was installed in 2012.    

In May 2016, Blumenfeld’s new bronze sculpture ‘Meridiana’ was installed in Holland Park as part of a series celebrating the work of female sculptors, while this summer will see Blumenfeld’s largest work to date permanently installed at Canary Wharf. Today, Helaine Blumenfeld lives and works between her studios in Cambridge and Pietrasanta. 

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