Sculpture shows from Auguste Rodin and Anila Quayyum Agha shine at the Columbia Museum of Art

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Sculpture shows from Auguste Rodin and Anila Quayyum Agha shine at the Columbia Museum of Art
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). Meditation (with Arms), modeled about 1880, enlarged about 1896; Musée Rodin cast 8, 1979. Bronze, 62 x 31 x 26 in.; Coubertin Foundry. Lent by Iris Cantor.

COLUMBIA, SC.- The Columbia Museum of Art is aglow with two dynamic exhibitions of radiant sculpture from brilliant artists of international renown. Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams / Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections, organized and made possible by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, features over 40 bronze works from Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), the legendary French artist whose innovative practices and revolutionary style ushered in modern Western sculpture. Anila Quayyum Agha: Let A Million Flowers Bloom features two large-scale works by another groundbreaking artist, Anila Quayyum Agha (born 1965), whose immersive installations playing with light and shadow upend traditional ideas about sculpture. Opening weekend programs include opportunities to learn more about both exhibitions and to hear from Agha herself.

“We are thrilled to bring to the CMA two astounding artists that show the breadth and depth of what sculpture can be,” says Jackie Adams, CMA director of art and learning. “Agha and Rodin are some of the best examples of how artists push the boundaries of materials and processes despite a century of time between their lives. Each artist masterfully expresses the grace and drama imbued in our woven histories, and we hope visitors are inspired by the immense beauty of their art.”

Thanks to Presenting Sponsor First Citizens Bank, all K-12 student tours of both exhibitions, as well as newly launched Touch Tours of Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams, are offered free of charge. Touch Tours provide an opportunity for visitors who are blind or have low vision to experience diverse sculptural work through detailed verbal description and a selection of touchable objects.

Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams / Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
On view February 19 – May 15, 2022

Auguste Rodin saw the body as an envelope for the spirit. The poses of his figures and the flickering surfaces of his modeled forms capture the human condition in all its elation and anguish. Rodin holds a prized place in the history of art, straddling the decades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the world was striving for a new, modern form of expression. He used the human body to incredibly expressive ends, and his works are timelessly relatable in their emotions.

The title of this exhibition comes from Rodin himself, who said that, far different from the realities of everyday life, artworks “open before us an enchanted land of contemplation and dreams.”

With over 40 works of varying scale, Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams introduces audiences to some of the iconic sculptor’s most famous projects, including the Burghers of Calais — historical figures that Rodin grippingly depicts as they offer their own lives to save their city — and the famous unrealized masterpiece The Gates of Hell. This exhibition also showcases Rodin’s commemorations of other artistic luminaries, including literary giants Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac, Romantic composer Gustav Mahler, Baroque painter Claude Lorrain, and contemporary Japanese dancer and actress Hisa Ōta, also known as Hanako (“Little Flower”).

This is the first exhibition the CMA has hosted dedicated exclusively to Rodin’s work and the first to feature bronze sculptures in 40 years. Visitors will learn about the artist’s processes for modeling and casting as they move through four galleries of his works.

“Rodin’s work has been the ultimate source for modern sculptors since the beginning of the last century,” says Judith Sobol, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. “I am excited to be able to see the dialogue between Rodin's work and that of Anila Quayyum Agha. Light and illusion are so important to both.”

Anila Quayyum Agha: Let A Million Flowers Bloom
On view February 19 – May 29, 2022

Pakistani American artist Anila Quayyum Agha’s immersive installations move beyond conventional concepts of sculpture. Brilliantly lit from within, they cast their own images onto the walls around them like lanterns and create intricate patterns that dance over visitors as they move through the exhibition.

Rather than solid structures yearning to be massive monuments, these elegant works — All The Flowers Are For Me (Turquoise) from 2017 and This is NOT a Refuge! from 2019 — delicately defy their steely weight. Suspended from the ceiling, these light-emitting, shadow-casting sculptures seem to turn themselves inside out, enveloping viewers in a remarkable visual environment and framing concepts of nature, culture, religion, migration, and gender.

The works in Let A Million Flowers Bloom use floral and geometric shapes inspired by Islamic architecture to explore notions of masculine and feminine, public and private, religious and secular, and particularly space and refuge, taking on the pain of losing one's home and agency and the hope of establishing them both anew. Agha’s unforgettable art envelops viewers in an enchanting visual environment that inspires awe and invites contemplation about sanctuary and belonging.

“Having lived on the boundaries of different faiths such as Islam and Christianity, and in cultures like Pakistan and the United States, my art is deeply influenced by the simultaneous sense of alienation and transience that informs the migrant experience,” says Agha in an artist’s statement. “This consciousness of knowing what is markedly different about the human experience also bears the gift of knowing its core commonalities and it is these tensions and contradictions that I try to embody in my artwork.”

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