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Antony Gormley Works on View at Kunsthaus Bregenz

Antony Gormley is one of Britain’s leading contemporary sculptors focusing on the human body as site. The exhibition at KUB brings together four major work series from Gormley’s oeuvre: the Expansion works, Allotment, Critical Mass, and Clearing. Embedded in the context of Peter Zumthor’s architecture, the works challenge the fine line in the human psyche that marks the mental balance between asserting oneself as an individual and being contextualized by architectural space.

Antony Gormley – Clearing IV, 2005 12 km of 12.7 x 12.7 mm 16 swg aluminium tube Dimensions variable Installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York Photo: Steven P Harris © Antony Gormley. Courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (Paris/Salzburg) and White Cube (London)

Over the last 25 years Antony Gormley has revitalized the human image in sculpture through a radical investigation of the body as a place of memory and transformation, using his own body as subject, tool and material. Since 1990 he has expanded his concern with the human condition to explore the collective body and the relationship between self and other in large-scale installations like Allotment and Critical Mass, both of which will be presented at KUB this summer. Gormley’s recent work increasingly engages with energy systems, fields and vectors, rather than mass and defined volume. This is evident in the dynamic work Clearing, which pushes against the gallery walls, ceiling and floor, and will fill the second floor of KUB.

Gormley’s work has been exhibited extensively, with solo shows throughout the UK in venues such as the Whitechapel, Tate and Hayward galleries, and internationally at museums including the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC and the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Germany. Blind Light, a major solo exhibition of his work, was held at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 2007. He has participated in major group shows such as the Venice Biennale and Documenta 8 in Kassel. Angel of the North and, more recently, Quantum Cloud on the Thames in Greenwich, London, are amongst the most celebrated examples of contemporary British sculpture. Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999 and the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture 2007.

clearing-vGormley´s Expansion works began with an obsession with renegotiating the skin: questioning where things and events begin and end. All forms become egg-shaped if their skin is repeated, achieving an equilibrium between stasis and potential. The Expansion works apply this process to the body in dynamic motion, moving bodies either in self-locomotion or in positions where the body is the subject of movement. Body and Fruit are derived from a body-mold in a clasped diving position. To quote Gormley: “I discovered that it was possible to extend the form through the application of a consistent measure by using wooden spars radiating from nodal points at the extremities of the body. They were linked together at their outer ends to form a continuous surface where the feet, hands, buttocks and head become the foci of a number of domed forms that coalesce.”

1st Floor:
Allotment II (1996, reinforced concrete, 300 life-size elements derived from the dimensions of local inhabitants of Malmö aged 1.5 – 80 years)
The measurements of 300 local people of Malmö, Sweden were used to construct 300 five-centimeter-thick rectangular concrete body cases, with integrated rectangular head cases, and apertures at the mouth, ears, anus and genitals. The “rooms” of Allotment are the minimum space necessary to accommodate a particular living individual, which substitute the second body (that of architecture) for the first. They are vertical meditation cells for the absent bodies of a real community. With the pieces laid on a grid path system the composite work evokes a surrogate cityscape. Some are closely packed next to each other, some less so. The viewer, having apprehended the work initially as a whole, will then be able to make his/her way through the composition, engaging with pieces intimately.

2nd Floor:
Clearing V (2009, aluminum rod)
Clearing consists of up to 12 kilometers of raw metal rod that arc from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, creating a three-dimensional drawing in space. The installation acts as a vector field, encouraging the viewer to move through its structure, and in so doing disrupts the authority of a single-point perspective, necessitating instead a constant renegotiation of the visual field: “I was trying to destroy the fixed co-ordinates of a room and make a space/time continuum (a line without end) that was both a thing and a drawing,” says Gormley.

3rd Floor:
Critical Mass (1995, cast iron)
Critical Mass is made up of 5 casts of 12 positions: ground-hugging, crouching, fetal, squatting, sitting, kneeling, standing, mourning and a final instability – an ascent of man ranging through the complex syntax of the body. The bodyforms were cast from the outside of a plaster mold and all the imperfections of the mold surface are reproduced on the finished work, as are the signs of the loose pieces in the sand mold, the flash lines that exist between them, and the out-runners of the metal-pouring which are integrated into the surface, declaring their industrial birth. The work is an anti-monument evoking the victims of the twentieth century. It also communicates the useless status of sculpture itself. Critical Mass was made in direct response to a specific building, the Remise, an old tram storage station in Vienna. The work continues to activate and destabilize the architectural contexts in which it is presented.

Lower Image: Antony Gormley, Clearing V, 2009, approx 10 km of 12.7mm x 12.7mm 16swg aluminum tube. Installation view 2nd floor, Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photo: Markus Tretter © Antony Gormley, Kunsthaus Bregenz.