The directors of Blain|Southern and Blain|Di Donna are delighted to present the largest ever international survey of the sculptor Lynn Chadwick, with three concurrent exhibitions in London, Berlin and New York.
Coming a decade after his major retrospective at Tate Britain, the shows will explore Chadwick’s 50-year career, with each offering a distinct curatorial flavour as envisioned by the exhibition designer Bill Katz.
This will be the first solo presentation of Chadwick’s work in Berlin, and will have as its focal point his series of steel beasts dating from 1989-1991. These works, constructed from triangular steel plates welded around an armature, illustrate not only Chadwick’s unerring interest in animal forms, but the mainstay of his artistic practice; the manner in which he blurred the lines between figuration and abstraction.
While his first beast sculptures date from the 1950s – Beast I was one of the works that helped earn him the International Prize for Sculpture at the 1956 Venice Biennale – this later series represented a departure from his usual medium, bronze. The series began with Rising Beast, which features in the exhibition alongside others, with titles that allude to specific primal states of action: Beast Alerted I; Howling Beast I; and Crouching Beast I.
All of these works will be displayed on the ground floor of the Berlin gallery, a vast post-industrial space that once housed the printing presses of Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. Chadwick is said to have delighted in the properties that steel afforded; no matter how dull the weather some facet of the sculptures would catch and reflect the light, a quality that the gallery space will enhance with its natural light source from the skylight windows.
Meanwhile, the upstairs gallery will feature several of Chadwick’s bronzes, including The Orator (1956) and Encounter IV (1956). The latter work – one of a series of ‘encounters’ – suggests the coming together of two forms, perhaps in a dance or embrace; a physical merging that creates a unique energy. This was a theme that preoccupied Chadwick throughout his career, concerning the manner in which two forms might relate to one another, join together, or be poised in opposition.
Watcher V (1960-1) and King (1964) reflect Chadwick’s engagement with semi-abstraction of the human form during the 1960s. Both are almost primordial in appearance, referring to the totemic figures from Easter Island that Chadwick was interested in, acquiring a timeless quality when cast in bronze. Yet the work also possesses a contemporary edge – with Cubist undertones present in its angular, dissected and depersonalised approach to form. One early reviewer commented on how “the series of bronze figures imparts that feeling of something more than human, the secret and self-contained power of the idol, which is of the immemorial essence in sculpture.”
Indeed, Chadwick made no reference to specific figures in his sculpture – the works always remained pointedly universal and open-ended, with the artist preferring not to offer direct interpretations of what he’d created. Rather, he focused on the harnessing of his practice and technique, feeling that artistic inspiration would not benefit from intellectual deliberation, but only from the unmediated channelling of his creative instinct.
The three exhibitions will be accompanied by two new publications on the artist. Lynn Chadwick The Sculptures at Lypiatt Park will be available from May, while a second publication that will document the three exhibitions will be available in June.