Germaine Richier will present more than forty important sculptures ranging from early torsos and figures, to startling hybrids of humans crossed with bats, toads, spiders, and vegetal organisms, that brought the artist international recognition before her untimely death at the age of 57. The exhibition traces the evolution of a defiantly independent vision and the artistic trajectory of a woman whose life was imprinted indelibly by two World Wars; who began her career in the studio of Antoine Bourdelle; and who went on to break convention and leave a vivid mark on the history of Modern art.
It’s a matter of comparison. Female sculptors are rare to begin with, and within the category, few are widely recognized – Louise Bourgeois claims what might be the sole celebrity status in the field. This coupled with the fact that Richier’s work hasn’t had an exhibition in the U.S. since 1957 (two years before her death) places Richier at the tip of a double-edged sword; her obscurity grants her the prestige of an artifact being rediscovered, but the lack of prior exposure makes it difficult to quickly recognize which of her works are truly great. Or, is she truly great at all? Or just one of the best in an under-populated category? Most will claim the former, but only after having given the works patience to slowly reveal themselves as more than just spindly bronze figures., toying with the human form in almost mystical realms and incorporating glass, paint, and enamel into figures’ flesh. Stances get more awkward, bodies get ganglier, and pitchfork-like extremities hang from places they don’t belong. Don Quichotte (1950-51) stands life-size, knees caved fluidly inward beneath arms bent in Egyptian-like rigidity, one holding a long lance and a head devoid of facial features. The war’s desolation is visible in this phantom of a being standing guard to some dark depth.