The Musée Rodin
is now welcoming British artist Antony Gormley. For over forty years, Gormley has explored the relationship of the human body to space through a critical engagement with his own body and, more recently, through examining the relationship of the body to the built environment. Titled Critical Mass, this exhibition at the musée Rodin will activate all areas of the museum, including the temporary exhibition space, gardens, Marble Galerie and Hotel Biron. Key works from across Gormleys career will enter into dialogue with Rodins own sculptures, inviting visitors to reflect on the two sculptors and their shared investment in asking what the body offers sculpture as a subject, object and reflexive tool.
At the centre of this exhibition is Critical Mass II (1995), an installation comprising sixty life-sized sculptures that punctuate the museums temporary exhibition space and garden. In this major work, the artist isolates twelve fundamental positions unique to the human body, casts each five times and then places them in different configurations, sometimes to contradictory and absurd effect. Crawling, squatting, kneeling and standing, the installation will unfold in the garden with a line of the twelve positions that ends at Rodins The Gates of Hell. Inside, a dense cluster of cast iron bodies piled in a heap will look as if they have been toppled onto the ground. Other bodies will be pressed against walls and hang suspended from the ceiling. For Gormley, the work references the materiality of sculpture and our dependency on the materiality of the body, both being subject to position, context and jeopardy.
In addition to Critical Mass II, six of Gormleys Insider works will populate the Marble Galerie and four carefully chosen sculptures will be placed alongside Rodins masterpieces in the permanent exhibition rooms of Hotel Biron. The interaction between Gormleys and Rodins work will question and disturb our existing assumptions about sculpture and its relation to the body.
The exhibition will also offer a fascinating insight into Gormleys working methods and collaborative approach to making sculpture, a thread which can be traced back to Rodins own studio and its mode of collective production. A series of working models will be placed alongside Rodins own maquettes, while a life-size plaster mould can be seen by Study for Balzacs Dressing Gown to acknowledge how both artists have used moulds and plaster as sources of new possibility. Over two hundred of Gormleys workbooks will also be on view, revealing forty years worth of ideas, reflections and drawings.
On the exhibition, Gormley has said: The reason that Rodin remains a key source of inspiration and renewal for sculpture is the way that he liberated it by combining ancient and modern methods and materials in an extraordinarily prescient way.
Through open experimentation, the originator of modern sculpture took full advantage of the freedom to experiment, armed with all the means of an emergent industrial age and its ability to mechanically produce in profusion. I consider Critical Mass II to be the most concentrated example of my attempt to reanimate and re-purpose the power of the body in the art of sculpture.
Antony Gormley: Critical Mass
October 17th, 2023 - March 03rd, 2024