The Re-Emergence Of Realism
at the Fogg through October 24
JUDGING FROM THE FOGG'S current exhibition, the art world's preoccupation with abstract art seems to have temporarily ceased. And for those of the general public who have felt innundated, if not bored by, this ten-year bombardment of squares and stripes, the show entitled Recent Figure Sculpture at least provides an incentive to return to the museum. Realism in art has re-emerged, and in this case it is a realism both humorous and shocking. Even the person who feels he has to be entertained by art exhibitions should enjoy it. Debates will undoubtedly continue as to whether these sculptures are art, but the viewer can decide for himself.
For two pieces in the show the term "realism" cannot express the painstaking accuracy involved in making the figures exactly like human beings. Not only does the "Woman Cleaning the Rug" by Duane Hanson have real spectacles on her nose, a real Dynel wig on her head, and a real bandaid on her shin, but her vacuum cleaner is plugged into a socket in the wall. The very technological feat of creating the illusion of a woman's flesh out of synthetic polyester and fiberglass becomes the most significant thing about the sculpture. The subject matter is almost secondary. One becomes obsessed in De Andrea's "Boys Playing Soccer" with how the sculptor was able to balance the figure so precariously on such a small base and, even worse, to make the wrinkles in the stomach so convincing. The question of why the artist chose to depict two naked boys playing soccer becomes completely irrelevant. It merely provides a convenient subject for a flashy display of what in the end is just craftmanship.
The most intriguing pieces in the show are those in which the artist used realism for the more intelligent purpose of communicating an idea about society. And these artists find something in society to criticize. Certainly the most powerful image in the show is the massive figure of a man clothed in black leather struggling to free himself from the belts and zippers that contain him everywhere. Perhaps it can be interpreted as a commentary on repression or even some avid libber's dream of a future society in which men's mouths and genitals are zipped tight.
There is the Hopperesque alienation of George Segal's white plaster woman who sits behind the railing of her porch facing a world that does not even exist. And Luis Jiminez has remade the Statue of Liberty into a new symbol of American fertility.
With one hand holding a torch that resembles a melted ice cream cone and the other clutching an enormous glossy breast, she is perched on a bar stool with an American flag between her legs. In a triumphal pose she stares down as a new god of America's reproductive process. This is disgust tinged with humor similar to Pop art of the early 60's.
The show abounds with contained energy. One has the uncanny feeling that perhaps at some point all the figures will come to life. Frank Gallo's "Running Girl" will spring out of the corner; Duane Hanson's woman will begin vacuuming: De Andrea's boy will finally lose his balance; and Nancy Grossman's black leather man will burst out of the straps. Whoever arranged the exhibition had a sense of humor, too. There in the corner stands Red Groom's camera man also waiting for that moment as if to capture it on film.