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Tim de Christopher’s The Fruit of Our Labors is an evolving work that explores the life and labors of one man. Synthesizing the traditional practice of stone carving with more contemporary modes of sculpture making, de Christopher’s most recent version of this installation at deCordova is a large, timber-framed structure that houses artist’s stone sculptures as well as weathered found objects.
Evocative of an ancient Greek temple, the structure acts as a monument; its items metaphorically pay tribute to a life lived, representing ideas that are both deeply personal and universally experienced. De Christopher connects these elements visually through a system of lines in space—ropes strung through pulleys, wood beams and shelving, and metal rods—affirming the interrelatedness of all things. Through his composition of accumulated elements, the artist comments on the manner in which we collect things throughout our lives, be they physical objects or intangible memories, prompting questions about what we choose to keep and what we leave behind.
The Fruit of Our Labors was previously installed at the Oxbow Gallery, in Northampton, MA in December of 2010.
This exhibition has been generously funded by an anonymous donor.
This ambitious survey exhibition of the work of the internationally renowned Scottish artist, poet, and garden designer Ian Hamilton Finlay showcases over 200 objects including sculptures, prints, and books. The show is the first museum exhibition of the artist’s work in the United States since his show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1992; the exhibition is also the first of the artist’s work in the United States since his death in 2006. In addition to filling deCordova’s Linde and Foster Galleries, the exhibition contains a number of works installed outdoors in the Sculpture Park.
After founding Wild Hawthorn Press in 1961 and publishing hundreds of artists’ books, Finlay rose to prominence as one of Great Britain’s foremost experimental literary artists making concrete poetry, a practice which wed language with sculptural form. In 1966, he and his wife Sue Finlay built Little Sparta, a garden in Dunsyre, Scotland, which became the site for the ultimate realization of his aesthetic program. Finlay treated Little Sparta as a site for engaging with cultural inquiry and criticism rather than as a sanctuary or more traditional pastoral setting; he literally placed language into the landscape in monumental form, encouraging a discourse on the reconciliation between nature and modern society.
Finlay freely mined human history to source imagery for his work. He believed that most positive symbols in Western culture had been drained of their meaning through consumerist assimilation and desensitization, and so employed universally powerful symbols of violence and authority such as machine guns, tanks, and guillotines in his work. Finlay’s merger of beauty, violence, and the sacred spoke to his belief in the disintegration of contemporary society’s cultural ideals. When encountered in juxtaposition to emblems of nature and classical idealism, Finlay’s epigrams provoke contemplation of society’s need for a reclamation of civic and aesthetic values.
Several works demonstrating Finlay’s signature fusion of classical beauty and violence are on view in deCordova’s exhibition. Apollo/Saint Just after Bernini (1985-2003) is a suite of bronze sculptures of the youthful Olympian deity, each equipped–upon closer inspection–with modern weapons such as hand grenades and submachine guns, rather than flutes or harps. Similarly, Finlay’s Aphrodite de la Terreur (Aphrodite of the Terror) (1987) is a plaster sculpture of the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality–this time adorned with a modest red necklace, a chilling reference to the red string worn around the necks of mourning relatives of the beheaded during the French Revolution.
Finlay’s work often commands attention through his simple visual and verbal plays on language: Wildflower Vase (1985) is an ephemeral bouquet in a classical white vase labeled with the text "Wildflower: A Mean Term between Revolution and Virtue." Finlay’s text causes the work’s immediate beauty and representation of nature to become a prompt for the contemplation of communal mindfulness. In a comparable gesture, Finlay’s Panzer Leader (1976) is a cast tortoise whose shell is embossed with the word Panzer, a German word that can be translated as tank, armor, or turtle shell. Although Panzer Leader appears to be an unassuming, tank-like reptile at first glance, Finlay’s application of language quickly renders it a more sinister evocation of the thunderous crush of German tanks during World War II.
Finlay’s challenging engagement with landscape and history does not make allowance for a passive viewing experience. The artist’s work encourages viewers to question the role of the detached consumer and to utilize the tools of awareness that Finlay presents in his work in order to consider their responsibility in articulating the future of society.
Funding for this exhibition has been provided by an anonymous donor and Joyce Linde.
PLATFORM is a series of solo exhibitions by early- and mid-career artists from both the New England and national arts communities. These shows focus on work that engages with deCordova’s unique spaces, both indoors and outdoors, and social, geographical, and physical location. The PLATFORM series is intended as a support for creativity and expression of new ideas, and as a catalyst for dialogue about contemporary art.
This selection of works from the Permanent Collection celebrates the written word and its role as a longstanding inspiration to artists working in all mediums. Whether found or constructed, language catalyzes the imagination.
Artists whose works will be in the exhibition include Thomas Barrow, Bruce Barry, Alan D’Arcangelo, Robert Cottingham, James Dow, Lalla Essaydi, Walton Ford, Lee Friedlander, Al Hansen, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Sister Corita Kent, Emmett McDermott, Larimer Richards, Jon Sarkin, Aaron Siskind, Joseph Wardwell, and Andrew Witkin.