New York – Ugo Rondinone: “Soul” at Gladstone Gallery Through July 3rd, 2013

June 30th, 2013

Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery
Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery

Gladstone Gallery is currently presenting a series of new works by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, exploringhuman creativity, expression and individuation through a series of primitive stone sculptures, collectively titled Soul.  Complementing the artist’s enormous sculptural installation Human Nature, on view at Rockefeller Center, the exhibition features a series of individually carved stone statues.

Ugo Rondinone, Human Nature at Rockefeller Center (Installation View), via Public Art Fund
Ugo Rondinone, Human Nature at Rockefeller Center (Installation View), via Public Art Fund

Working across a broad variety of media and techniques, Rondinone has defined himself as an artist profoundly interested in the myriad constructions of meaning between humanity and nature, and the results of these interactions.  Utilizing installation, painting, photography and sculpture, the artist moves from form to form in his pursuit of deep constructions of meaning in the human psyche.

Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery
Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery

For Soul, the artist has returned to his previously explored primitivist approaches, embracing the construction of small-scale human statues from roughly cut stone.  Pulled directly from the quarry and assembled with little polishing or preparation, the works possess a marked immediacy, as if assembled for an important ceremony or sacred space.  Viewers are immediately reminded of the massive stone structures of Stonehenge, and their mysterious relationship to the human condition.  Somewhere between foreign and familiar, Rondinone’s works hold a powerful sway, bringing the viewer face to face with a recreated relic of human creation that they may have forgotten in the refined theory and practice of a contemporary arts discipline.

Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery
Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery

But perhaps the most intriguing part of this exhibition is Rondinone’s title, which works itself out over an extended viewing of the show.  Given the primitive, rough-hewn nature of the sculptures on view, each work takes on its own personality, defined by the varying proportions and jagged features of each work.  Littered with drill holes, scrapes and chisel marks, Rondinone’s various sculptures bear scuffs and scars that offer a deeper life to the sculpture on view which, taken in conjunction with their primitive figurations and constructions, exude a slowly developing individualism, defined by the process of their creation, and their unique appearance on each of the gallery’s pedestals.

Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery
Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery

In this context, Rondinone’s show serves as a key of sorts to Human Nature, his enormous installation project at Rockefeller Center, which casts several of the same sculptures in a massive scale; towering up above passers-by, and requiring additional support to the surrounding foundations of the plaza merely to hold the works up.  Expanding his practice to monumental scale, Rondinone creates a tribute not only to the elements and practice that render these sculptures, but to the creative impulse itself.  In much smaller scale, the effect remains almost exactly the same.

Soul is on view until July 3rd.

Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery
Ugo Rondinone, Soul (Installation View), via Gladstone Gallery

—D. Creahan

Read more:
Exhibition Site [Gladstone Gallery]
Human Nature [Public Art Fund]
“Ugo Rondinone: Soul”  [New York Times]