New Addison Exhibit Takes Shape in Abstract Sculptures

Frozen in step, a longlegged, hourglass-shaped creature balances on a blue and white disk. With twig-like arms and a circular head attached to the cone-shaped torso, this figure is “100LP,” a 1997 glazed porcelain sculpture by Andover’s Artist-in-Residence from 1998, Richard Shaw. The sculpture stands on display in the Addison Gallery of American Art’s new exhibition, “Taking Shape: Sculpture at the Addison.”

“Taking Shape” serves as a complement to another current exhibition, “Making it Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman” and is composed of sculptures from the Addison’s in-house collection, several of which were created by Andover alumni or previous Artists-in-Residence. It spans four rooms, is organized thematically, and brings viewers through three centuries of the Addison’s sculpture collection.

“It seemed to us, for a couple of reasons, that it would be nice to focus on sculptures. Firstly, it is three-dimensional in relationship to the folk art, but it’s fine art, and secondly, we were beginning this fall to look at our sculpture collection’s condition and documentation and this was a great opportunity to begin that process,” said Susan Faxon, curator of the exhibition and Associate Director and Curator of Art Before 1950.

“PF Post Modern,” a steel, bronze, and enamel sculpture made by Robert Hudson in 1990, another former Artist-in-Residence, stands upright in the corner of the last room of the exhibition. Contrasted with the wooden and bronze sculptures surrounding it, its geometric frames are painted with electrifying colors and intersect asymmetrically, connecting to a striped beam.

“If you spend time looking at [‘PF Post Modern’] from different points of view, you will see how carefully [Hudson has] thought about every single viewpoint. As you walk around, you are the moving part but the sculpture becomes a moving experience as well. It’s infinitely engaging and there will always be some portion to see. It’s just a fascinating piece,” said Faxon.

The wood carving “Eagle,” created in the 1800s, is one of the many sculptures made by anonymous artists in the exhibition. In mid-flight, the wooden bird displays its detailed feathered wings. Its eyes stare straight into to the eyes of the viewer, giving the sculpture an intimidating feel.

“I have never actually seen this eagle out of storage, so it’s really exciting for me to see it. It’s very dramatic and big. [The artist] did some wonderful carving. [On the wings are] almost like leaves and petals and then fronds of vegetation, or feathers. It just has a wonderful presence. It’s kind of scary and aggressive,” said Faxon.

Five cartoon-like figurines – “T.S. Eliot,” “Ernest Hemingway,” “Oscar Wilde In America,” “Henry James,” and “Sylvia Beach” – made between 1968 and 1989 by Michael de Lisio, stand in a cluster in similar stances. The expressionless heads attached to irregularly proportioned bodies each represent a famous figure that fascinated de Lisio, who was also a poet. According to de Lisio’s artist’s statement, he wanted to capture the poetry and mystery of the reality in all artists’ lives with his work.

“These figures have a very primitive quality. These are twentieth-century [works of art] and I wanted to stress that it was understood that it wasn’t only in the eighteenth century or nineteenth century that things were made with that kind of aesthetic, but they were [made in that style] in the twentieth century as well,” said Faxon.

Directly hanging in the center of the main exhibition hall, “Behind the Cross,” Mel Kendrick’s laminated poplar, plaster, and ink sculpture made in 1982, is a conglomeration of black arched beams. White geometric shapes and stripes dapple the abstract shapes, contrasting the smooth shadows cast on the wall.

“[‘Behind the Cross’] was made with a deliberate [mindset] to be a sculpture on the wall, because when you [shine] light [on] it, it becomes animated by the shadows that hit the sculpture, which give it a vibrancy,” said Faxon.

“Taking Shape: Sculpture at the Addison” will be on view in the Addison until March 19.