November 16, 2002 – January 18, 2003
Opening reception: 16 November 2002, 6 – 8 pm
Joint artists’ presentation with Alice Könitz: 17 January, 2003 at 7 pm.
This exhibition was organized by Irene Tsatsos.
In her project for LACE, Ruby Neri presented a selection of figurative sculpture, ranging from a 7-foot tall horse to busts to owls and birds. Neri’s figures challenge certain conceptual expectations in contemporary art, while celebrating a tradition of statuary and the “noble” figure. For some, the term “statue” might seem derogatory or dismissive, calling to mind Hummel figures or forgotten heroes in the park, more interesting to pigeons than people. But with influences such as Constantin Brancusi, or the 19th century American sculptor Hiram Powers, Neri’s use of traditionalism serves a specific purpose.
Made of plaster and painted in varying degrees of realism, Neri’s menagerie represented a conflation of naturalism and imagination. Powers presented his subjects in an amalgamation of then-contemporary and Greek classical styles in order to infuse his present with the values and aesthetics he admired. Neri, meanwhile, adopted popular subject matter and presented it in a traditional style to present her vision of what is currently interesting and admirable. This strategy provided her a means to write a cultural future that embraces a rich range of elements and references that are spatial, temporal, cultural and virtual. While figuration is often charged with being too literal, Neri’s sculptures were, instead, illustrative of what might be, what could be, or what should be.
Neri’s sculptures were constructed from the inside out. Citing text, anatomy, and picture books as potential source material, Neri formed a concrete understanding of her subjects’s interiors, getting beneath their skin – literally and culturally – to redefine their surfaces. Further, the bases of Neri’s sculptures were intrinsic to the structure and surface, acting as conceptual extensions of the figure into the space in which it was placed, much like Brancusi’s “Bird in Flight.” Through her mediation of the material, Neri elevated the effigy to a place of loftiness and wonder, making it both overly familiar and sublime. Neri’s effigies function as archetypes and signs of something larger than meanings of the references from which they were drawn. As Powers and his peers sought to build a national identity through their creations, Neri’s re-constructions built the global identity in which we are all complicit.