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Smart Museum Taps its Vast Sculptural Holdings to Launch 40th Season

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The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. Installation view of Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways at the Smart Museum of Art at The University of Chicago (photo courtesy of The Smart Museum of Art).

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago launched its 40th Anniversary season September 27, 2014, with Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways, an expansive exhibition of some 175 works from the Smart’s collection and promised gifts.  Essentially transforming the entire 8,800 foot gallery space into Chicago’s only sculpture museum, albeit a temporary one, Carved, Cast, Crumpled commemorates Smart’s inaugural 1974 exhibition of modern sculpture.

“From an ancient Chinese ritual vessel to a cast bronze model of Rodin’s iconic The Thinker and Chicagoan Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, the range of sculpture presented all together in a single exhibition is unprecedented in the city,” said Anthony Hirschel, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art. “As we celebrate four decades of collecting, Carved, Cast, Crumpled offers an opportunity to experience the richness, diversity, and depth of the Smart’s collection and its growth over 40 years in an entirely new way.”

Carved, Cast, Crumpled is comprised of sculptural works in diverse materials and formats and a handful of related drawings by sculptors. The exhibition takes over the whole museum, transforming both spaces normally dedicated to temporary exhibitions as well as those that are home to longer-standing installations of the Smart’s collection. Among the approximately 175 works, highlights include small-scale sculptures by modern masters like Auguste Rodin, Jacques Lipchitz, and Henry Moore; ancient Chinese mingqi tomb figures and Asian Buddhist devotional statues; European bronzes of princes, putti, and classical heroes; and boundary-breaking work by postwar artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, John Chamberlain, Robert Irwin, and Michael Rakowitz.

A central presentation of 16 works in the Richard and Mary L. Gray Gallery features groups of objects selected from the major areas of the Smart’s collection. These juxtapositions of different types of objects explore fundamental qualities of sculpture—including materiality, functionality, figuration and aura/presence—across historical and cultural contexts.

The bulk of the exhibition is arranged predominantly according to the four areas of strength in the Smart Museum’s collection—Modern art and design, Asian art, Old Master and nineteenth century art European art, and contemporary art. Among the works on display are recent acquisitions or promised gifts, never before on view at the Smart before, including: an early mixed-media mobile Sunami by Alexander Calder, Surrealist bronze abstractions by Jean Arp, drawings by Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, the mirrored Vermeer Box by June Leaf, and the wood tower Monument to Martha by H. C. Westermann. In total, Carved, Cast, Crumpled showcases a foundational component of the Museum’s collection, one that can be traced back to the Joel Starrels, Jr. Memorial Collection of modern sculpture featured in the Smart’s inaugural exhibition in the fall of 1974.

Augmenting this exhibition is Galleryx, a flexible space installed in the center of the Museum throughout the 40th Anniversary season. Developed by Range Design, this participatory hub invites and encourages public discussions of art and ideas, and houses The Art of Experience: the Smart Museum, designed by the Smart’s new Interpreters in Residence, Chicago’s 500 Clown.

The Smart’s 40th Anniversary season will continue with Objects and Voices: A Collection of Stories (opening February 12, 2015), a second Museum-wide project showcasing 17 micro-exhibitions by guest curators with a relationship to the Smart—distinguished professors, curators, young scholars, and Smart alumni—offering their own personal and professional perspectives on works in the collection, to reveal how objects and stories are intertwined.

For more information about Carved, Cast, Crumpled at the Smart Museum, visit smartmuseum.uchicago.edu.


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