During Spring 2014 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presented the work of three of the most influential artists of the twentieth century: Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), Medardo Rosso (1858-1928) and Man Ray (1890-1976). Masterpieces were flown in from top collections all over the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
They included iconic sculptures never shown in the Netherlands, such as Brancusi’s ‘Princesse X’ (1915-16) and ‘Colonne sans fin’ (1918). Brancusi, Rosso and Man Ray all used photography in an innovative way in their work. A group of forty sculptures and more than sixty photographs that the artists took of their sculptures afford a unique insight into their artistic practice.
Three pioneers of modern sculpture
Rosso, Brancusi and Man Ray were decisive for the development of modern sculpture. Together with Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Medardo Rosso is seen as the artist who introduced the Impressionist style to sculpture. Brancusi is known as the founder of modern sculpture with his highly abstracted forms in polished bronze and marble. Man Ray, who is best known as a photographer and painter, played an important role in Dada and Surrealism. He combined everyday items to create new objects, comparable to the ‘readymades’ of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). He also developed his own photographic technique, which he called ‘rayography’.
After 1900 technical developments made photography easier and more affordable and therefore accessible to more people. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists increasingly sought a new language of forms in photography. Brancusi, Rosso and Man Ray employed photography not so much as a means of recording their work as a way of making clear how observers should view and interpret their works. They used experimental techniques such as overexposure, innovative camera angles and blurring the foreground or background. Brancusi, for example, photographed his works in direct sunlight so that the polished bronze flashes dramatically in the photographs. He would not allow anyone else to photograph his sculptures so that the representation of his work remained entirely in his own hands. Rosso manipulated his photographic prints by re-photographing them, cutting and writing on them. While Man Ray embraced a more versatile approach, he explored a cameraless photography technique by placing objects directly onto the phographic paper. The exhibition showed how even at the beginning of the twentieth century these three artists were preoccupied, each in his own way, with themes of representation and manipulation: themes that are considered very contemporary.
Visitors to the exhibition could experiment themselves with photography and representation. In three multimedia spaces they could use the techniques employed by Brancusi, Rosso and Man Ray. Take a look at the results here.
Boijmans Tour, catalogue, ARTtube video and more
The exhibition was accompanied by a specially developed multimedia tour, which will enrich the visitor’s experience through texts, images, audio and video. The tour gave the public the opportunity to ask the museum staff a question about the works.
For the duration of 'Brancusi, Rosso, Man Ray - Framing Sculpture', the Video Room was wholly devoted to avant-garde cinema. The museum was showing a number of recently rediscovered films by Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) and experimental films by Man Ray (1890-1976) and others. Brancusi and Man Ray both experimented with photography and film in the early twentieth century to reposition the sculptor’s field of operations. They used these experiments to address the question of how to look at an object rather than what to look for. Ten works by Brancusi and Man Ray were being shown along with videos by Hans Richter and René Clair.
A richly illustrated catalogue in Dutch and English editions with contributions by international experts is available from the museum shop and via webshop.boijmans.nl and an introductory video is on view on ARTtube.nl.
With the support of
The exhibition 'Brancusi, Rosso, Man Ray - Framing Sculpture' has been made possible by the Turing Foundation (Turing Toekenning 2013), the Boijmans Business Club, VSBfonds, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (made possible by Breeman Talle Fonds), the Mondriaan Fund, AON, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for the indemnity grant and the Kring Van Eyck.