_ The ripple effect
Andrew Gibbon Williams previews the work of Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso, who is regarded by many as one of the precursors of Modernism.
In looking for clues which may help to explain the brilliant but so confusingly enatic development of our own century’s art. it is very often worth exploring the work of the ‘lesser knowns’. rather than the ‘great names’. One such is the Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso, a selection of whose work has just arrived at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art.
‘Medardo Rosso is now the greatest living sculptor.‘ declared Apollinaire after the death of Rodin in 1917, and, if history has ignored the poet’s assessment, there is at least enough here to conﬁrm Rosso as an innovative talent — a premature modern who. like Debussy. re-conceived the potential of his art. While Rodin was resurrecting the muscular heroism of Michaelangelo, Rosso was clearing the aesthetic decks for Picasso and Matisse.
That it should be painters rather than sculptors whose three-dimensional work echoes Rosso is not surprising. Rosso was a modeller rather than carver; an artist ‘appearance conscious‘ to the point of disdaining the rears of his works. which he often left as rough as a ploughed ﬁeld. Although primarily a sculptor of heads, he was no portraitist; in Rosso’s hands poignantly expressive faces emerge from the wax which was his favourite medium like Cathedrals teased out of the mist by Monet or that lost one evoked by Debussy’s plangent cords. lfthere is any sculpture to which the tag Impressionist can be meaningfully applied, then it is indeed to that of Rosso.
Like almost all lrnpressionist painting. Rosso‘s three-dimensional essays in the spirit of the movement are beguilingly attractive. Yet it is perhaps because of the sculptor’s insistence that the atmosphere around the objects is as important as the objects themselves (an Impressionist credo if there ever was one!) that the work as a whole exudes a thin superﬁcial air which is curiously disappointing. The sense of romantic ﬁn-de-sier'le melancholy which admittedly must have been less tangible at the time of the sculpture‘s making. now merely points up the artist’s reliance on effect. Sculpture, he would have done well to reﬂect. is not an art which readily lends itself to the ethereal.
Degas (another admirer of the neglected Italian) serves as a good though crude comparison. When it came to sculpture. the most gifted of all the Impressionists respected fact with a
materialistic zeal, ifanything greater than that evident in his drawings and paintings, and the result was thejustly celebrated series of small lively ﬁgures. even the least ambitious of which is inﬁnitely more moving than Rosso‘s tortuously expressive Sick Child.
Neverthless, it was not to the gloriﬁer of the ballet that ground-breaking 20th century artists such as the Futurist Boccioni looked for guidance. but to this egotistical Italian (Rosso apparently took delight in making public events of his castings!). In the speed of his modelling they perceived a quality which would embue the art of our own century with the dynamism and breathless vitality which has tnade it so distinctive and so different from that ofthe past two millennia. Medardo Rosso is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art until 26 Jun.
_ All wound up
‘Vlhen I indie an automaton I am tortured by all kinds oi thoughts, ideas and images. I live In this automaton. It someone were to take this act of creation away from me , I would go mad,’ confesses the Russian artist Eduard Dersudsky. lie explains his role as slave to the spirit that drives him to construct the most extravagant kinetic art that Scotland has probably ever seen.
Inspired by the dark visions oi Kafka, the grotesque Imaginings ot Hieronymus Bosch and twentieth century Russian history, the 55-year old sculptor has created over twenty giant machines Inhnblted by a legion .ot deftly crafted ilgures in wood and metal. These over-shoot the realms oi the ordinary by whirring, shuddering and snapping Into sports at
mesmerising action that leave the onlooker with a grin on their lace and a thoughttul afterglow.
Despite his vociterious denials that he is a political artist, Bersudsky’s mechanical/artistic works such as Thinker Di The Kremlin and An Autumn Walk Before Perestroika are Imbued
with a humour derived from his vision ot the political machinations oi Stalin, lenin et al as well as a celebration of Perestroika.
Ilot all of these machines were built in his St Petersburg ilat; since settling
.in a Borders village beside his
sculptor triend Tim Stead, Dersudsky has raided the abundant riches of the consumerist West’s iunkyards and iunkshops tor his cogs and wheels. Ills companion Tatyana Jakovlskia translates: ‘St Petersburg used to have very rich dumps, but as life became poorer so did the dumps. lie, (Dersudsky) Is very happy with your dumps.’
A piece of theatre where kinetic art Interacts with the audience, Shannanka animates a slice of Russian history. (Ann Donald)
‘Sharrnanka-liussian Street Organ
Theatre Is at the Mclellan Galleries until 30 May. Dain one hour pertormances four times each day. Admission £4 (£2 concession).
Exhibitions are listed by city, than alphabetically by venue. Shows will be listed, provided that details reach our offices at least ten days beiore publication. Art and Exhibition listings compiled by Beatrice Colin.
I ART EXPOSURE GALLERY 38 Bath Street. 331 2617. Mon—Sat 10.30am-6pm. The Art Exposure Dpen Until 28 May. Art by 200 artists working on a maximum of A4. priced between £30 and £250. From Fri 6 May the Glasgow Artists Resource Centre will open with discounted materials from Miller‘s. a video library of televised visual arts programmes. free professional advice on legal and accountancy matters plus a noticeboard, discounted printing and photocopying and dozens of other essential and free services for artists. I ART GALLERY & MUSEUM, KELVIRGRUVE 357 3929. Mon—Sat lOam—Spm; Sun 11am—5pm. Cafe. [D]. Voluntary guides are available free of charge to conduct parties or individuals round the main galleries. Ask at the enquiry desk. Canvassing the Clyde: Stanley Spencer and the Shipyards Until 7 Aug. Another showing of Spencer‘s large oils which he produced during World War II. As well as the Gallery‘s collection, a number have been lent by the Imperial War Museum. Modern Art From the Collection New permanent display. David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Alan Davie, Jasper Johns, Bruce McLean and Eduardo Paclozzi are featured in an exhibition of Pop Art and work inspired by the heady 60s. I BARCLAY [ERNIE FINE ART 203 Bath Street, 226 5413. Mon—Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 10am—1pm. Recent paintings by Jennifer Irvine Fri 13 May—4 Jun. Still life, ﬁgurative work and views from visits abroad. Farewell to all That Until Sat 7 May. A visual tribute to West coast Puffers by James Watt. I ROGER BILLCLIEEE FINE ART 134 Blythswood Street, 332 4027. Mon-Fri 9.30am—5.30pm. Duncan Shanks: The Hill on Fire Sat 30 Apr—28 May. An exploration of the power of the landscape of the Clyde Valley. Also James McDonald’s new paintings and prints, and Decorative Devices. an exhibition of applied art in metal and clay by some of Britain’s leading designers. I THE BLYTHSWOOU GALLERY The Gallery Suite, 44 Washington Street, 204 2779. Mon—Fri 10am—5pm; Sat 10am- 1 pm. A May Festival Exhibition Until 26 May. Scottish paintings and drawings by 19th century. 20th century and contemporary artists. I BURRSIDE GALLERY 190 Dukes Road. 613 3663. Daily IOarn—Spm (closed Tue and Sat). Bryan Evans Until 30 May. New works front three months spent in Spain. Also ceramics by Els th Gardener. I BURRELI. COLLECT 0R Pollokshaws Road, 649 7151. Mon—Sat lOam-Spm; Sun 11am—5pm. Cafe. [D]. The collection of Edwardian tycoon William Burrell. including furniture, paintings. ceramics and glass. housed in an elegant purpose-built gallery. Recorded descriptions and thermoforms available for the beneﬁt of visually impaired visitors. Behind the Scenes Until 30 May. An opportunity to see how tapestries are assesd and prepared for display by the gallery staff. Ifyoue feel particularly inspired. you can try it yourselfon a hand
50 The List 6—19 May 1994