For nearly three decades, Rebecca Warren has explored the potential of contemporary sculpture by challenging conventions of Modernist and Minimalist sculptural practice. Using the medium’s traditional materials of bronze, clay, and steel, Warren constructs expressive, corporeal forms that are at once abstract and elusively figurative.
In her exhibition Rebecca Warren: V at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York, the artist presents nine new sculptures in hand-painted bronze on variously colored pedestals, including slender totemic sculptures and smaller, more intimate works, all of which are being shown for the first time.
To say that Rebecca Warren’s sculptures are always extremely tactile seems like an understatement. They offer themselves as hybrids between unwrought form, symbolic informe, and transmitter, an object triggering an entire chain of associations with lofty and lowly forerunners or reproductions, whether drawn from antiquity or from the artistic and non-artistic canons.
It’s true to say that, over her career, Rebecca Warren has worked from positions of assumed power, channeling all that is egomaniacal, grandstanding and preposterous — and by that I mean thrilling and excellent — about the art of the past in order to make sparks fly in the here and now.
A large proportion of Warren’s works bear vestiges of her. The haptic surfaces of her clay and bronze works trace the lines of her touch, her fingerprints and her palm. They wear the marks of her making — massaged, squeezed, and pushed.
Warren has frequently returned to the trope of the double or doppelgänger. The pair of globular Little Dancer figures entitled The Twins (2004); the multiple remade bronzes of 2005, like BOBO and its ravaged twin, Dou Dou Che — such work speaks broadly to an anxiety about that which resembles something, but isn’t that thing.
Warren uses a wealth of intended references and associations to encourage a proliferation of unintended readings.
I didn’t start as a painter but I always wanted to be able to paint, so, in answer to my ambitions as a painter, my sculptures can turn into lumpy, unruly 3D canvases.