Installation view of Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture. Courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries. Photo: David Cotton

Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture

Leeds Art Gallery

Part of Yorkshire Sculpture International, this new sculpture display features eight recently acquired works exhibited for the first time. Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture responds to Phyllida Barlow’s provocation that ‘sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms’ by considering wood as the most anthropological of materials.

The use of wood crosses cultures and time like no other material, and sculptors value wood for its ability to take form through the use of tools, while remaining durable and portable.

As a natural material with many variations in species and surface treatments, wood also plays an active role in the production of an object, inviting the maker into correspondence with its unique properties. Taken from Leeds Museums and Galleries world cultures and sculpture collections, this display brings together objects from Africa, Britain, China, India, Myanmar and New Zealand from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

L’Homme (1937) by Ronald Moody, a carved oak mask first exhibited in Paris in 1938, is one of eight new acquisitions to the sculpture collections, shown at Leeds Art Gallery for the first time. Moody described wood as ‘a difficult material, demanding a great deal of energy and concentration to give it form’.

Four abstract sculptures by Hugo Powell from the 1950s and 60s are on display for the first time too. Powell wrote of his work: ‘a sculpture is really only complete when I sense that it has undergone a sort of spontaneous metamorphosis. This change transforms it into an entity which, in spite of still being linked to the original forces that engendered it, has acquired an unforeseen independence. Suddenly it seems to have a life of its own which no longer needs my controlling hand’.

Also new to the collections are Items of Intention (1963) by Roy Ascott, Head (1967) by Anthony Hatwell and Through the Hoop (1979) by John Cobb. Through the Hoop is one of a series of sculptures Cobb made in the second half of the 1970s which reference the form of a chair, and by extension, the absent human body. During a period when abstract, geometric sculptures in metal dominated the artistic landscape in Britain, Cobb experimented with traditional techniques associated with furniture making.

Generally more mobile than stone and metal, objects in wood are often more easily transported across national and international borders. In the past this has made them vulnerable to the actions of colonial powers, leading to questions for art galleries and museums about the ways in which objects entered their collections and how to address the issue of cultural property. All of the works on display were made for particular purposes, though not all were intended to be shown in the setting of an art gallery.

Friday 29 March 2019 - Sunday 29 March 2020

Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow
Leeds
LS1 3AA

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