‘Constantin Brancusi Sculpture’
“Few artists encapsulate the story of the early twentieth-century avant garde more alluringly than Constantin Brancusi,” writes Hugh Eakin. “The son of Romanian peasants, he arrived in Paris around the same time Picasso did, but on foot. Within a few years, he had somehow managed to apprentice with Rodin. Then, throwing out the master’s methods, he completely redefined what sculpture was. Cultivating an image as a black-bearded ascetic, he wore simple white clothes, lived alone, and cooked his own food on the home-made stove of his back-alley Montparnasse atelier, while turning his favorite subjects—birds, fish, and a remarkable string of aristocratic women—into stupefyingly beautiful abstractions in polished marble or sleek bronze.
“Featuring just eleven sculptures, the MoMA exhibition offers an elegantly concise introduction to Brancusi’s art. Included here are the early, totemic Maiastra (1910–1912), a long-necked mythical bird in white marble perched atop a column-like carved limestone pedestal; two different bronze renditions of his Bird in Space (1928 and 1941), and a seven-foot-tall 1918 oak version, the earliest that has survived, of his signature mature work, Endless Column. With the exception of Endless Column, which rises directly from the floor, all of the sculptures sit on Brancusi’s own bases. These wonderfully differentiated carved blocks, often in contrasting materials, he regarded as essential parts of the overall composition. (The pedestal of MoMA’s version of Maiastra actually incorporates a second sculpture, his Double Caryatid of 1908.)”
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