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Conflict and Collisions: New Contemporary Sculpture

[ 21 August 2014 | Print This Post ]
21 August 2014

THE Hepworth Wakefield presents Conflict and Collisions: New Contemporary Sculpture, as per of it’s autumn season comprising three solo exhibitions, each featuring a new, site-specific commission by contemporary artists: Alexandra Bircken, Folkert de Jong and Toby Ziegler.

Coinciding with this year’s WW1 commemorations, the exhibitions explore themes of historical and contemporary combat and of man versus machine, juxtaposing handmade and hand-finished objects with mechanical weaponry, state-of-the art digital technologies and 3D printing.

ALEXANDRA BIRCKEN: ESKLATION German artist Alexandra Bircken presents a series of recent works that showcase a new approach in her practice, as well as a new site-specific commission for The Hepworth Wakefield.

Through her latest work, B.U.F.F, 2014, Bircken continues to explore her interest in reoccurring concepts within C20th sculpture: male verses female, and the handmade versus the mechanical. Comprising four component works (Big, 2014; Ugly, 2014; Fat, 2014; Fellow, 2014), B.U.F.F, 2014 collectively refers to the American B-52 bombers, used by the United States Air Force from the 1950s. Made from wood, foam, plastic textiles and latex, the direct reference to weaponry and warfare is conversely sensualised through a textile ‘skin’, covering each component, coated in fabric and black latex. In Mercedes and her Sisters, 2014, Bircken explores the abstract and formal properties of objects by repurposing them as figurative sculptures, in this instance five gear-sticks represent five female forms.

In addition, Bircken will create a new, site-specific installation, interacting with the architecture of the geometric spaces designed by David Chipperfield Architects. A series of ladders across the spaces will recall Hepworth’s ‘stringed sculptures’. Adorned with a large number of ‘skins’, reminiscent of deflated human bodies, this element explores Bircken’s interest in representing the fabric as skin, a type of clothing for the human body, a protective boundary.


Dutch artist Folkert de Jong’s new site-specific commission draws on the collections of armour and contemporary weapons held by the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. In particular, De Jong has focused on two elements of the Royal Armouries’ collection: the personal armour of Henry VIII and contemporary modern firearms.

The suits of armour, made at different points in Henry VIII’s life, demonstrate his changing body shape: from a lean, young man of twenty, to a considerably larger, older statesman. In addition, De Jong has selected contemporary weapons from the collection, including machine and hand guns. Both historical and contemporary objects have been reproduced using the latest 3D scanning process, reprinted as polystyrene figurations, reconfigured by the hand of the artist (degraded, damaged, or altered in scale), before their final presentation in bronze.

The finished bronzes will be presented within a sculptural installation that will include an armada of bronze ships and coloured acrylic display cases containing polystyrene sculptures and a sandpit, as visual connections to the casting and creative processes involved.


British artist Toby Ziegler continues his long-standing interest in making visual connections between history, memory and digital technologies.
Ziegler takes as his starting point the WW1 plaster frieze from Wakefield’s collection, No Man’s Land, 1919-20 by renowned war memorial artist and Yorkshireman, Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934), to create a three-part sculptural composition, echoing the composition of the frieze.

This will be the first time in 20 years that the plaster version of Jagger’s No Man’s Land will be on public display. Supported within a network of aluminium joists, the frieze will overlook a three-metre high aluminium sculpture of a human foot. This new commission expands on Ziegler’s interrogation of ‘war porn’ – trophy images posted online of war casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dismembered limbs are reconfigured and abstracted using digital technologies.

The final element of the installation comprises a 3D printer that will produce a Newell teapot within the gallery space on a daily basis. Created in 1975 by early computer graphics researcher Martin Newell, this mathematical model serves as a test-card for reproducing a simple teapot and cites another instance of the potentially endless reproduction and of images and objects in the digital age.

Ziegler will also show new work in The Calder, The Hepworth Wakefield’s contemporary art space, a 19th century former textiles mill situated in the gallery gardens. Expanded Narcissistic Envelope (1 October – 16 November) will incorporate a series of new, aluminium sculptures, whose reflective, multi-faceted surfaces directly reference their digital origins. These often unfold in pairs – one version in fully inflated 3D, the other, deflated or crumpled, lying low on the ground. Ziegler continues to explore the play between sculptural form and digital image through a series of architectural interventions and expansive printed surfaces.

Visitors can enjoy free admission to all three exhibitions within the new autumn season – Conflict and Collisions: New Contemporary Sculpture. In addition, there will be a number of related events and talks. For further details about these, as well as the gallery’s autumn public programme and free, family-friendly activities visit www.hepworthwakefield.org or telephone 01924 247360.

Photo Credits: The Hepworth Wakefield. © Hufton + Crow, Work by Toby Ziegler. Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery. Photo: Peter Mallet


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