- Robert Graham
- The Frieze: Figures I-A, I-E, I-F, II-D, III-D
- bronze, in 5 parts
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Frankfurt, Galerie Neuendorf, Robert Graham: Statues, Autumn 1990, cat. no. 77, p. 121, illustrated in color (Figure I-A); cat. no. 81, p. 123, illustrated in color (Figure I-E, plaster edition illustrated); cat. no. 82, p. 124, illustrated in color (Figure I-F); cat. no. 87, p. 127, illustrated in color (Figure II-D); cat. no. 94, p. 131, illustrated in color (Figure III-D)
MM: What inhibits these figures?
RG: That’s an important question. Something does inhibit them…The great works through history that we admire, set our standards, are always a response between the artist and an important collective idea, whether religious or civic. The most basic form of that collaboration is between the artist and the model….I have a model in front of me and my response to that person is what forms the work. Yet it’s not just my initial response, it’s a continuing response until the finished work takes a life of its own...
MM: It’s a partnership, a symbiosis.
RG: It’s even more basic. It’s just a response.
- Robert Graham and Michael McClure, 1994
The sculptures of Robert Graham are based on women carefully selected by the artist to illustrate his canon of Woman. Graham explains his method: “I don’t think in terms of whether someone is beautiful or ugly. I look for someone who is consistent to type. Obviously a type, that is resonant in my mind.” (Exh. Cat., Frankfurt, Galerie Neuendorf AG, Robert Graham. Statues, Autumn 1990, p. XII). Though not type-cast to fit into a cultural ideal of Beauty, his models seem chosen for their graceful athleticism and litheness of form. Graham’s sculptures are a modern, yet timeless, exploration and celebration of the body.
The clinical presentation of the women, nude yet devoid of eroticism, returns to a Classical discourse on Beauty, with a Contemporary twist. Analogous to Praxiteles’ Aphrodite, c. 350 BC, or Polykleitos’ Doryphorus, c. 440 BC, Graham’s figures, produced from live model sessions rather than on a mathematic ideal, contain elements of both individuality and universalism. The notion of a timeless beauty, always represented in Classical Greek sculpture by athletic figures in the prime years of life – muscles taut and body poised for action – is echoed in the women of The Frieze. None of Graham’s women are static, they bend and twist, seemingly caught in a momentary pose: that of a dancer warming up or a model moving quickly through her repertoire of stock poses.
Graham’s sculptures do have a sense of being ‘inhibited’, something not found in the overly idealized faces of Aprodite or Doryphorus. Whereas Praxtiles and Polykleitos were responding to a cultural reverence for mathematical proportions as the source of Beauty, Robert Graham responds to the living form in front of him, creating a dialogue between sculptor and model to produce his Canon of Beauty. It is this dichotomy and balance between real verses ideal that invigorates the present work, five sculptures from The Frieze series, and engages the contemporary viewer in a uniquely dynamic fashion.