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Indepth Arts News:

"Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions"
2003-07-19 until 2003-10-26
Harvard University, Arthur M. Sackler Museum
Cambridge, MA, USA United States of America

The first major survey in the United States in 40 years devoted to the work of Medardo Rosso (1858–1928), one of the key figures in the birth of modern sculpture, will be presented by the Harvard University Art Museums. Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions will include 17 sculptures and offer an intimate exploration of Rosso’s working process and innovations. Premiering at Harvard’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum on July 19, 2003, and on view through October 26, Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions will then travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, Missouri (November 21, 2003–February 29, 2004) and to the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas (April 3, 2004–June 20, 2004).

Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions will focus on five sculptures spanning Rosso’s mature career. The works are Aetas aurea (The Golden Age), 1886–87; Grande rieuse (Large Laughing Woman), 1891; Bambino ebreo (Jewish Boy), c. 1892–93; Bookmaker, c. 1894; and Ecce puer (Behold the Child), 1906. Each of the works will be represented by three or four distinct castings in wax, plaster, and bronze, showcasing Rosso’s pioneering experimentation with materials and casting techniques. Rosso was intimately involved in creating the various casts of these works at a time when such work was commonly left to foundry technicians.

Rosso’s extensive exploration of techniques and materials exemplifies how art was transformed on a broad scale during the late 19th century. Rosso replaced realistic detail with vigorous, sketchy modeling, and he varied media. Rather than cast his original clay models as bronzes to be carefully finished, Rosso arrested the lost-wax method of bronze casting in midcourse, saving the wax shells as finished works. This radical innovation, which elevated wax to the status of bronze, triggered a career-long exploration of sculptural production and reproduction. Rosso wrung endless variations from his original clay models, casting and recasting them in wax, plaster (an even earlier stage in the lost-wax process), and barely finished bronze, leaving the accidents and artifacts of the casting process visible in the final products. Through his experiments, similar to those of Auguste Rodin during the same period, Rosso expanded the conceptual and expressive possibilities of sculpture and influenced the works of such sculptors as Umberto Boccioni and Constantin Brancusi. "Medardo Rosso builds upon the Art Museums’ long-standing legacy of advancing connoisseurship," said Marjorie Cohn, acting director of the Harvard University Art Museums. "The exhibition invites students and scholars to investigate the interplay between technique and innovation. In contrasting the different casts, students and scholars will gain insight into how Rosso’s techniques helped transform the art of his time."

Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions is organized by Harry Cooper, curator of modern art for Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, with Sharon Hecker, an independent scholar based in Milan. The exhibition underscores the Harvard University Art Museums’ dedication to researching and presenting modern art. This commitment has been demonstrated by recent exhibitions, including: Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art; Mondrian: The Transatlantic Paintings; Eat Art: Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, Sonja Alhäuser; Philip Guston: A New Alphabet; Landmark Pictures: Ed Ruscha/Andreas Gursky; Geometric Abstraction: Latin American Art from The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection; and Windshield: Richard Neutra’s House for the John Nicholas Brown Family.

"Medardo Rosso was admired by Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, and David Smith, and for good reason," said Cooper. "He was a pioneer in experimenting with sculptural materials and methods, and his works, mostly figures and busts, have a resonating physical and psychological presence."

Medardo Rosso
Italian, 1886-1887. Aetas aurea (The Golden Age),
Wax over plaster,
41.9 cm x 39.5 cm x 24.1 cm.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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