After a visit to the Daejeon Museum of Art in central Korea, masterworks by the likes of Daumier, Degas, Kandinsky, Picasso, and more from The Phillips Collection are headed back to the U.S. Phillips Preparator Shelly Wischhusen and Associate Registrar for Exhibitions Trish Waters snapped some pictures as the exhibition was being packed up (and got in some sightseeing as well!).
Julius Caesar epitomizes Man Ray’s inventive approach to humanizing and translating mathematical models into enigmatic forms in his Shakespearean Equations series. In this composition (at left), he mapped out the undulating lines defining the model, creating a headless torso and casting the transformed object as the central character in a theatrical tableau. Note on the blackboard behind the imposing form barely discernable mathematical equations such as “2 + 2 = 22.” These seemingly illogical mathematical notations embed further mystery in Man Ray’s characteristically enigmatic manner. In the space between two relational formulations on the blackboard the artist posed the philosophical question and unsolved problem of the “square root of Man Ray.” The answer to and meaning of this conundrum is left for us to decipher for ourselves.
Of his Shakespearean Equations, Man Ray once stated “In painting [the models], I did not copy them literally but composed a picture in each case, varying the proportions, adding color, ignoring the mathematical intent, and introducing an irrelevant form sometimes, as a butterfly or the leg of a table.” In his rendering of Julius Caesar, he recycled the table leg employed in his 1945 object Obelisk see Oculist (Pied à terre) to evoke the scepter of a triumphant general.
Do you see anything else in this painting that might evoke Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar?
Wendy Grossman, Exhibition Curator
In just a few days we say goodbye to Bernardi Roig’s six sculptures that have truly become a part of the Phillips’s landscape over the past five months. A lengthy exhibition time is fitting given the inconspicuous nature of the works, placed in unsuspecting spaces throughout the galleries. For frequent visitors to the museum, it might have taken a couple of walkthroughs to find all six. That was precisely Roig’s aim: to activate areas of the museum typically not used for exhibition space.
The smallest of the sculptures, Insults to the Public (2007) is the most inconspicuous of all, hidden in an elevator bank on the second floor of the original Phillips house. Although the smallest in size, Insults to the Public is the only one with an audio component coming from the small LCD screen featuring a speaking portrait. The colorless, faceless plaster sculpture is therefore not only illuminated by the vibrant lights coming from the screen, but also brought to life by the moving image which seems to be lecturing the weary figure leaning against it. With distorted bodily proportions and suggestive body language, Roig’s miniature standing figure evokes a feeling of simultaneous exhaustion, shame, and defeat.
My interpretation of this work is that the man on the screen could easily be the face of the sculpture himself. With a hanging head and a faceless expression, the man has no identity, yet his bald head matches the bald head on the screen in front of him. Is the speaking man giving his own tired body a critical lecture? This added dimension makes Insults to the Public one of the most thought provoking of the six sculptures given the suggestion of self-inspection.
We might have to say “goodbye” for now to Bernardi Roig’s sculptures, but we’ll always look at the spaces they inhabited with a new level of appreciation, remembering these haunting sculptures.
Annie Dolan, Marketing and Communications Intern