Happy Birthday Rodin, With Love From Per Kirkeby

Auguste Rodin, Female Torso, Kneeling, Twisting Nude, Date of modeling unknown; Musee Rodin cast II/IV, 1984. Bronze, overall: 23 3/4 x 12 5/8 x 13 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 2009

Auguste Rodin, Female Torso, Kneeling, Twisting Nude, Date of modeling unknown; Musee Rodin cast II/IV, 1984. Bronze, overall: 23 3/4 x 12 5/8 x 13 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 2009

 Rodin . . . wanted to depict the incomprehensibil­ity of the body as sliding structure. . . . The body in an eternal transformation and inter­change with the surroundings.

-Per Kirkeby

(excerpted from Klaus Ottmann’s essay in the exhibition catalogue,  Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture)

 

As Google reminds us with today’s doodle, the celebrated French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) would have been 172 today.

Rodin is a special hero to Per Kirkeby, subject of a current exhibition at the Phillips. In an interview with exhibition co-curator Director Dorothy Kosinski, Kirkeby identified Rodin’s Gates of Hell (1880-c.1890) as his favorite sculpture, calling it “radiant.” Elsewhere, he has referred to the work as a “dinosaur,” likening Rodin’s sculptures to “fossil bones.”

For artist-geologist Kirkeby, Rodin’s work is a telling starting point.

Per Kirkeby's bronze Læsø-head I (1983) looms large at left of this installation view of Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Per Kirkeby’s bronze Læsø-head I (1983) looms large at left of this installation view of Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Epiphany at the Glyptotek

On the heels of her summer marketing internship at the Phillips, Katherine Kunze began a semester abroad in Europe. After helping the communications office prepare to open Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture, she couldn’t resist a trip to the artist’s native Denmark. Walking around Copenhagen, she stumbled on a familiar sight–Kirkeby’s name headlining a banner on the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Katherine snapped a few shots and immediately dispatched them to the Phillips. If you’re in Copenhagen before December 30, be sure to see the Kirkeby Epiphany exhibition for yourself.

A photo of the Kirkeby Epiphany exhibition banner on the Copenhagen Glyptotek

Photos: Katherine Kunze

A photo of the Kirkeby Epiphany exhibition banner on the Copenhagen Glyptotek

I Want to Be There

I saw Lars von Trier’s film Breaking the Waves when it was released in theaters in 1996. Even though it featured stellar acting and was filled to the brim with gut-wrenching drama, what I remember most are the transporting bits of film used as chapter stops. Imagine my delight when I learned that Per Kirkeby is responsible for them. It wasn’t his first, or last, foray in to film. We’re featuring his 1970 film Deer Garden: The Romantic Forest in our current exhibition. He’s also worked with von Trier on Dancer in the Dark (which we are screening in December, along with Breaking the Waves) and Antichrist.

In Breaking the Waves, the story is presented in chapters, like a novel, and each is introduced with chapter number and name during an interlude of a landscape backed by a 1970s pop song. The views are spectacular. The one for chapter two has stayed with me most, and I’ve often daydreamed of being there, where ever that is. I had never thought to look up Kirkeby’s titles online to see if they had been captured on their own, and of course they have been. The image quality in the YouTube versions isn’t as beautiful as watching the movie in the theater, but you can still see the incredible shifting northern European light and lush land. On the big screen, they are enveloping. Watching them now after becoming better acquainted with Kirkeby’s painting, I certainly see the resonance. The lovely scene for the epilogue of a creek rushing under the arch of a stone bridge can’t help but bring to mind his painting Dark Cave (The Dream about Uxmal and the Unknown Grottos of Yucatan) (1967).