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Yorkshire Sculpture International - UK's Largest Dedicated Sculpture Festival - Announces Programme

ViewZine Admin
Yorkshire Sculpture International - UK's Largest Dedicated Sculpture Festival - Announces Programme

Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI) is pleased to announce programme details for the inaugural edition taking place across Yorkshire this summer from 22 June until 29 September 2019. YSI, the UK’s largest dedicated sculpture festival, will feature major public commissions in outdoor spaces across Leeds and Wakefield and exhibitions at each of the four partner venues – Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefieldand Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Featuring 15 international artists from 12 different countries, the programme will bring together artists who share an interest in harnessing the cultural histories and physical properties of the materials they use. New commissions and exhibitions will respond to a provocation made by artist Phyllida Barlow in 2018 – that ‘sculpture is the most anthropological of the artforms’. Highlights will include a new commission by Rashid Johnson at the Henry Moore Institute, and rarely-seen sculptures by preeminent Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The Hepworth Wakefield will present a series of large-scale installations including new work by Wolfgang Laib and Tau Lewis’ first exhibition in the UK. Leeds Art Gallery will present ambitious new collection displays, a series of solo presentations and new commissions by artists including Nobuko Tsuchiya. In addition, commissions by Ayşe Erkmen, Huma Bhabha and Tarek Atoui will liven the public realm in Wakefield and Leeds.


Huma Bhabha (b. 1962, Pakistan), will site her first public realm commission in the UK in central Wakefield. Working almost entirely with figurative sculpture, Bhabha’s approach is unconventional and cross-cultural, making connections between histories, languages and civilisations. Carving and moulding materials such as Styrofoam packaging, cork, clay and plaster, Bhabha’s work has a timeless quality and her practice is a meditation on new ways of approaching the tactile challenges of sculpture-making. Internationally renowned, in 2018 Bhabha was honoured with the commission We Come in Peace for the Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2018).

Ayşe Erkmen (b. 1949, Turkey) will create a new public realm installation in Leeds, at a site of historical interest to be announced this April. Erkmen’s sculptural practice centres on site-specific interventions that draw our attention to locations and things that are often overlooked. Erkmen has created permanent public realm commissions around the world, most recently in Ghent (2017) and Washington (2015).

Tarek Atoui (b. 1980, Lebanon) will work with participants across Leeds and Wakefield to create a series of performances exploring instrument-making, the material properties of sound and its connection to the body of the performer and those of the audience. Atoui will put together an orchestra of new and existing instruments, placing them across the galleries’ indoor and outdoor spaces. They will become sound sculptures and installations activated regularly, creating a layered soundscape that will reach across the YSI sites. Throughout the exhibition, selected instruments from each venue will transfer between the partner galleries, creating unique performances and changing their soundscapes. Atoui has presented work internationally, including at Tate Modern, London (2016) and recently at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2018).


The Hepworth Wakefield will present its most ambitious exhibition to date, unfolding as a series of new commissions and debut UK presentations by established and emerging artists across the David Chipperfield-designed gallery spaces. Centred around the theme of ‘truth to materials’, the exhibition will investigate the idea that a sculptural form should be determined by the characteristics of the chosen materials.

The series of encounters with the individual artists will begin with a display of recent works by Jimmie Durham (b. 1940, USA) positioned in conversation with early sculptures and carvings by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, highlighting how each artist created their work to emphasise the natural properties of raw materials. A major new installation by Wolfgang Laib (b. 1950, Germany), who only uses raw and natural resources in his work, will take over one of The Hepworth Wakefield’s largest galleries. Created entirely with rice and pollen collected by the artist over a number of years from the fields surrounding his home, Laib explores the organic and life-giving qualities in the materials he uses, reflected in his meditative working practices of collecting and installing. Nairy Baghramian (b. 1971, Iran) will present Dwindlers, a sculptural series made of glass, zinc and resin, that will interact with the architecture and natural light within the gallery. Her fragmented forms echo elements usually concealed in public buildings, such as pipes and ducts and the internal workings of the human body.

The exhibition will also include the debut presentation outside North America of self-taught, Jamaican-Canadian artist, Tau Lewis (b. 1993, Canada). A newly commissioned body of work will be on display featuring a large-scale collaged textile hanging, figurative forms composed of found objects and softfigurative forms with hand-carved plaster faces and feet. By stitching together found objects and materials from different cultures and places, often embedding personal belongings, Lewis explores the black diasporic experience and contemplates the erasure of histories. Tarek Atoui (b. 1980, Lebanon) will present a specially commissioned installation that will take over two gallery spaces.

New commissions by artists including Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, Chicago) and Tamar Harpaz (b.1979, Jerusalem) at the Henry Moore Institute will respond to concerns over the responsibilities of objects within anthropology. The exhibition will bring together an assimilation of debates around the use of material culture in understanding human behaviour, history and what it means to create objects today. Johnson’s work embraces a broad range of media to examine issues of roots, race and identity, especially in black America. Harpaz manipulates perception using optical devices and cinematic mechanisms. Bringing ageing technologies to the point of malfunction, she uses their failure as a driving force in her work to examine systems, borders and beliefs.

Sean Lynch (b. 1978, Kerry, Ireland) will realise a project for the Henry Moore Institute Research Library based on the life and work of ‘Flint Jack’, a nineteenth-century Yorkshire antiquarian, vagabond and highly skilled artisan, who sold fake megalithic axe heads and ceramic and stone carving forgeries. Despite their lack of historical providence and verification, these objects still populate many UK museums. Lynch represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

At Leeds Art Gallery a series of solo shows and new commissions will explore the breadth of contemporary sculpture-making, including the first solo exhibition in the UK by Nobuko Tsuchiya (b.1972, Japan). Tsuchiya uses a variety of media to create imaginative sculptures that evoke an arresting narrative quality. She begins by collecting materials she is intuitively attracted to and combining them into polymer-like structures which are then cast. As part of the exhibition, Tsuchiya will use the gallery as a studio to assemble the final works.

Rachel Harrison (b. 1966, New York) will exhibit a group of works that relate to the body. Harrison’s work draws from a wide range of influences, combining art historical and pop cultural references through a witty assemblage of materials. Joanna Piotrowska (b. 1985, Poland) will take over one of the galleries, carpeting the floor and installing a series of composed black and white photographs which explore notions of the human body and social structures. Piotrowska’s work examines the complex power dynamics and psychological effects of human relationships.

Leeds Art Gallery will also exhibit a major re-display of their sculpture collections to accompany the individual artists’ presentations. The exhibition Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture proposes that wood might be the most anthropological of materials, crossing cultures and time through its plasticity, portability and durability. This display will consider the correspondence between maker and material and feature works from Leeds Art Gallery’s collection of British sculpture, alongside objects from Africa, India, China and Myanmar from the world cultures collection of Leeds Museums and Galleries.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park will present a major exhibition of work by American artist David Smith (1906–1965, USA), the first solo exhibition of his work in the UK since 2006. Smith was the first US artist to work with welded metal and was hugely influential to the development of international abstract sculpture. The exhibition will feature more than 40 sculptures drawn across a four- decade period, beginning with Smith’s earliest experimental works from the 1930s, through to large-scale statements of the 1960s and including works outdoors. Smith aligned himself to an anthropological trajectory, embracing the creative continuity that connects humanity across millennia, connecting to an ancient tradition of making and fettling. The exhibition brings together major loans from museums including Tate, the Whitney, and the Kröller- Müller and private collections in the US and UK, together with works from the artist’s estate, some of which have not previously been exhibited. The exhibition will illuminate Smith’s understanding of the social practice of art and of his prescient belief in an inclusive United States that valued its connectedness to the wider world.

Kimsooja (b. 1957, Korea) will transform Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s historic chapel with a new installation featuring lights and a mirrored floor. Kimsooja’s practice reflects traditional forms of female labour and craft, and for over twenty-five years the artist has been inspired by the forms and idea of ‘bottari’ – the South Korean word for a bundle wrapped in fabric. Traditionally used for moving possessions from place to place, the bottari references the displacement of people. Kimsooja has extended the idea to incorporate larger spaces and even architecture, meaning that whole buildings could also be wrapped to alter, contain and re-shape what was within. Responsive to the natural environment, the installation will change according to the light quality and intensity.

Further details on the programme will be announced this spring, including additional details on the partner exhibitions and information on Yorkshire Sculpture International’s Associate Artist programme, community engagement and educational initiatives.

 Yorkshire Sculpture International is a free festival of sculpture across Leeds and Wakefield running from Saturday 22 June until Sunday 29 September 2019.

IMAGE: Nobuko Tsuchiya, North West Passage, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.