Gary Hume is best known for his paintings in exquisite and unexpected palette using household paint on aluminium panels, but his masterful economy of form and luxury of material translates compellingly into the work on view at The New Art Centre in what is surprisingly the first exhibition to concentrate solely on Hume’s sculpture. Hume’s trademark quotidian gloss paint is subtly deployed on a variety of ‘Carvings’ made from luminous onyx, iron stone, marble and bronze that bring the works back to painting whilst simultaneously subverting and seamlessly sliding into the legacy of iconic 20th century British sculpture.
Whilst his sculpture is less familiar, he has in fact continued to make three-dimensional objects throughout his career and it has often had a strong punctuating presence in his exhibitions of ‘painting’. In 2010, at the time of his last show at the New Art Centre, he joked that he tried his hand at sculpture in the very early days but: "They kept falling over. That was my main trouble: gravity." (The Independent) In fact, Hume’s sculpture – such as ‘Beauty Spot’, which was shown in the park at Roche Court in 2008 – are amongst some of his most compelling images and any such practical problems were overcome a long time ago. His deep sense of form and balance is more than evidenced in this exhibition.
Hume’s carvings are of legs and arms, sensual and sleek they protrude at jaunty angles. Anatomised from the rest of the human body, they hover somewhere between abstraction and figuration, like the corporeal fragments of Classical statuary. Hume began with mannequin parts, those idealised shapes designed to represent human limbs in their most nonspecific and perfected form. These fused parts stretch and bend into space with a voluptuousness and play with formal convention that recalls the liminal space that Picasso created with his figures of the Three Dancers in The Tate Gallery. This work however is in fact a dance of death and the truncated limbs seem resonant of perhaps a more sinister backdrop of the bombings and war torn places around the world.
The monumental American Tan VII, 2006-7 in patinated bronze stands in the bucolic setting of Roche Sculpture Park right outside the main house and overlooking the rolling fields of Wilsthire. It is a prime example of Hume’s work, and shows his fascination with the theme of the all-American cheerleader and her place in American culture, a symbol representing both innocence and its loss. It is part of a large series of the same title which includes paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints created from Hume's annual summers in upstate New York where he maintains a residence. Its title has many layers of meaning and interpretation and while alluding to the glorified American pastime, it also literally refers to a colour of tights worn by cheerleaders, a shiny brown that makes one's legs look tan. In an interview with Ulrich Loock, Hume commented that this series represents 'responses to America and how we're all being tanned by American policy and culture, the war and simple, complicated stuff like that. It started off with cheerleaders. The form of them is absolutely fantastic. They're athletic. They're super-gymnasts.'
Gary Hume lives and works between London and Upstate New York. He represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and the São Paulo Biennial in 1996, the same year he was nominated for the Turner Prize. In 2001 he was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, London. This year Hume will have solo exhibitions at the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn and Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland. Other solo exhibitions include Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (2014); Tate Britain, London (2013); Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev (2012); Modern Art Oxford (2008); Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2004); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2004); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2003); ICA, London (1999) and the Fundação La Caixa, Barcelona (2000). Recent group shows include Grand Palais, Paris (2019); National Portrait Gallery, London (2018); Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (2017); Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006) and Tate Britain, London (2004).
Profile by Catherine Loewe
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