Art | 1913: The Shape of Time

4/5 Stars

Frederick Etchells - Hand-knotted rug, CHELSEA space, University of the Arts London
Frederick Etchells – Hand-knotted rug, CHELSEA space, University of the Arts London

1913: The Shape of Time is a new exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute that focuses on the year 1913 and its impact on the Modern art world. It explores the idea that 1913 was a pivotal moment in the history of modern European art and an astonishing year for advancements in the sculptural medium. A key concept of the exhibition is that of time and it explores how, almost one hundred years later, these art pieces have lead increasingly complex lives since their initial production. All 22 works on display were originally produced in 1913, although many exhibited are in fact replications or were cast at a later date, showing how art works are altered and replicated over time.

Around 1913 traditional concepts about objects and their relation to space were increasingly being challenged by cubist-inspired works which experimented with an increasing fragmentation of this space. Many of the works displayed in 1913: Shape of Time are extremely abstract in their design as many artists in this period increasingly supported multi-perspective points and the sculptural form was explored in reference to other mediums. Because of this sculptural and constructivist influence, the exhibition features a variety of different mediums and does not limit itself purely to sculpture, including painting, sketches and textiles as well to demonstrate the influence of the sculptural form.

The exhibition takes place over three gallery rooms, each of which is connected by a recurring theme in the works displayed. The first examines ideas concerning the body, the second featuring a number of stone busts and the final room focusing on the modernist exploration of the still-life through popular cubist items such as lamps and bottles.

1913: Shape of Time has a number of well-known titans of the Modern art world to draw in viewers including Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Umberto Boccioni. However, some of the most interesting works are by lesser known artists including The Daily Mail’s ideal exhibition rug attributed to Ferderick Etchells, a vibrant and colourful textile piece which directly contrasts with the black marble sculptures in the second room.

As with many Modernist works, the viewer may find the exhibition off-putting if they cannot place these works into their formal and historical contexts. However, this is something that the Institute attempts to solve by greeting the viewer with an introduction to the aims of the exhibition before even entering the gallery space. The viewer is also offered ample information if they want a greater contextual understanding including events such as film screenings at the Hyde Park Picture House, a day-long conference and an accompanying journal Essays on Sculpture which can be purchased at the book store. Although it showcases a remarkable collection of Modernist art, it is not something that can be looked at briefly. Instead it requires the viewer to pay great attention and possibly to do their own outside research to truly understand the key issues explored.

Emma Bryning

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