Kasmin Gallery presents an exhibition of three large-scale bronze works by Max Ernst—the second in an ongoing program of public presentations in the gallery’s new outdoor sculpture garden, on view beginning January 24, 2019. Situated on the rooftop of Kasmin’s flagship gallery space at 509 West 27th Street, New York, the garden is viewable from The High Line.
At various moments throughout Ernst’s career, from his Cologne Dada period in the 1920s and onwards, the artist turned to sculpture in intense bursts of activity. The three examples in the present exhibition were conceived during one such period in the 1960s whilst Ernst was living in France. It was during this phase that the animal world—lush, overgrown, and natural—shifted into the foreground of the artist’s vision and began to manifest steadily throughout his work.
The towering pillar of Le génie de la Bastille (1960) is composed of four casts of fishing nets, presenting an avian figure as the emblem of freedom and the free spirit. Ernst envisioned a frog’s face in the middle of the bird’s upper body, and added two eyes to elucidate his vision, diligently watching over his viewers. The bird is a recurrent motif in Ernst’s work; an alter-ego character called “Loplop.”
The frog appears sporadically throughout Ernst’s oeuvre from the 1920s onward. The combined, jauntily assembled geometric shapes of Grand grenouille (1967) recall the artist’s investment in the principles of assemblage and frottage, and demonstrate his sculptural rigor. Le génie and Grand grenouille were employed by Ernst in the final design for the artist’s 1967 Amboise Fountain—a monument that still stands in the city’s center.
Big Brother (1967) belongs to a group of three sculptures that comprise Ernst’s Corps enseignant pour une école de tueurs (Teaching Staff for a School of Murderers). With works such as Big Brother, Ernst delves deeper into sculpture’s potential as a device by which he could meaningfully engage with the social politics of the time while retaining his biting sense of humor and sharp wit.
Max Ernst is presented in collaboration with the Destina Foundation, Mimi Johnson, Amy Ernst, and Eric Ernst.
ABOUT MAX ERNST
Max Ernst was a pioneer in the Dada and Surrealist movements of the 20th Century. Known for being a master of provocation, Ernst developed a body of work that demonstrates a persistent engagement with culture, especially in terms of the social and political climate. His subjects range from ancient mythology to literature to theory, often imbued with undertones of the artist’s biting humor. While varied, Ernst’s work also exhibits consistency in the recurring scenes of highly incongruent and disorienting groups of figures and objects that often display striking disruptions of scale, invoking an overwhelming sense of anxiety. For Ernst, art was a device by which the nightmarish realities of the world could be reflected.
Founded in SoHo in 1989, Kasmin cultivates a program in which historic figures of Post-War and Modernism are in meaningful dialogue with the evolving practice of both emerging and established contemporary artists. With four spaces in Chelsea, New York, the gallery mounts ambitious concurrent exhibitions alongside participation in major art fairs worldwide.