The Blanton Museum of Art will present She-Wolf + Lower Figs., an installation by sculptor Lily Cox-Richard, in the Contemporary Project space from July 27 to December 29, 2019. The installation is the first of entirely new work made for the Contemporary Project.
“We’re thrilled to be presenting new work by Lily Cox-Richard in the Blanton’s Contemporary Project,” said Claire Howard, the Blanton’s assistant curator of modern & contemporary art and curator of the exhibition. “Cox-Richard’s work methodically examines the history and meaning of both artistic and everyday materials. Her sculptural installation at the Blanton focuses on plaster reproductions of classical sculpture, raising questions about their role in perpetuating notions of physical perfection and whiteness as ideals.”
The installation responds to the Blanton’s William J. Battle Collection of Plaster Casts. Containing around 70 replicas of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures made in the 19th century, sets of casts like these were once an integral part of artistic training. The Battle Cast Collection is one of the few remaining collections of this kind in the United States and is still used for teaching today.
Cox-Richard’s installation questions the equation of the physical whiteness of classical sculptures and their casts with cultural and aesthetic standards that they were thought to embody, such as beauty, purity, and taste. Many Greek and Roman marble sculptures were originally polychromed but lost their pigmentation over time. White plaster casts reinforced the myth that these sculptures and the ancient people they represented were all white. Cox-Richard subverts this narrative by adding color to sculptures she made from 3D scans, near-perfect indices of artworks much like plaster casts.
A highlight of the installation is a colorful sculpture of a she-wolf based on 3D scans of casts taken from the bronze original (5th century BCE–12th century CE) in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Cox-Richard’s She-Wolf (2019) is made of scagliola, a handmade artificial marble used in ancient Rome and revived in the Renaissance. By recasting the she-wolf in color, Cox-Richard envisions a different mythology—in technicolor—for this sculpture. She-Wolf + Lower Figs. also includes an intervention using casts from the Battle Collection that evokes the original sculptures’ polychroming.
Cox-Richard’s Ramp (2019) is a thirty-foot-long sculpture of seven concrete slabs that resembles a long sidewalk. Ramp visualizes the Western canon of art and civilization—founded on the models of ancient Greece and Rome—as a form of infrastructure challenged by alternative narratives. The slabs are pushed upward by an oozing substance, and their corners have been ground down to reveal a colorful aggregate including fragments of casts made using 3D scans of the Battle Casts’ heads.
“The stylization of hair, the aggregate in a sidewalk—so much information is packed into these details,” said Cox-Richard. “In translating objects into other materials, through processes like mold-making and scanning, some details are obscured, and others accumulate.”
This installation is organized by Claire Howard, Assistant Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art.
Major funding for the Contemporary Project is provided by Suzanne McFayden.