Review of Wild Thing: Epstein, Gaudier-Brzeska, Gill at the Royal Academy
Oct 24-Jan 24 2010 Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London, W1J OBD
As a complete novice when it comes to art appreciation, it was with trepidation that I accepted an invitation to the brand spanking new Royal Academy exhibition of early 20th Century sculpture entitled Wild Thing.(Kindly donated by BNP Paribas the sponsors of the show).
In my mind sculptures from this era are essentially stern statues of generals or politicians looking down on us from their place in history.
The Royal Academy has created a three pronged attack to change that association. Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska were active in the pre First World War era, and were part of a revolution in art.
The observer is thrust into the amazingly creative period of seething sexual revolutionary design which challenged and eventually overthrew the staid and conservative mores of post Victorian orthodoxy.
The three artists had radically different backgrounds, but each had similar notions of stark geometric figures and pared down imagery.
Gill creates an immediate impression with his eroticised art contrasting an emasculated Christ his arms raised in supplication, with a laughing and care free woman; her hips thrust out proud of her femininity.
Gaudier on the other hand created wildly experimental styles, ranging from block like figures reminiscent of Picasso to almost an early pop art style imagery
The lasting image though was the creation of Epstein, with the stark robotic creature thrusting out a phallic like jack hammer. It was decades ahead of its time and must have truly shocked its audience.
The garish and modishly fashionable Anish Kapoor’s exhibit which is housed in the same institution has gained all the publicity in the press. However, this is truly a wonderful exhibit which challenges the bystander to reappraise early 20th Century art, and their own appreciation of what is erotic art.