9 June - 26 August 2016
In 1952, the English art historian Herbert Read coined the phrase 'Geometry of Fear', as a description of the work of eight British sculptors represented in New Aspects of British Sculpture being exhibited that year at the XXVIth Venice Biennale. These artists, who included Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick and Bernard Meadows, had grown to maturity during the war years and their work reflected some of the anxieties of the age, including the incipient Cold War.
During this period the same bleak, although often tragicomic, outlook on human existence was offered by the author Samuel Beckett. Meadows knew Beckett and admired his writings. To honour the author and playwright Meadows made a limited edition multiple on the novel Malloy. Meadows later recalled in an interview for the British Library that he chose Malloy because he thought it was "a completely impossible book to illustrate...I tried...I looked upon it as being a series of etchings parallel to what Beckett's attitude might have been, but it was a bit far fetched."
The multiple was published by Editions Claude Givaudon in Geneva and it echoes Marcel Duchamp's Boite en valise, summarizing many of the themes and preoccupations of the sculptor.
Insofar as Beckett is representative of a modernist genre of writing, which deals with an existentialist theme of the figure-in-situation, Meadows' solitary figures and creatures are a visual counterpart to the characters in Beckett's plays and novels, trapped as they are in a contingent world where they measure their passage through it by responding to an inner monologue as much as to exterior phenomena. Meadows' accomplished handling of bronze (he did much of his own casting) provides a detailed and fine-grained sculpture, a complete and solid figure-in-space with variations in form, mass and stability.
In 1957 Meadows held the first of a number of exhibitions at Gimpel Fils. In this new exhibition are works including Fish Relief 1953, Four Reliefs on a Cock Theme 1954; Head of a Wounded Bird 1959 and Two Directors 1964, all exhibited in the British Pavilion in Venice in 1964;. loan works from the artist's estate and private collections. The exhibition will give an opportunity to discover or re-discover, the merits of a sculptor who understood and knew well how to manipulate the full mass of his material.
Bernard Meadows (1915 - 2005) was born in Norwich. He taught sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art and went on to become Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art. In 1957, Bernard Meadows' sculpture was exhibited at the 4th São Paulo Biennale. In 1964, at the XXXII Venice Biennale Meadows was one of four artists (with Roger Hilton, Gwyther Irwin and Joe Tilson) to represent the UK at the British Pavilion. Other exhibitions include Documenta II, Kassel 1959; the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh in 1964 and the influential Art of a Decade at the Tate Gallery in the same year.
Public collections include the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal; The British Council; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan; Hirschhorn Museum Washington DC; Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Rijksmuseum Krőller-Mũller, Netherlands; Tate Gallery; Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum.