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Ostensibly So: Sculpture from the Collection

  • Nick Cave
    United States, born 1959
    Soundsuit, 2011
    Fabric, sequins, beads, ceramic bird figurines, ceramic flowers, metal foliage, metal armature, and mannequin
    98 x 34 x 26 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds provided by a challenge gift from Bob and Lissa Shelley McDowell and matched by other individuals in honor of the Museum’s 70th Anniversary, 2011.16.a.b

    This sculpture of a mannequin wearing a steel headdress adorned with ceramic bird figurines and beaded necklaces bought from second-hand shops appears to be static and unchanging when displayed in a museum setting. However, the work is an example of Nick Cave’s wearable Soundsuits, renowned for their sounds and mobility when used in performances. Although the weight and fragility of this suit prohibits its actual use, imagine what sounds the materials would make in motion.

    Cave began creating his Soundsuits in 1991 after seeing video of the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. Cave’s Soundsuits cover the wearer’s entire body, so they provide relief from discrimination based on race, gender, and class. The sculptures also examine labor-intensive craft traditions and the economic and intrinsic values of materials.

    © Nick Cave

  • Willie Cole
    United States, born 1955
    Wind Mask, 1991
    Assemblage with hairdryers
    20 ½ x 19 x 10 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Benefactors Choice Purchase, 2014.8.2

    Cole recycles discarded household objects, such as irons, shoes, or telephones, to create his artworks. After finding thousands of hair dryers in an abandoned warehouse, Cole created Wind Mask to fuse African mask traditions with American consumer goods. Not only does this sculpture reveal the endless potential of discarded objects, but also shows the possibilities of weaving together cultural motifs.

    © Willie Cole. Image courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

  • Alison Saar
    United States, born 1956
    Compton Nocturne, 1999
    Wood, tin, bottles, paint, and tar
    33 x 80 x 28 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds from the Benefactors Fund, 1999.38 

    Unlike traditional depictions of female nudes found in the history of art, this woman looks boldly at the viewer, negating any fetishization of her body. Saar replaced many of the tropes associated with female nudes with conventions significant to her as a Black feminist. Most apparent are the medicine bottles she used to suggest the figure’s hair. This distinct feature refers to the custom of placing glass bottles upon tree branches to trap evil spirits, a tradition that enslaved people from the Congo brought with them to the U.S.A. South in the seventeenth century. Clad in tarnished tin ceiling tiles, Saar’s recumbent figure asserts herself as a sensual and empowered being.

    © Alison Saar. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, California

  • Carol Hepper
    United States, 1953-2021
    Torrent II, 1986
    Fish skin, willow, and wire
    60 x 36 x 48 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Gift of Hella S. Ossenberg, 2007.22

    A torrent is defined as a sudden, forceful out-pouring. Although this work is static, its twisting form suggests movement and energy. The materials themselves—fish skin, willow, and wire—suggest elements that were involuntarily swept up in the abrupt fury.

    © The Carol Hepper Foundation

  • Janine Antoni
    United States, born Bahamas, 1964
    Umbilical, 2000
    Sterling silver cast of family silverware and negative impression of artist’s mouth and mother’s hand, edition 33/35
    3 x 8 x 3 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds from the Lynn Richardson Prickett Endowment, the Carol and Seymour Levin Acquisition Endowment, and the Judy Proctor Acquisition Endowment, 2012.21

    It can be hard to discern the forms in this sculpture. The work depicts a cast of the inside of Antoni’s adult mouth at the round end of a spoon; at the handle end is a cast of the space inside her mother’s hand as she held the utensil. The sculpture’s title and elements call attention to the connections between mother and child and symbolize the biological, ritualistic, domestic, and nurturing aspects of motherhood that are passed from one generation to the next. Antoni also raises issues of class and privilege by suggesting the figurative expression “born with a silver spoon in your mouth.”

    © Janine Antoni, courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

  • Lesley Dill
    United States, born 1950
    Big Gal Faith, 2011-12, from the installation Faith & the Devil
    Mannequin, oil paint, oil pastel, fabric, paper, wood, silver, and gold leaf
    16 ⅛ x 10 ⅞ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Gift of Lesley Dill, 2014.25.10.a-.g

    This eight-foot-tall female figure is part of a larger installation that investigates the philosophical and existential conundrums of evil and underlying faith in the world. The figure’s wild word hair and lavish twenty-six-foot-wide dress of drawn images and words express the artist’s core concerns: cruelty and violence, lust, forgiveness, reflection, and transcendence. Paradoxically, her scale and moral message are both menacing and empowering.

    © Lesley Dill

  • Magdalena Abakanowicz
    Poland, 1930-2017
    DYBY, 1993
    Wood, burlap, and resin
    63 x 82 5/8 x 25 5/8 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds from the Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation in honor of Leah Louise, 2000.28.a-.f

    Although of human appearance, this headless and hollow form suggests suffering and vulnerability. Indeed, DYBY is titled for a type of torture device. Abakanowicz’s oeuvre was shaped by her own lived experience of the horrors of World War II and its aftermath in Poland under Nazi and Soviet occupation. The haunting figure and gallows-like structure it sits upon do not convey a specific narrative or context, but rather serve as broad metaphors for the human experience.

    © Estate of Magdalena Abakanowicz

  • Ursula von Rydingsvard
    United States, born Germany, 1942
    Spoon-Ladle, 2001
    Cedar and pigment
    130 x 41 x 17 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Benefactors Choice Purchase, 2011.8.a.b

    The scale and form of this sculpture belie its title and functionality. Von Rydingsvard creates evocative forms of ordinary household items (such as bowls and spoons) and farm tools that speak of her childhood memories of growing up in Germany. The artist employs a labor-intensive process in the crafting of her very physical sculptures. First, she glues layer upon layer of four-by-four milled cedar beams to create a generalized form, then uses power tools to shape and define it. Lastly, pigment is rubbed into the raw wood to emphasize its variations and provide further formal definition.

    © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York

  • Annie Lopez
    United States, born 1958
    The Bosom of Fools, 2012
    Cyanotype on tamale wrapper paper, thread, elastic, and buttons
    32 x 24 x 7 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds from the Dillard Fund for the Dillard Collection, 2017.8

    At first glance, Lopez’s artwork appears to depict a child’s standard dress. However, upon closer inspection, the white “patterning” on the blue background refers to the artist’s experience of caring for her father during his battle with Alzheimer’s. Words like ‘sorrow,’ ‘examination,’ and ‘anguish’ stand out as signifiers of her struggle.

    Lopez printed these words on tamale wrappers rather than on fabric, and then sewed the papers into a dress form. While the dress’s style, materials, and text refer to specific aspects of her childhood and Mexican-American identity, the sculpture itself serves to evoke a universal response to experiences of familial care.

    © Annie Lopez

  • Nancy Davidson
    United States, born 1943
    Spin Too!, 1995
    Fabric, latex, plastic, steel, rod iron, and cotton
    122  84 x 60 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Museum purchase with funds from the Benefactors Fund, 1995.4426

    Davidson began using inflated weather balloons to create artworks in the 1990s to challenge notions of contemporary monumental sculpture and to explore issues of the body and the structures that bind it—both physical and social. Davidson’s best-known artworks are balloons squeezed and constricted by lace corsets or shaped into bifurcated bulbous masses by taut rope that reference the female body. Spin Too! and the related photograph beside it, Bonnefemmerie #2, physically embody joyfulness, sensuality, and brazen confidence taken to extreme limits.

    © Nancy Davidson

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