15 Oct-7 Jan 2004. Sculptures and drawings by the French-American artist who left a distinctive mark on American Modernism in the 1920s.
Gaston Lachaise, 1882-1935. 15 Oct-7 Jan 2004. Museum-goers often only absorb images as pleasant shapes embedded in memory, not knowing makers or names. Those of us who have visited the old Museum of Modern Art in New York through the years will remember a large floating female in the garden. This dark bronze of voluptuous curves, despite her large body, is delicately balanced on tiptoe. Here she is again in the company of many other beautiful sculptures by Gaston Lachaise.
The son of a Parisian cabinet-maker, Lachaise followed a large Boston girl to America and married her. She seemed to be the answer to his dreams and became his model.
Between the 1920s and 1930s Lachaise became one of those clever sculptors who were quite commonly commissioned to decorate skyscrapers the Rockefeller Center, the Fuller Building on 57th and Madison Avenue and so on. Lachaise, Eli Nadelman and the young Noguchi were all employed in applied arts and travelled in the brilliant caf society of the period. But they were too sophisticated and modish to become well known. Even though Lachaise had large retrospectives he is still not known enough outside America.
In this exhibition there is his "Elevation 1912-1927", blithe like the first goddess on earth. The show begins with early small statues of dancers, exquisitely elaborate like Tanagra figures. The later and major part of his sculptures balance their erotic power in billowing generous outline with an easy grace. Big muscles, big thighs, big breasts in bronze completely transcend the medium. Each work is eloquent with wit and elegance.
Unlike most sculptors Lachaise was also a superb draughtsman. His charcoal studies of sexy men and women are sweeping, precise and beautifully decorative.
This is a show that goes beyond art deco period taste dealing with one of the most wickedly able and powerful sculptors of the 20th century. Edith Schloss