Exorcising the Fear: British Sculpture from the 50s & 60s


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Taking the 60th anniversary year of the XXVI Venice Biennale of 1952 as its starting point, a new exhibition, Exorcising the Fear, will explore a pivotal point in the history of British sculpture.

Returning to the essay by Herbert Read which left an indelible mark on the history of art with the phrase ‘the geometry of fear’, the exhibition aims to recapture the excitement and vitality of the moment when eight young British sculptors – Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Geoffrey Clarke, Lynn Chadwick, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull - burst onto an international scene and jump started a chain reaction that brought about a crucial sculptural renaissance in the history of British sculpture, the impact of which can still be felt today.

On show at the Gallery Pangolin will be three rare works that are particularly closely related to those exhibited at the biennale (Lynn Chadwick’s Bull Frog, Reg Butler’s Young Girl and Geoffrey Clarke’s Man) along with further works chosen for their direct relationship with those on display in Venice. The exhibition will include another rare Lynn Chadwick entitled Beast, which has not been seen in public since the 1950s. The work is over two metres high and made from welded iron and glass. Other highlights include Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1957 bronze Frog Eating a Lizard and William Turnbull’s minimal bronze with green patina on stone base, entitled Strange Fruit. Demonstrating the wide range of materials in the exhibition, Pangolin London will also exhibit Robert Adam’s Divided Column made from birch wood.

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A number of works from the subsequent generation of sculptors (including Elizabeth Frink, Ralph Brown, John Hoskin, Michael Ayrton and George Fullard) have also been included to highlight the immediate impact of the exhibition on artists working in the decade or so after this legendary biennale. The majority of the works at Pangolin London’s Exorcising the Fear will be on loan to the gallery from major private collections including The Ingram Collection and the estates of Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink.  

Whilst Polly Bielecka’s enlightening text in the accompanying catalogue for Exorcising the Fear poses a number of broader questions such as whether the term the ‘geometry of fear’ can still be considered an appropriate description, the exhibition is primarily intended as a celebration of this seminal moment in the history of British sculpture. The exhibition will aim to show the impact this group of British artists had on the art world in Post War times and how the works that were produced during the 1950s and 1960s continue to influence and inspire artists today.

'Exorcising the Fear: British Sculpture from the 50s & 60s', 11 January to 3 March 2012, www.pangolinlondon.com