Page 1

robert graham

BO DY OF WO RK University of Southern California

Fisher Gallery November 2- December ##, 2007

robert graham

B O DY OF WO RK University of Southern California

Fisher Gallery November 2- December ##, 2007

USC Fisher Gallery Staff Selma Holo, Director Kay Allen, Associate Director Max F. Schulz, Curator at Large Ariadni A. Liokatis, Curator Lisa Merighi, Education and Public Relations Coordinator Tracy Ann Leach, Collections Manager/Registrar Conor Thompson, Chief Preparator Tracy Chabala, Administrative and Public Relations Assistant Designed by Haven Lin-Kirk Printer ###### Photo Credits All works are reproduced with the permission of the artists, their representatives, and collectors. Credits for images of works by

Š 2007 USC Fisher Gallery University of Southern California University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0292 ISBN - ###13: 978-0-945192-38-1 All rights reserved. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced in any form by electronic means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from USC Fisher Gallery except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in review.








Artist’s Biography


Exhibition Checklist


F O R E W O R D A few years ago the late Dean of the School NOTES FROM THE DIRECTOR

of Architecture, Bob Timme, excitedly told me about a project upon which he had embarked, and that he wanted me to know about. In the course of adding a third floor to Watt Hall, home of his School, Bob had asked the esteemed Los Angeles artist Robert Graham to create a series of windows, a kind of clerestory, to illuminate the students’ and faculty’s work areas. We who love


art are well acquainted with Robert Graham’s sculptures and think we know what to expect when invited to see his latest work. And, indeed, we will often be treated to his three dimensional representations of beautiful, nude young women, represented in idealized poses that are more static that active. I was, though, when I arrived at the new addition, especially delighted to be introduced to an unexpected treat in the windows that the Dean was so anxious for me to see. Each is, improbably, etched with large drawings of women in a variety of poses; the light pours in through their generous forms; while the windows are made positively dynamic by the lively and fluid lines to which they are home. All of us who attended the opening of the new addition praised the gorgeous relationship between art and architecture that the windows made possible, and recognized that this space, one for daily occupation, had become uniquely lyrical and, undeniably, memorable because of Robert Graham’s contribution.

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection of Name of Collector Goes Here

Somewhat later Robert Graham invited me to his studio to see yet another body of work. Because the windows had intrigued me I quickly made the trip and once again was delighted and surprised. I was met by hundreds of small figures, several on a single pedestal, cast in silver, bronze and other metals. They were all nude females caught in 10

dancerly movement, or seemingly, between movements. Fresh and captivating as any sculpture I had seen, they reminded me at first of the Degas’ modeles at the Norton Simon Museum, or even more poignantly, the Degas waxes themselves that I saw at the Mellon Home in Virginia long ago. Looking at these figurines, I felt the mastery of Robert Graham’s touch, but a mastery imbued with a new lightness and, yes, a virtuosity and abstract power, that I had not previously appreciated or been struck by. Yes all of that, and joy! These figures, this population of dancers, radiates the artist’s joy in the female presence. Posed and posed they bespeak an utter pleasure in the materials and in the first contact with the clay itself. They transport us back to that clay, proudly revealing the artist’s initial touch, his first inspiration—which inspiration is not smoothed away, not made invisible in the magical-seeming transformation into the precious metals in which they are cast. Fingerprints intact, tactility celebrated, each and every one of them introduces us to a heretofore unrevealed set of ideas from the head and the hand of Robert Graham. The new work, then, contributes another layer of complexity to the

stratigraphy of the artist’s oeuvre. It further enriches his ongoing history in the art of our own time. Body of Work makes Graham harder to classify and certainly turns him into someone in whom our interest is once again piqued: indeed, we want to know what might lie in his future. What will he make next? I am so pleased that USC Fisher Gallery can present Robert Graham’s Body of Work. It was the series of windows now at home in the Architecture School that was the first evidence, to me, of yet another chapter in Robert Graham’s art. The radiant figures in our exhibition constitute lasting proof of the ongoing “rebirth of wonder” that imbues the truly creative spirit. As that spirit grows, evolves and is nourished; as the artist becomes willing to break out of his own established parameters; the possibilities for invention multiply. It is always a little dangerous for an artist to present a new body of work that does not look like what his or her devotees have come to expect. But a real artist, to quote critic Roberta Smith, operates “with a kind of freedom and courage that other people don’t risk or enjoy…it can lead to wondrous things.” And, so it has done in the case of Robert Graham today. Thank you Robert Graham. Thanks also to Noriko Fujinami in your studio and to Peggy Fogelman who was at the Getty Museum when she did the curatorial work for this show and wrote the wonderful long essay in this catalogue. I also appreciate the contribution of Fernando Galvez de Aguinaga’s text on the later styles of artists. Of course, I am ever grateful to the USC Fisher staff for their ongoing work and especially for making Body of Work possible.

Selma Holo Director, USC Fisher Gallery And the International Museum Institute

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


R O B E R T G R A H A M “A work of art is an externalization of the artist’s B O DY O F W O R K

consciousness; as if we could see his way of seeing and not merely what he saw.” —Arthur C. Danto Robert Graham has unrelentingly pursued close observation and “ways of seeing” for over forty years. The nude female model has been both object and participant in the manifestation of this






videos, and, especially, sculpture, Graham has portrayed and interpreted the female figure since the beginning of his career. What makes Graham unique—in fact, radical—within contemporary art is his uncompromising persistence in this subject and line of inquiry, continuing a long art historical trajectory while constantly finding new tools of both conceptual and technological expression. The current voraciousness for the new and novel undervalues the slow, arduous process of artistic development and the maturing of style. Essential questions, however, can be answered only through time: as the artist progresses, will he remain open to the possibilities of where his work may lead, and will he allow himself the freedom to proceed toward an unknown conclusion? Graham’s sculptural work began with small wax figures encased in Plexiglas environments suggestive of 1960s California beach culture. At the time, unschooled in figure drawing or human

anatomy, Graham worked from photographs and pop imagery culled from magazines and mass media. These voyeuristic habitats, with their implied situational narratives seemingly appropriated from soft porn advertising, were readily embraced by an art world hip to the stylized, erotic nudes of Tom Wesselman and Mel Ramos. However, Graham’s interest in the nude quickly progressed to a probing exploration in which the role of scale, movement, verisimilitude, and relation to the viewer became significant concerns. Using a self-constructed pinhole camera, the artist scaled himself to the space of the diminutive figure. He experimented with different modes of viewing, observing physicality, movement, and mood through the camera lens, the video recorder, and directly in quickly drawn sketches and clay models. He fragmented and multiplied the figure—both in the studio and in the final sculptures—by introducing a mirror, which further manipulated the viewer’s self-conscious gaze and contingent relationship to the nude. Abruptly truncating his sculptures as if recovered from an archeological past, Graham pushed the limits of representation in conveying a convincing human presence. As he worked directly with live models through the 1970s, Graham’s ability to both observe and record anatomical detail and individualized form increased to the level of exceptional technical virtuosity. At the same time, his determined artistic investigation of the female figure, without irony and little subtext, made him a maverick within contemporary artistic practice. The evolution of Graham’s approach is inextricably linked to his experience with the model in his studio. The early wax figures were encased in boxes that defined a world apart from that of the artist and, subsequently, the viewer. With a progression to bronze casting, the settings for the nudes became more neutral, but still delineated a separate space. Early attempts to bridge this distance came through experimentation with scale rather than subject. As Graham continued to explore the female body, the architecture defining another realm for the sculptures was abstracted, minimized, and finally eliminated, at roughly the same time that the resulting statues grew bigger and more human in size and detail, suggesting the artist’s impulse to share the world of the model, as initially evidenced by the pinhole camera photographs. The


often misunderstood 2/3 scale that Graham used for many of his statues—frequently cited as an idealizing and distancing characteristic—was actually keyed to visual perception, the scale at which we recognize another human form at an arm’s length away. The precise handling of features implied viewing at even closer proximity. Working directly from a live model, typically athletic, youthful, and agile in pose and movement, Graham’s studio itself became the metaphorical box of his early works. The transition from objective to subjective viewing modes, in which the artist is both creator and collaborator, culminates in Graham’s most recent sculpture. The abstracted, torqued figures declare the speed of movement and the artistic energy needed to capture it. Like virtuosic three-dimensional sketches, these nudes simultaneously embody the vigorous gesture of both the sculptor and his model. Rounded but undefined breasts display the firm impressions of the artist’s fingers, sinuous thighs twist like taffy, and feet taper off in flame-like finials. Each appendage records not an established pose, but the transition from one taut, muscular thrust to the next, so that movement evolves within the figure as if in slow motion video. By distilling portraiture to the essential elements of morphology and movement, Graham drastically changed his relationship to the work and eliminated what many have interpreted as the cool remove of his precise rendering in favor of a heated, gestural abstraction. The interiority of the statuary figures yields to an extroverted bounty of spiraling limbs and inchoate features. Nevertheless, Graham’s work remains firmly grounded in continual observation of the model, whose active, changing presence provides an antidote to idealization and the sentimentalizing tendencies of memory. De Kooning famously pronounced, in response to Clement Greenberg’s claim that by the late twentieth century it was impossible for a successful artist to paint a face, “that’s right, and it’s impossible not to.” Like De Kooning, Graham’s abstractions embrace a conception of portraiture that hovers somewhere between object and image. The stylistic transitions that map Graham’s career are inextricably bound to experiments in materials and technique. Graham began producing his statues in bronze in the early 1970s. Traditional lost wax bronze casting requires an

intermediary step between the original clay sketch and the final sculpture, via the taking of molds and the execution of a wax casting model that is destroyed in the process. A newly cast bronze requires extensive finishing work and, typically, the application of a patina or painted coating. Theoretically, the cast bronze replicates the original clay; however, the wax casting model can be modified, and intervention by assistants in the final finishing and polishing 18

can alter surface detail. As smaller models are enlarged to monumental proportions, the transfer and translation of the artist’s original gestures and mark-making in the clay further distance product from prototype. Graham has continually sought new technologies to address this gap. Using early scanning equipment and feeding digitized visual data into a robotic carving tool, the artist devised a more direct means of enlargement that substituted a mechanical mark for his own and displayed the evidence of process in the final sculpture. The statues still required an intermediary casting model to transform clay to metal, which led Graham to experiment with direct, computer-aided carving in a permanent material. While this accurately retained the mechanized tools marks, it also entailed translation from the additive language of modeling to the subtractive syntax of carving. For his newest work, Graham developed a method of building resin sculptures that employs innovative technologies gleaned from industrial and medical engineering. The resulting statues,

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

alternately translucent and glowing like glass paste, or opaque and crystallized like marble, preserve with an unprecedented exactitude the immediacy of the artist’s gesture and the personality of his fingerprint. The energy of the works is due in part to the enhanced visibility of the original creative act. The synergy between making and seeing, creation and reception defines the territory of Graham’s ongoing investigation of the nude, and underlies his compulsion to manipulate scale in the absence of an intended architectural context or commission. At its most diminutive, the intricacies of the artist’s handling in a three-dimensional sketch yield to the overall silhouette. At a monumental scale, every gouge and imprint looms prominently, subsuming anatomical reference in a dynamic abstraction that oscillates between resolution and dissolution. Idiosyncratic marks divorced from a signifying role dance before our eyes at close range, only at a distance coalescing into recognizable portraiture. The memory of intimate viewing informs perception of the whole and vice versa, in an infinite and shifting choreography of object and beholder. The orchestration of viewing and the conditions of making have never been far apart in Graham’s work with the nude. With his new sculptures, Graham has returned to his earliest concerns, climbing into the box with his model and matching her exuberance of form and sheer athleticism of movement with the spontaneity, freedom, and tactility of his first response—the clay sketch. And then, after decades of virtuosic representation, he chooses instead to preserve the exact DNA of the vigorous, impressionistic sketch at every scale and in every material to make palpable for the viewer that human presence in the studio, and the artist’s way of seeing it. Peggy Fogelman

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


Peggy Fogel Let’s start at the beginning. What


compelled you to sculpt, and to sculpt figures, in

ROBERT GRAHAM by Peggy Fogelman

the first place? ROBERT GRAHAM I always wanted to explore three dimensions. When I was a child, all I did was make little plasticine people. I’ve always been able to and wanted to make those things. And when I went through school, undergraduate and then graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute,


I was making those things, too, sort of strange but all figural. PF:

At that time, were you taking life drawing

and traditional academic art classes, or was the teaching free form and less conventional? RG:

It was definitely free form. I don’t even

remember any life drawing classes. At that time, everyone was doing assemblage work.

And I

made a lot of that too. There was no class where you could learn things like the structure of the body or anatomy or life drawing technique. SFAI had very tough abstract expressionists of the second generation: my graduate advisors were Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Lobdell, and the ghost of Clifford Still was there. I was in the midst of all these people making big things, and I was making little things. PF: Your early work was, in fact, very different in scale and material, but also in its positioning of

the viewer in relation to the figures, and in using images from popular culture to lend a narrative construct. You were posing figures in their own little habitats and forcing aspects of voyeurism. Then there was a point at which you stopped exploring this narrative, situational thread and started concentrating on the figure as a form to be investigated more visually, more individualistically, and more profoundly. What was the turning point? RG: I was generating subjects from my imagination and also getting imagery from photographs. I started making small wax figures about an inch to a foot tall and putting them into rooms that were scaled to that size. It was the simple idea of having a box or container scaled to the figure. I discovered that I could photograph a model in a very neutral pose and work up a wax from those photographs–not directly from the model because I didn’t know how to do that yet—to create a master mold to cast more wax figures. Then I could bend those figures around and make them do anything I wanted. Since I had a matrix that was really accurate, the figures in those early pieces were like individual little people. And they were very realistic – they had hair and they were flesh colored. I had them in obvious sexual positions because that was the only way for the narrative to go. I sometimes photographed them with a small pinhole camera, so I was also scaling myself to the piece. But then there was nowhere to go with it. PF: Nowhere for the narrative to go, or nowhere for the eroticism to go? RG: All those things. I guess you could push the sexual aspect further, but I didn’t want to do that. I realized I wasn’t just making figures, but making portraits. Therefore I no longer needed a literal or allegorical narrative—the individual subject provided everything I needed. I left behind the artificial notion of posing, in favor of visual personality and the idea of movement or dance. So I continued the same method of making wax figures and kept adding to a repertoire of portraits. I began making pieces that were very Muybridge-like: the same figure in sequence walking in a bar or rolling across the floor within a small container or box. Soon the box became a bronze plate, the container was reduced to the corner elements, the gestures of the figures became more neutral–

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


sitting up or lying down—and I introduced a mirror. That was the first bronze piece, Mirror I. PF: Speaking of the stop-action figures in which you’re cataloging sequential movement reminded me of something Rodin purportedly said when he was working on the St. John the Baptist, that the sculptor is always trying to capture not just what is happening now, but what is about to happen. There’s a sense of motion in his sculpted 28

figure, a sense of the next step that’s going to be taken. Artists typically take advantage of current technologies, but Rodin was somewhat dismissive of photography because he thought it captured motion in an artificial way, stopping it at a certain moment and imposing a form of paralysis on the figure. For him, it was the sculptor, not the photographer, who could suggest the anticipation of motion in a single pose or action. RG: I tend to agree with that. But the fact is that in Rodin’s time there was no motorized camera that could shoot 24 frames in fast succession to capture the image. I’ve been studying tai chi for 30, 40 years maybe, and the whole idea of the yin and yang is really important to me. My conflict is how to reconcile the stillness of some of the sculptural pieces to the movement of the models that I capture in videos and photographs. How do I reconcile stillness and movement? Is it like yin and yang? How far can I push the tension between the

two? And which one is the real thing? I was making still photographs and videos with a model, Gina, and I wanted to see what happened when she spun, danced, and jumped, what happened to every muscle, not just her breasts but her calves and face. When you record it in video you can slow it down and capture the effects of motion. When I saw a film of the Mexican Olympics I was aware for the first time of what happens to the face of an athlete when he runs. But is it possible to ever see that in real time? You think you see it. You try to see it in different ways. But can you actually convey it? Maybe you can’t. PF: You’ve always worked in different media—photographs, video, drawings, and sculpture. In a sense, they’re all different ways of seeing. They lend you a cumulative knowledge of a particular model and her individual body and mannerisms. It’s also striking how varied the videos are, in that the moving image is often used to capture the stillness and interiority of the model. RG: There are always opposite impulses, and one is to pose someone in a neutral stance without movement, in which the person is not protected by any gesture. We all have a way of standing to feel comfortable. But if you’re just standing there, you’re completely vulnerable to the shape of your own body ... that’s how you look ... you can’t hide yourself. So a simple, standing pose actually provides a good map of a person. If you look at the older pieces, for instance the statue of Frankie, you’ll notice that one arm’s down and one breast is lower. On the fashion runway she always seems to glide. It’s because of that idiosyncrasy that she moves so fluidly and seems so perfect. I’m trying to get somewhere between a more severe, almost conceptual way of looking at the model, and allowing her to hide in movement. There’s always an inner conflict over how much I can do without losing the clarity of a more severe pose. Is there enough gesture to communicate personality? And that’s why, when the model is exhausted with lots of poses and drawings, she becomes really at home here in the studio. She feels at ease. She doesn’t have any self-consciousness. She’s like an observer... PF: In your new sculpture, being shown for the first time at the Fisher Gallery, there is a


Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

greater degree of abstraction, and an absence of anatomical precision and detail. With forty years experience in representing anatomy and pose, why is direct work with a live model still necessary for this new conception of form? RG: Because I’m relying on the same exact things I’ve relied on all my life – having a model in front of me. I can’t make those things up. If you spot someone running and you take a photograph of all the tendons and muscles, you would see only part of the reality. Unless you’re there, there is always a frustration in not being able to see what’s real, and photography or even a video limits what you’re really seeing. When you observe someone, very close, you see all kinds of things that aren’t captured any other way. And that’s what I need a model for. PF: But it no longer seems to be a question of getting the anatomy right. RG: The work has progressed from getting the anatomy right, to getting it so it doesn’t really matter in terms of that kind of accuracy, where the gesture really is the thing that’s important. So I’ve gone through the static pose to a process of quick sketches and many gestures. But I still need the model, because I can’t make it up. I can close my eyes and see that person running, even make it look convincing, but the actuality is gone. If I have the model in front of me, even the slightest little twitch or tensing of flesh is all that is needed for a gesture. PF: Even in that situation, by the time you see the movement, it’s already in the process of changing. That’s what I’m finding interesting about these new figures. As Rodin suggested, you’re capturing not just a single moment in time, but a movement as it transforms into the next gesture. And that’s why, when I look at some of the torques in the legs, it’s as if you started with one position, but then you looked up again and it’s already moved. You’re capturing both the initial gesture and the beginning of the next pose. When you work on the models in clay, are you sculpting from one angle? Or are you attacking the clay from all angles at the same time? Are you turning it, rotating it?

RG: No. I mean, I wish I could. But in the set-up that I have, with the model on a small stage, I can’t go all around her, I can’t go sideways. If she’s on the floor, I can’t lie down to see what’s happening from that viewpoint. But that also gives me the immediacy of the gesture. Because if you look at it from too many angles, you start thinking, “Well, maybe move a little bit this way.” I try not to direct a model. That’s why I like Gina so much, because she likes to throw everything out 32

there. And I never tell her anything. If I did, she and I would both forget the original gesture. The movement really comes from a dance sensibility. PF: I’m somewhat surprised that so many writers on your work deny or circumvent the element of eroticism. They reference formal qualities that have a distancing effect, that seem to remove the model from our own world: the blank eyes, the reduced scale, and the monochromatic patina that doesn’t mimic the look of real flesh. But there is still an aspect of sexuality. Perhaps the gender of the viewer is a pivotal factor, but I do think there’s an erotic energy at play. RG: It’s hard to talk about eroticism in that sense, because it involves the infinite possibilities of what you find erotic. Or what you find erotic from one day to the next. The thing that you find erotic today exhausts itself by tomorrow. It’s difficult to talk about eroticism by saying “I don’t find this erotic” because you’re really talking about yourself. PF: It’s a very subjective thing. If we’re going to talk about

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


eroticism, we also have to translate it into what the artist does all day in the studio, with a naked woman moving, dancing, and posing. You’re not painting sunflowers. RG: If a model poses on a bench, for instance, or she’s moving around, and I’m sitting there drawing, it does have that rush. But you can’t get involved in the eroticism. You’ve got to draw it. You can’t just say, “Okay, let me just look at you while you do all these poses.” What transpires, what the work becomes, is a sublimation of the eroticism by the fact that the task at hand has to somehow convey it. So it removes the artist in a certain way. For example, Japanese shunga prints, which illustrated various sexual positions and glorified sexual pleasure, had to be effective in their power to arouse. Over time, their original purpose and erotic convention lost potency and what remained were beautiful pictures. The artists who were making the woodcuts were not only constructing an erotic language but also making a harmonious image. PF: It must be both subjective and objective at the same time, because there’s something there that ignites the spark. There’s a reason you chose that model. There’s a reason you’re drawing that pose. At the same time, you have to observe and record it, whether you’re snapping the camera shutter or modeling in clay. You’re translating, transferring, concentrating on what you’re doing instead of fully engaging with the model. RG: Yeah, it’s not a physical possession in that sense. I think that you touched on something when you mentioned the reason I’m attracted to the model in the first place. Sometimes it might be because there’s something that’s interesting ... not necessarily that turns me on ...but something consistent. Her head somehow fits her body. Her hands and arms are a certain way. It all has to do with a consistency, a harmony. It’s not that I want to marry her—I want to work with her. I want to collaborate with her. I want to be able to make things that people can see and that sort of look like her. So that’s the impulse. Then you get into the actualization of it. Whether it’s a drawing, photograph, video, or statue, you haven’t really seen anything yet. All you have is the impulse of

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

the first meeting. You haven’t even touched the surface. And when it’s a long-term task, it’s pretty devoid of any eroticism. PF: You’ve developed a process of putting a model in a room with a video camera on a tripod, and walking away. She can look at herself in the mirror 38

or on the monitor and cycle through her repertoire of seductive poses until she has sufficiently exhausted all artifice and become herself. But you’re going through the same thing. As you work with the model, you’re exhausting your own posturing. You’re becoming an artist rather than voyeur. RG: Yeah. You really hit on something important. The fact is that the model is not neutral. The model is also testing me in a certain way. The collaborative generosity comes from the model in different degrees. The models that I work with for a long time, I keep working with them, we have a relationship that’s really … kind of … I don’t want to say intimate because I don’t want to imply something that doesn’t exist. But there’s a certain mutual relationship; we both want to work together. It’s a curious thing. It all happens in a way that, if it is fruitful for a long time over a number of years, Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection Name ofSECOND Piece | Materials Goes Here |

Date | Collection

Name of NEXT Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

it becomes the best kind of collaborative work. It’s not about knowing the details of her life; it’s about understanding the collaboration. It’s similar to actordirector collaborations in film: there’s a trust that allows them to be themselves but work together. I don’t want to make it too sterile, because it’s not. And that’s probably why it’s better not to talk about it 40

too much. That’s why people don’t really talk about it. Someone could ask whether there is a sexual attraction, but it’s beside the point, in a sense. PF: That reading of the work is less interesting than the realization that you undergo the same sort of transformation as the model, who moves from a starting point of self-consciousness and artificiality to arrive at a state of exposure and vulnerability. You experience a parallel process that finally allows you to relate to the model as an artist. RG: You’re right. I think I’m certainly as nervous as the model, no matter how long I’ve been doing this. And it always starts out that way. We try to put each other at ease, because working this way with a nude model is highly unusual in contemporary versus historical artistic practice. There aren’t many artists doing what I do. But it’s not just a sexual thing. And it’s not just a female/male thing. I did a portrait of Milton Wexler, a very influential and

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection


Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

important psychiatrist. At the time he was blind, or nearly blind. When I began working with him, I was so nervous, even though I knew he couldn’t even see it. I had to somehow capture his personality and convey my perception without any feedback. Milton had had a stroke and his face was irregular as a result, but I felt no different than I have with the most glamorous models. I think I learned that from 44

the portraits more than anything. You also get older yourself, and start appreciating people your own age. My responsibility is just as strong when I work with a younger model of the opposite sex. PF:

There is a famous story about an ancient

Greek painter who gathered five female models and combined different parts of each one to achieve a figure of ideal, perfect beauty. Clearly, that wasn’t a portrait, but it formed the basis for depicting the female nude in European art. The traditional Western exploration of female nudity typically relied on mythological or biblical guise to justify eroticism—Venus bathing, Susanna being spied on by the Elders. It’s a modern endeavor to accurately depict an individual, particularized female nude as a pursuit in and of itself, without pre-conceived ideals or conventions. That your nudes are all portraits seems to be an essential element of your work. RG: I never set out to make portraits in the sense we’re talking about. I think it snuck up on me. All

those ancient and Renaissance systems of proportion and idealization—the ratio of the head to the body, where the nose belongs on the face—they were all abstract. Everyone was interested in establishing a formula for an infinite variety of people, but there are great differences from one person to the next, even if they’re identical twins. Theirs was not a visual perception; it was an intellectual construct. PF: How do you feel about the use of the term “classical” to describe your work? RG: I hate it. As portrait sculpture, my work derives from observation, not previous syntaxes of form. PF: When people call your work classical, you feel they’re referencing a convention and not just the legacy of ancient art, or the tradition of the female nude, or even the visual harmony that we were discussing earlier? RG: Even worse, an exhausted convention. To be fair, people want complexity. In order to recognize what my work is about, they’d really have to look at it. But people are also trapped by their own conventions and expectations of viewing. The scope of my work is fairly circumscribed. It really is pretty simple. I’m interested in that figure, and I’m trying to make it somehow exist for other people in the same way that I saw it. I think this is what all artists do. PF: What can you tell me about the genesis of your latest work? Did it begin after the retrospective at Ace Gallery in 2006? RG: Well, it was definitely after that show, and seeing 40 years of my work brought together... PF: Was it a process of working on the clay sketch and stopping yourself at a certain point? Manipulating the clay, looking at it in progress, and thinking, “This is where I want to be?”


Name of Piece | Materials | Date | Collection

RG: I think I always did that. I just never paid attention to it. I went further with the modeling, but that’s not because I found deficiency. I just wasn’t paying attention to the earlier stage. PF: The new works are like sketches that have become something finished instead of something 48

preparatory. They become an end in and of themselves, rather than a phase in the progression toward something else. All of a sudden you see that you have everything you need in that stage of perception and process. RG: I think that’s right. So it’s just a mental position. If you think of them as finished, they’re finished. If you think of them as sketches, they’re sketches. But the work is the same. I think it’s a mental thing. You don’t expect the piece to become something other than itself, and that’s it. PF: Do you still consider these new figures to be portraits? RG: Yes, I guess they are. Right now I’m pretty much focused on Gina because she’s so easy to work with. But when I’ve worked with other models on similar drawings and clay sketches, there’s a definite difference of identity… even without a face, or…

PF: Well, the faces aren’t really rendered anymore… RG: But the proportions do show, and the movements that those proportions allow. And then there’s also personality, and the degree of athleticism or dance ability. PF: The idea of portraiture has been distilled down to more basic elements. So it’s the gesture in space, or the way the legs meet the body that defines the individuality. RG:

It’s difficult to explain because, you know, I might be having a modernist




Mexico City, August 19, 1938

EDUCATION San Jose State College, 1961-1963

San Francisco Art Institute, 1963-1964

Civic Monuments



The Great Bronze Doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles


“Prologue” addition to the FDR Memorial - Washington DC

1999 Charlie “Bird” Parker Memorial Kansas City, Missouri 1997

Duke Ellington Monument New York City

1997 Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Washington D.C. 1994 Plumed Serpent City of San Jose, California 1986

Joe Louis Memorial - Detroit, Michigan

1984 Olympic Gateway Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, California Architectural Projects

1995 Huston-Graham House, Venice, California & adjacent studio in progress 1995

Design of UCLA Doumani Sculpture Garden, California

1994 Santa Fe City Center Project, Mexico City, Co-Design with Jon Jerde, for Reichman Intl. (unbuilt) 1979

Doumani House, Venice, California

Public and Private Commissions 2007 “Blessed Basil Moreau” Basilica of Notre Dame University, Indiana 2006

“Glass Panels” School of Architecture, University of Southern California


“Garden Panels” Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Unobskey, San Francisco, California


“Torso” Rodeo Drive, City of Beverly Hills, Califorinia


“Door” Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Unobskey, San Francisco, California


“Source Figure” First Interstate World Center, Los Angeles, California


“Wall” Andy Williams Residence, Branson, Missouri


“San Jose Fountain” U.S. Courthouse/Federal Bldg., San Jose, California


“Kentucky Derby Plaque” Kentucky Derby Festival


“Column” 72 Market St. Restaurant, Venice, California


“Column” Federal Reserve Bank, San Francisco, California


“Four Crocker Fountains” Los Angeles, California


“Retrospective Column” Los Angeles County Museum of Art


“Garden Pool” Michael’s Restaurant, Santa Monica, CA


“Dance Columns” Wright-Runsted Building, Seattle, Washington UCLA Murphy Sculpture Garden, Los Angeles, CA


“Dance Door” for Marcia & Frederick Weisman Residence, Beverly Hills, Donated to the Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles, California


2005 Hope of Los Angeles Award, Latino Heritage Month, City of Los Angeles 2004 Estrellas de Nuestra Cultura Award, Mexican Cultural Institute, Los Angeles 2004

Lifetime Achievement Award of the 24th Roses and Lemon

Awards, Downtown Breakfast Club

2003 Comander of Merit of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta 1993 ACLU Freedom of Speech Award 1993 California Governors’ Award for the Arts Selected Public Collections


Bank of America, San Francisco, California The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas, Texas Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan Frederick Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri Kunstmuseum, Hamburg, Germany Kunstmuseum, Cologne, Germany Los Angeles County Museum of Art Ludwig Museum, Aachen, Germany Museum of Art, Roterdam, Holland The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas The Museum of Modern Art, New York Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France National Gallery of Art, Washington DC National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Wales Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, California Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, California San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA Smith College, Northhampton, Massachusetts Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota Whiney Museum of American Art, New York

Solo Exhibitions

2006 Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, California Tremaine Gallery at The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT 2005 Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills, California Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, California 2004

Riva Yares Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico

2003 Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, California 2001 Earl McGrath Gallery, New York 1999 Contemporary Art Institute, Sapporo, Japan City of Iwamizawa, Hokkaido, Japan Kemper Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri Frederick Spratt Gallery, San Jose, California 1998

Larry Evans/James Willis Gallery with Frederick Spratt Gallery, San Francisco Riva Yares Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach, California Riva Yares Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona

1997 Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City Galeria OMR, Mexico City 1996

Gagosian Gallery, New York Larry Evans/James Willis Gallery with Frederick Spratt Gallery, San Francisco

1996 Remba Gallery, West Hollywood, California Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles 1995 Chac-Mool Gallery, Los Angeles Mikimoto Gallery, Tokyo, Japan 1994 Frederick Spratt Gallery, San Jose, California San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California 1994

Gagosian Gallery, New York

1993 Building Arts Gallery, Venice, California FIAC’93, Galerie Neuendorf, Grand-Palais, Paris, France 1992

Robert Miller Gallery, New York 48 Market Street Gallery, Venice, California


John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, California

1990 Mixografia Gallery, Los Angeles Robert Miller Gallery, New York Galerie Neuendorf, Frankfurt, Germany Galerie Fahnenmann, Berlin, Germany Earl McGrath Gallery, Los Angeles 48 Market Street, Venice, California



Robert Miller Gallery, New York


Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Los Angeles


48 Market Street, Fragments Exhibition, Venice, California

1984 Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles ARCO Center for Visual Arts, Los Angeles 1982 Norton Gallery and School of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas Joslyn Art Center, Omaha, Nebraska Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California Robert Miller Gallery, New York 1981

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, Illinois School of Visual Arts, New York Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, Illinois


Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg, Germany Robert Miller Gallery, New York Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York


Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Robert Miller Gallery, New York Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, Illinois


Robert Miller Gallery, New York Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles John Stoller Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, Illinois


Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg/Cologne, Germany Gimpel Fils, London, England

1975 Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, Illinois Felicity Samuel Gallery, London, England Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Basel Art Fair Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles 1974 Felicity Samuel Gallery, London, England Galerie Zwirner, Cologne, Germany Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg/Cologne, Germany Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles Texas Gallery, Houston, Texas 1972 Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas,Texas Galerie Herbert Meyer-Ellinger, Frankfurt, Germany Courtney Sale Gallery, Dallas, Texas 1971

Kunstverein, Hamburg, Germany Sonnabend Gallery, New York


Galerie Mollenhoff, Cologne, Germany Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg/Cologne, Germany Galerie Rene Block, Berlin, Germany Whitechapel Gallery, London, England


Kornblee Gallery, New York Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles


Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg/Cologne, Germany Galerie Zwirner, Cologne, Germany Kornblee Gallery, New York


Galerie Thelen, Essen, Germany Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles


Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles


Lanyon Gallery, Palo Alto, California


NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum


NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

NAME OF PIECE, 2000 Materials goes here 3” x #” x 8 Courtesy of Name of Gallery or Museum

RG_Fisher Catalogue  
RG_Fisher Catalogue  

electronic test