Sculptor Lynn Chadwick’s angular metal figures star in a series of international shows, starting in London
In 1956, the British artist Lynn Chadwick beat off Alberto Giacometti to take the International Sculpture prize at that year’s Venice Biennale. He was still only 41 and had only been sculpting for six years. Which suggests that Chadwick, who had also shown in Venice in 1952, should now be up there with Moore, Hepworth and Caro on Britain’s monumental modern monumentalists list.
He isn’t quite, in part, because soon after winning the prize and becoming quite the hot item he bought Lypiatt Park, a glorious gothic pile in the Gloucester countryside, and pretty much holed up there (the house and its 22 acres are still littered with Chadwick’s works but, tragically, it is not open to the public). Chadwick was, acknowledges Blain Southern’s Adrian Sutton, a little tetchy, not temperamentally equipped perhaps for the politics and compromise that come with big public commissions. And in truth, Chadwick’s work is brutally powerful rather than crowd-pleasing. There isn’t as much out there as there should be. So while his looming square-headed men and triangle-headed women do stand in the sculpture park of the public imagination - and he is represented in the major public institutions from Moma through The Tate to the Pompidou - few could tell you who conceived them. Or how.
Chadwick, who died in 2003, started training as an architect before a stint in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II. After the war he started producing mobiles and ’stablies’ as well designing fabrics and furniture. His ’Cypress’ was installed as part of the Festival of Britain (and lost when the festival site was dismantled). He developed a construction method using welding steel rods and an industrial compound called Stolit, a mix of iron filings and plaster, and later moved to casting these pieces in bronze, particularly with the Pangolin foundry.
To mark the centenary of Chadwick’s birth, Blain|Southern together with Blain|Di Donna, are presenting the largest ever survey of Chadwick’s career with concurrent exhibitions in London, Berlin and New York, all overseen by exhibition designer Bill Katz. From this week, Blain|Southern London is showing some of his major monumental bronzes from the 1950s and 1960s including Teddy Boy and Girl (1955) and Stranger III (1959) as well as two of his Beast series. (The Royal Academy has had four of Chadwick’s large steel Beasts on display in its courtyard since 14 April). The London gallery is also showing a 1966 series of wood on formica ’pyramid’ and ’split’ sculptures, which Chadwick created as experiments but now look startlingly contemporary, as well as a later series of welded steel maquettes.