Rodin sculptures, contemporary responses part of new exhibit

Four full-scale bronze figures crafted by renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin will be on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum this summer.

But the exhibition is bigger than a simple display of world-famous 19th-century works of art. Alongside the Rodin pieces, visitors will experience the results of a research-focused creative project involving a group of contemporary artists, University of Cincinnati undergraduate students and a number of works from other CAM collections.

Led by artist and educator Mrin Aggarwal, “Rodin | Response: FIELD family secrets” will be on display June 14 through Sept. 8.

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917), Jean d’Aire, nude (detail), 1885–86, cast 1981, bronze, h. 80 in. (203.2 cm), Courtesy of Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, Photo Addison Doty

“This is a remarkable project through which four incomparable sculptures by Rodin, generously lent to the museum by Iris Cantor, have inspired new artworks and unlocked tangled histories,” said Peter Jonathan Bell, CAM’s curator of European paintings, sculpture and drawings. He’s also co-curator of the exhibition alongside Aggarwal, whose artist name is “Supermrin.”

“I am deeply grateful to Mrin,” said Bell, adding that “with artistic vision, intellect and fearlessness,” Supermrin has “engaged a new generation of artists and illuminated CAM’s collections and the history of modern sculpture in important new ways.”

“(It gives) us a vital glimpse at the meeting point of art, history and life,” he continued.

A contemporary (art) look at French colonialism

Rodin conceived of the statues in the 1880s as part of “The Burghers of Calais,” his best-known public monument. The bronze and plaster castes commemorate six residents of Calais, France, who offered their lives to save their city in the mid-1300s.

These monumental pieces provided the starting point for a semester-long journey for art students from UC’s School of Art inside the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, also known as DAAP. The project included a mixture of scholarship study, conversation, artistic critique and creation that took place across several courses.

The basis of the academic endeavor was “FIELD,” Supermrin’s decolonial bio-art practice.

Supermrin, FIELD, linden [I am the prism to your shadows.], 2023, grass bioplastic, linden trees from the domaine de Vaudijon

As a group, the students responded to Rodin’s accomplishments in sculpture as well as the oft-complex history of France and its colonies through contemporary art.

The project resulted in new artworks made by Supermrin, her students and invited artist Laura K. Reeder. Nine of them will be presented alongside the “Burghers,” other sculptures by Rodin and works from across CAM’s collections.

Supermrin considers “Rodin | Response” a study of the ongoing varied and expressive practices within the field of sculpture.

“I could not be prouder,” Supermrin said of the exhibition and her students, who had to engage art history, the concept of decolonialism and contemporary sculpture “in sophisticated new ways.”

“It has been fascinating to respond to these seminal bronze sculptures with the organic and biologic materials that I use in my practice – materials that are often challenging to host within institutions,” she continued.

Inside the exhibit

“Rodin | Response: FIELD family secrets” is a collaboration between CAM, Supermrin, UC’s School of Art and Iris Cantor Collection.

CAM will host a members-only event as well as a sold-out guest lecture by art historian Adrienne L. Childs on June 13 ahead of the formal opening the following day.

The exhibit’s sponsor is the Harold C. Schott Foundation. Additional support came from the Wohlgemuth Herschede Foundation.

“(The) museum has been an incredible partner, and Peter is the dream collaborator for any artist seeking to produce truly experimental art and scholarship,” Supermrin said.

Rodin | Response: FIELD family secrets

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