Pas de Deux (Plaza Monument) 2016
Rebecca Warren ( British, 1965 )
Pas de Deux (Plaza Monument) consists of two biomorphic forms, each more than twelve feet tall, cast in bronze and hand-painted in shimmering pastel washes. They are shaped by reduction, compaction, and perversion—forces enacted in glimpses of gesture, hints of movement, and subtle variations in posture, which produce the peculiar personality of the sculpture.
The title, Pas de Deux, translated from French as "dance of two," refers to the dynamic, fluctuating relationship between art history's most persistent binaries: male/female, old/new, classic/grotesque. While Pas de Deux is fittingly comprised of two standing forms, the work operates within the interstitial space between the aforementioned classifications, straddling the divisions between masculine and feminine, the beautiful and the perverse, the contemporary and the historical.
Throughout her career, Warren has subverted Western sculptural traditions through distorted representations of the female nude, which is typically portrayed in her work with abstracted, exaggerated physical characteristics. In Pas de Deux, the female form is implied via bulbous lumps and truncated limbs, yet these protrusions emanate from erect totemic poles that undoubtedly suggest phalluses—a collision between masculine and feminine that proposes a hybridization of genders. Pas de Deux also facilitates a fusion of past and present, as its tall, slender forms recall the thin, elongated figural sculptures of Alberto Giacometti [1975.86.FA], while the roughly textured, disintegrating surface echoes Willem de Kooning's oozing abstract bronzes from the 1970s, which similarly appear to be in a state of deconstruction. Crowning each bronze is a pink bow, a motif employed by Warren in previous sculptures such as Pauline (2006) and Toto (2012). Referencing the Disney cartoon characters Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, who are readily identified from their male counterparts by their added adornment, Rebecca uses this contemporary culture reference to challenge outmoded notions of femininity and innocence.
Warren's sculpture additionally problematizes accepted notions of beauty, blurring the line between unfinished sculptural prototype and polished final product. Pas de Deux maintains an improvisatory quality that pervades much of Warren's previous work, seen specifically here in the sculpture's lumpy, textured surface, free-flowing, expressive brushwork and amorphous form. Countering modernist obsessions with finish, Warren has purposely imbued Pas de Deux with a decidedly unfinished look, offering roughness where we expect refinement. The visual and textural chaos of the sculptures is counteracted by the clean, white geometric plinths supporting them, which also function as crucial elements of the work.
- Nolan Jimbo, McDermott Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art, 2015-2016