A major exhibition of the work of the distinguished British-born sculptor Barry Flanagan, best known for his monumental bronze hares, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 28 June 2006. Barry Flanagan: Sculpture 1965-2005 presents a comprehensive survey of the artist’s work over 40 years and comprises 37 installations and sculptures, several of which are being shown in the grounds at IMMA. The exhibition coincides with a display of ten large bronze sculptures in O’Connell Street, Dublin, organised by Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. The IMMA show will be officially opened by the distinguished writer JP Donleavy on Tuesday 27 June at 6.00pm.
Barry Flanagan’s series of hare sculptures, which he began in the late 1970s, are among the most instantly recognisable artworks of the last 20 years. Playful, spontaneous and full of life, many show their subject engaged in human activities – dancing, playing musical instruments and sports and, more recently, using technology. Visitors to IMMA are already familiar with The Drummer, which has marked the main entrance to the Museum since its donation by the artist in 2001. The exhibition brings together 11 similar works, spanning the many ingenious variations which Flanagan has brought to this strand of his work. In Empire State with Bowler Mirrored, 1997, for example, we see two matching hares stepping jauntily over the Empire State Building, while their more pensive counterpart in Large Troubadour, 2004, sits apparently disconsolately alongside his cello, as if questioning his ability as a musician.
Flanagan sees the hare as a particularly suitable vehicle for these human endeavours and emotions, “…if you consider what conveys situation and meaning in a human figure, the range of expression is in fact more limited than the device of investing an animal – a hare especially – with the expressive attributes of a human being. The ears for instance are able to convey far more than a squint in the eye of a figure, or a grimace in the face of the model”. Other members of the Flanagan’s unique menagerie are also being shown, among them Opera Dog, 1981 and his horse sculpture Field Day 1, 1986.
In addition to these later works, the exhibition presents a number of important and rarely-seen pieces from the 1960s and ‘70s, inspired by Flanagan’s interest in the iconoclastic works of the French poet, novelist, playwright and inventor of “pataphysics” (the science of imaginary solutions) Alfred Jarry. These early works were regarded as extremely radical when first shown and continue to be so today. Many are of an ephemeral nature, such as ring n, 1966, a simple pile of sand, being remade for the exhibition, and Light on light on sacks, 1969, comprising a pile of hessian sacks illuminated by a beam of light. Works in stone and marble from the 1970s, including The stone that covered the hole in the road (the skull), 1974, and “if marble smell of spring”, 1978, show a barely perceptible intervention by the artist. The exhibition also includes Carving No. 6 am, 1982, from the artist’s 1980s series of beautiful marble sculptures, made in collaboration with Italian artisans from Pietrasanta.
Born in 1941, Barry Flanagan studied at the Birmingham College of Art and Crafts and St Martin's School of Art, London. He has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally and in 1982 he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Fundación “la Caixa”, Madrid, in 1993, touring to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, in 1994. In 1999 he had a solo exhibition at Galerie Xavier Hufkens in Brussels, followed by an exhibition at Tate Liverpool in 2000. His work is held in public collections worldwide and his bronze hares have been exhibited in many outdoor spaces, most notably on Park Avenue, New York, and at Grant Park, Chicago.
Flanagan has lived and worked in Dublin since the mid-1990s and is now an Irish citizen.
Barry Flanagan: Sculpture 1965-2005 is curated by Enrique Juncosa, Director, IMMA, and is organised in association with Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane.