Opening on March 17th, Kettle’s Yard will host a major exhibition to mark the centenary of the death in the First World War of the French-born sculptor and draughtsman Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915). The exhibition: NEW RHYTHMS Henri Gaudier-Brzeksa: Art, Dance & Movement in London 1911-15 brings together Gaudier’s work with those of his contemporaries Archipenko, Bomberg, Epstein, David Roberts, Rodin, Helen Saunders and Wyndham Lewis. This is the first exhibition to consider Gaudier’s interest in dance and movement and takes as its starting point the two strikingly different sculptures of dancers in the collection at Kettle’s Yard – Dancer and Red Stone Dancer as well as exploring his interest in wrestling. It is also the final exhibition at Kettle’s Yard before the site closes for a major redevelopment.
Gaudier-Brzeska moved permanently to London in January 1911. He made a significant contribution to the development of modern sculpture, as one of the key members of the Vorticist movement and by influencing a later generation of sculptors. His precocious artistic talent was cut short by his death at the age of 23 while fighting for the French army in Neuville St Vaast, France, in 1915. As Ezra Pound wrote in 1916: ‘A great spirit has been among us, and a great artist is gone’.
This exhibition is the first to explore the artist’s engagement with dance and movement. New Rhythms brings together sculpture, drawing, photography, film, and archive material, combining the strengths of Kettle’s Yard’s sculpture and drawing collections with important loans from national and international institutions. The exhibition includes work by Gaudier-Brzeska’s contemporaries David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, Percy Wyndham Lewis, William Roberts, Auguste Rodin, Helen Saunders and others who engaged with the subject of dance.
Kettle’s Yard holds one of the largest collections of sculptures and drawings by Gaudier-Brzeska, acquired by the creator of Kettle’s Yard, Jim Ede in 1929. Ede went on to write the first seminal biography of Gaudier- Brzeska ‘Savage Messiah’ in 1930, using the letters that were exchanged between Gaudier-Brzeska and his partner Sophie Brzeska.
New Rhythms takes as its starting point Gaudier? Brzeska’s two contrasting sculptures Red Stone Dancer and Dancer. The exhibition looks in detail at the inspirations for the two sculptures of 1913, using them as studies for a wider exploration of the artist’s interests in the subject and the cultural milieu in which he was working. For example, his engagement with the dynamic performances of the Ballets Russes is brought to the fore through his bronze Firebird (1912). As well as exploring dance, New Rhythms will investigate the artist’s wider fascination with motion, the physical dynamism of bodily movement, and wrestling. The new dance trends that exploded onto pre?war London stages and screens such as Apache dance from Paris and Tango, and performances by the Ballets Russes, will be represented through photographs, printed sources and film. The show culminates by asking how Gaudier?Brzeska’s dancers can inspire new rhythms now, through a contemporary dance and music commission. The work by Malgorzata Dzierzon, performed to new music commissioned from emerging composer Kate Whitley, will feature in the exhibition through film.
This will be the final exhibition at Kettle’s Yard before closing for a major development of the site.
NEW RHYTHMS: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: Art, Dance and Movement in London 1911-1915 runs Tuesday 17 March 2015– Sunday 21 June 2015