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Blockworks: Wrestling with Modernism

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The unfinished project of Modernism has to do with its claim to find a visual language that speaks to all human beings, irrespective of race, creed, gender or language group. Modernity built a structure of empirical rationalism on the mind work of the Enlightenment, itself based on the humanism of the Renaissance. And whilst the unviversalism of Modernism has become increasingly questionable in the culture wars of today, its utopian vision of a visual language that accepts the primacy of experiential truth and that can unite people in their difference is still an urgent goal in an ever more divided world. It is for this reason that I believe the promise of Modernism deserves to be fought for.

How do we acknowledge this unfinished project while also acknowledging the necessity of art to touch and change our internal landscape? These two questions have preoccupied me over the last decade. Here, the plinth or block on which Rodin’s The Thinker sits and that Brancusi integrated into the language of twentieth-century sculpture is now a core component in a part/whole matrix, sometimes crushing, sometimes being held by a wrestling body. With implicit relations to Michelangelo’s ‘Slaves’, as well as the orthogonal grid so favoured within modernist syntax, the works place form and content in a struggle in which neither block nor body can be said to win.

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