Art exhibit to combine Rodin with contemporary artwork

Joseph Antenucci Becherer talks near Liz Glynn's ArtPrize entry "Untitled (after Shade)" at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Becherer is the vice president and chief curator at Meijer Gardens. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

By KATE CARLSON The Grand Rapids Press AP Member Exchange GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Six original Auguste Rodin sculptures will be juxtaposed with the work of 17 contemporary artists from around the world during ArtPrize Nine. When he realized the 100th anniversary of Auguste Rodin’s death coincides with ArtPrize Nine, the chief curator at Meijer Gardens knew he had to incorporate it in this year’s exhibit theme. “We’ve seized upon a very important opportunity,” said Joseph Becherer, chief curator. “(This) is the centenary of (Rodin’s) death and universal recognition of the father of modern sculpture.” The “Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition” exhibit follows the theme of Rodin’s work by utilizing the human form, then further referencing the artist’s style by making use of fragmentation, cutting-edge technology or materials, narrative, sensuality and direct conversation. Dispersing Rodin’s pieces throughout the exhibit next to contemporary works was intentional, to create a direct conversation between pieces and with the exhibit audience, Becherer told The Grand Rapids Press . Attendees well-versed in Rodin and art history will be able to pick up on themes of the most avant-garde sculptor of his age; but the general public will still be able to follow some of the broader themes in the exhibit. One of the entries, “Spinning Pinwheel of Death,” portrays human faces that look like the loading symbol on Apple Inc. Mac computers “spinning” in a video loop. It is one of two multimedia entries in the exhibit — the rest are sculptures. Even though it is one of the more “whimsical” and contemporary pieces in the exhibit, it still references Rodin’s classical bronze sculptures by making use of fragmentation in the human form, Becherer said. “He’s dealing with the fragment, dealing with the head and using technology,” Becherer said. “Years ago, Rodin was dealing with fragments and new technology for his time period.” The exhibit is about three years in the making, and recognized as one of the official centenary events of 2017 by the prestigious Musee Rodin, Paris and the international Rodin Centenary Commission, Centenaire: Rodin 100. “Rodin was so revolutionary,” Becherer said. “It’s sometimes important to take a step back and recognize the impact his work has on art still today.” Rodin sculptures on display comprise Age of Bronze, Head of Balzac, Man with Broken Nose, The Martyr, The Kiss and The Vulcan’s Forge. Entries on display also include a 3-D printed torso of a woman that emulates Rodin’s classical style, a striking sculpture of two figures holding hands that are both split in half, and a Mexican-style recreation of Rodin’s sculpture, The Gates of Hell. The “Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition” exhibit will open Friday, Sept. 15 and run until Jan. 6, 2018, at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. A fee will be charged during ArtPrize Preview week. Hours for the exhibit will be extended until 8 p.m. during ArtPrize, which runs from Sept. 20 – Oct. 8.