Runs: 24 February to 8 August 2010
Having recently completed a History of Art module with Moore at its nucleus, a trip to this exhibition was, I’ll admit, less of an indifferent jaunt and more of a necessity for me. Yet while your reviewer is by no means an impartial observer, I will try to keep an open mind.
Moore is somewhat of an enigma. Widely regarded as the most famous sculptor Britain has ever spawned, yet also significantly overlooked in the echelons of art’s great masters. During the Second World War he was Britain’s most valued biographer, documenting city life in his most famous works – ironically sketches, not sculptures – of Londoners sleeping and eating in the filth of the underground shelters.
These sketches are included in this exhibition, but generally this is a retrospect of Moore’s less recognised work. The Tate owns over 700 Moore works, in comparison the exhibit showcases just a small selection of 150 pieces, neatly sidestepping his gaudy family groups and concentrating on the darker, more rugged side of Moore, the modest Yorkshire man. His iconic mother and child and reclining figure motifs are juxtaposed with surreal lesser-known stringed objects, mysterious urns personified with gouged eye holes and primitive animal idols, resulting in a broad albeit strictly edited history of Moore’s developing styles.
Displayed chronologically, the show begins at his early 1930s Aztec influenced primitive stonework, and ends with several pierced reclining figures from the ‘60s in elm. The walls of the six rooms of varying sizes are painted to meet the ‘mood’ of each period; a rich bloody red for the primitive room, a clinical white representing Moore’s modernism, and a gunmetal grey applied to his wartime years. An obvious yet effective device, the colour scheme acts as a complimentary foil against which the sculptures are strategically positioned for easy manoeuvre through the years.
Moore’s sculpture is definitely an acquired taste, his distortion of the female body births spindly limbs and miniscule, dinosaur heads, both beautiful and mildly disturbing simultaneously. The variety of materials on display from plaster and marble to stone, lead and bronze is extraordinary, and Moore’s sheer dedication to his principle themes cannot be questioned. Whilst hardly shedding a revolutionary light on Moore, it is a show likely to introduce many to his work in an art world predominantly conditioned to value painting over sculpture, a wisely selected component of Moore’s extensive body of work.