An Auguste Rodin sculpture show takes HCC gallery to another level

The power of bronze

Power of Rodin charges HCC gallery

December 07, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Rebecca Bafford has been working for more than a year to bring a traveling exhibition of art by Auguste Rodin to Howard Community College, but when workers rolled the first bronze sculpture into the college's arts center last week, she said she stopped in her tracks at the sight of it.

"I think it is going to hit a lot of people with the intensity that it did for me," said Bafford, director of the college's art gallery. "It is a powerful reminder of what sculpture can do."

The exhibition of 35 of the famous French artist's bronze sculptures, which belong to the California-based Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, is the type of museum-quality show the college was envisioning when it built the Peter & Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center in 2006.

"I know we haven't had anything like this in Howard County before," Bafford said. "I am so excited to see people's reactions. I think it's going to elevate what the students are doing. It's going to elevate what the faculty are doing. It is definitely going to elevate my expectations for the kinds of shows we're going to bring in the future."

The exhibition will open with a public reception from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow, and will be open at regular hours from Monday through February 17.

The Cantor Foundation provides the art along with several books, photographs and other educational materials, but the college had to pay for transportation, displays, publicity, security and other costs. It received a $25,000 grant from M&T Bank and a matching $25,000 grant from the McCuan Family Foundation. The college will use approximately $25,000 of its own funds as well.

The Cantor Foundation's Rodin sculptures have only been to one other community college in the past 20 years, said Judith Sobol, executive director. But, she added, construction of professional-quality galleries is a new phenomenon among community colleges.

In addition to a space with appropriate lighting, environmental controls, security and other features, Sobol said, "we are looking for an environment where the exhibition will make a difference in the lives of either the students or the residents of the area."

Rodin, who lived from 1840 to 1917, was highly regarded during his lifetime and has become one of the most popular sculptors in history.

According to a summary prepared by the Cantor Foundation, which owns the most comprehensive private collection of Rodin works in the world, Rodin "challenged the established styles of his day." He was unusual in his detailed depictions of the human body, expressive, textured surfaces, and his use of partial figures, such as a torso or a hand, as a complete work of art.

According to the foundation's literature, Rodin left his estate to the French government, and the Rodin museum there has the right to use his models (made of plaster, clay, marble or other materials) to cast sculptures in bronze after his death. French law limits the number of casts that can be made. Many in the art community consider the casts to be "originals," although the subject is not without debate.

Howard Community College is using the new Rouse Company Foundation Gallery and two art history classrooms to display a variety of bronze sculptures ranging from life-size figures to hands, faces and scenes that fit on a table top.

James Adkins, HCC's director of visual arts, said Rodin is one artist who is so well known that he is part of the popular culture. His name and the fame of works such as The Thinker will draw people to the gallery, he said, and "maybe they will become more inquisitive. Now they'll see 35 more [sculptures] and hopefully it will spark their interest."

In order to make full use of the exhibition, titled Rodin: In His Own Words, the HCC faculty and staff are planning several educational elements.

The sculptures are labeled with Rodin's own words about his art. Docent-led tours will be available at set times throughout the week and school groups will be able to sign up for guided tours as well.

Every hour, visitors can watch a film about the how the Cantor Foundation had Rodin's largest and most complex sculpture, The Gates of Hell, cast in bronze in the 1980s. A display also details the steps of the lost-wax process by which models are cast in bronze. An upcoming panel discussion will focus on Camille Claudel, who was Rodin's student and mistress and was an accomplished sculptor as well.

In addition to using the information and interpretation provided by the college, Bafford said she hopes visitors will examine, appreciate and "take in the feel" of each sculpture.

"Each one has a lot of drama to it and a lot of emotion," she said. "They can mean something to [viewers] personally. Each one of these has that ability to be moving in and of themselves."

She added: "The more I am around them, the more I realize they are going to give something different to each person."

Rodin exhibition

What: "Rodin: In His Own Words," a traveling exhibition of 35 sculptures by French artist Auguste Rodin

Where: HCC's Peter & Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center

When: Weekdays, 10 am to 8 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Feb. 17

Admission: free

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