Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood: 40 YRS
(above, George Rickey, Two Lines  Horizontal Gyratory, 1982)
June 30 - October 8, 2018

“40 YRS” is in celebration of “Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood,” of its commitment to preservation and to art, and of its continually expanding and forward-looking vision,” said co-curator Charles C. Davidson. “This show takes from some of the finest sculptors of a century of art-making, presents them outside the traditional gallery or museum space, and creates a relationship between past and present, artist and institution, and, most importantly, between art and viewer.

Co-curator Charles C. Davidson

In 2018, Chesterwood is commemorating forty years of exhibiting outdoor contemporary sculpture at Daniel Chester French’s former home and studio in Stockbridge, MA. The very first Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood exhibition featured George Rickey’s two stainless steel Rickey sculptures: Two Planes, Horizontal and Vertical and One Up, One Down Eccentric.  Forty years later his work continues to be relevant and eagerly sought after for outdoor public spaces and museum collections.  Kinetic sculpture by Rickey and others will be featured in the exhibition at Chesterwood from June 30 – October 8, 2018. 

Chesterwood is notably one of the earliest venues in the United States to showcase large-scale works in an outdoor setting. The idea for a contemporary outdoor sculpture show was initiated at a Chesterwood council meeting in October, 1974.  While the council suggested featuring neo-classical works to reflect the style and legacy of Daniel Chester French, the 1978 inaugural exhibition included ground-breaking abstract works forged from materials such as cement, lucite, and steel. Since then, Chesterwood has exhibited sculpture by almost six hundred emerging and established artists, including Leonard Baskin, Morgan Bulkeley, Herbert Ferber, Glenda Goodacre, Albert Paley, and Richard Stankiewicz.  Following the inaugural exhibition, George Rickey contributed works to six more exhibitions spanning the years from 1985 to 2001.

The 2018 Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood exhibition (free printable map available here) is generously sponsored by the Nancy Woodson Spire Foundation and co-curated by Maxwell Davidson III and Charles Davidson of the Maxwell Davidson Gallery in New York.  Founded in 1968, the Maxwell Davidson Gallery has maintained an involvement in and commitment to the field of kinetic sculpture; the gallery has long established itself as a pioneer in the field of kinetic art worldwide and presented Outdoor Kinetic Sculpture, George Rickey, Pedro S. de Movellán in July 2017. 

Chesterwood’s Luce Collections Gallery

Thanks to a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, a former storage area has been transformed into a climate-controlled, state-of-the art exhibition space.  The gallery features approximately 150 never-before-exhibited objects from the collection, including paintings, models, maquettes, and finished works in plaster, marble, and bronze. Many of the objects were cleaned and conserved in preparation for the move from storage to exhibition.  This installation is designed to illuminate the development of French’s work over time and to provide a window into the artist’s working methods, techniques, and creative processes.

The works are presented in chronological order, beginning on the left wall with highlights from the first half of French’s career: portrait reliefs of French’s two older sisters, a bronze study for the Minute Man, two bronze casts of the Head of Mourning Victory from the Melvin Memorial, and a bronze working model of the Standing Lincoln for the Nebraska State House. The opposite side of the gallery features works from the second half of French’s career and includes working models of The Spirit of Life, the Manhattan Bridge groups, the melancholy Spirit of the Waters, and the majestic First Division Memorial.  Placed in between these well-known works are a myriad of studies and maquettes, small bronzes, and reliefs that invite exploration and add dimension and depth to the illustrated history of French’s long and productive career.

Oil paintings are arrayed along the back wall of the gallery.  It may come as a surprise to see that French was just as talented with a brush and paint as he was with clay.  His masterful portraits of his daughter, Margaret French Cresson, have never been exhibited.  Also featured are works by French’s artist friends, including the American Impressionist Robert Vonnoh who painted portraits of both French and his daughter.  Sculpted portrait busts of family and friends from throughout French’s career are also included in this section. 

In the middle of the room, the full-size plaster of French’s final, unfinished work, the monumental Andromeda, inhabits a large display glass case.  While the marble Andromeda in the Chesterwood studio might be well-known to the frequent visitor, this full-size plaster has never been exhibited since its creation about 1930.  Nearby, related Andromeda maquettes illustrate the artist’s progress from a germ of an idea to an enlarged version, through to the full-size model.  Clearly visible on the full-size plaster are “pointing marks,” small x’s drawn by the Piccirilli Brothers, marble carvers who transferred French’s design into stone.

The new Luce Collections Gallery was developed by Donna Hassler, Chesterwood’s executive director; Gerry Blache, Chesterwood Buildings and Grounds Superintendent; Dana Pilson, Chesterwood curatorial researcher; Jeff Daly, exhibition designer; Anita Jorgensen, lighting designer; and various subcontractors.


 Matt LeFleur,  The Camp , 2017, wood and paint

Matt LeFleur, The Camp, 2017, wood and paint

Out of Site: Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood
2017's annual contemporary sculpture exhibition, Out of Site: Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood, celebrated Chesterwood as a site for creativity. The exhibition featured the work of 14 artists invited by guest curator Sharon Bates to develop new projects or to adapt existing works that directly respond to the environmental, cultural, and aesthetic attributes of the landscape at Chesterwood. A number of sculptors in the show have exhibited their work nationally and internationally and have been engaged in public commissions. Some of the artists have also exhibited their work at Chesterwood in the past. For others, this was their first opportunity to make site-specific work in an outdoor setting. Artists: Roberley Bell, Roger Bisbing, Colin C. Boyd, Matt Crane, Douglas Culhane, Brian Kane & Michael Oatman, Matt LaFleur, Portia Munson, Derek Parker, Amy Podmore, Chrissy Scolaro, Amelia Toelke and Deborah Zlotsky.
Guest Curator, Sharon Bates.