(New York—October 31, 2017) Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is proud to announce that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has acquired the Barbara Chase-Riboud sculpture The Albino (aka All That Rises Must Converge/Black), 1972. This major acquisition coincides with her current solo exhibition Barbara Chase-Riboud—Malcolm X: Complete (now on view thru Saturday, November 4, 2017) at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. The Albino (1972) joins several other works by Chase-Riboud already in MoMA’s collection: an early woodcut, Reba, purchased for the museum by curator William Lieberman in 1955 and three dynamic charcoal and pencil drawings (Untitled, 1966; Untitled, 1967 and Untitled, 1971). Untitled (1967) was recently on view at MoMA in last summer’s blockbuster exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 19-August 13, 2017). Known primarily for her sculptural forms that wed fiber and metal, this exciting acquisition of The Albino (aka All That Rises Must Converge/Black) adds depth to the museum’s holdings of this multi-faceted artist.
For over five decades, Barbara Chase-Riboud has created abstract art with a deep and nuanced understanding of history, identity, and a sense of place. Her celebrated work operates on several dichotomies that have become central to her practice: hard/soft, male/female, flat/three-dimensional, Western/non-Western, stable/fluid, figurative/abstract, powerful/delicate, brutal/beautiful, violence/harmony. In 1958, she developed her own particular innovation on the historical direct lost-wax method of casting bronze sculpture. Creating thin sheets of wax that she could bend, fold, meld, or sever, she developed singular models that she would then bring to a local foundry for casting. This new approach to a centuries-old process enabled her to produce large-scale sculptures comprised of ribbons of bronze and aluminum. In 1967, she added fiber to these metal elements, creating an ongoing dialogue and relationship between the two materials that have continued to inform both her two-dimensional and three-dimensional work.
The Albino (aka All That Rises Must Converge/Black) comes out of Chase-Riboud’s explorations of linear, totem-like sculpture for which she is known, transforming how sculpture is viewed by creating a work that is at once both horizontal and vertical. When the sculpture is presented horizontally, two wings outspread with a centralizing anchor that sits on the floor, it is known as The Albino. When presented closed, forming a tall pillar, it is known as All That Rises (Black) Must Converge. These notions relate to Chase-Riboud’s idea of levitation, a term she has used to explain the process she originally undertook in the late 1960s to transition from horizontal to vertical abstract sculpture.[i] Treated as two different sculptures, the sculpture defies any one interpretation, but rather, opens itself up, quite literally, to multiple readings.
The Albino relates to a poem by Chase-Riboud of the same title, first published in 1974, that explores complex notions of identity, a conceptual practice that has occupied much of the artist’s career. Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. For African American albinos, societal expectations of skin color are subverted, creating a seemingly contradictory duality in visual perception as well as questioning the existential basis of skin color as it relates to ethnicity and identity – to quote from Chase-Riboud’s poem: “If color exists then the absence of color must exist.”[ii] The Albino, in both literary and sculptural forms, speaks to the multi-faceted interpretations of color and how they relate to perceptions of race, thereby attempting to undermine categorical labels and universalize humanity. Later in the poem Chase-Riboud writes: “I am as white as I am black.” She concludes by asking: “The absence of color / Is that the answer / To a moral question?”
All That Rises Must Converge/Black takes its title from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). A moralizing tale set in the American South of the early 1960s, the story explores multi-layered notions of sacrifice, class and race through the eyes of a white mother and son and their interactions with black characters. O’Connor’s story appropriated its title, in turn, from a phrase written by French Jesuit priest, paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his essay Omega Point (published posthumously in his book The Phenomenon of Man, 1955). Teilhard believed in an evolutionary progression in the universe that converges to a final point, from diversity to unity. He writes: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.”[iii]
Indeed, Chase-Riboud’s sculpture, when opened as The Albino, rises up, closing in on itself to converge at a final point, monumentally becoming All That Rises Must Converge/Black. This final iteration of the sculpture is a culmination of both physical and conceptual proportions: divisions of race, class and gender fluctuating – open and close – to ultimately rise and converge from the individual to the universal. Conversely, the wide stance of The Albino embraces a loaded concrete and symbolic space, seen perhaps as a metaphor for humanity, while All That Rises Must Converge/Black encompasses itself, tightly centralized and closed off from the world: it exists for itself, to be viewed in all its totemic elegance. When the sculpture opens up back out again to The Albino, to borrow from Chase-Riboud’s poem, “a single body becomes dual.”
Other major institutions with work by Chase-Riboud in their permanent collections include the Berkeley Art Museum, University of California; Library of Congress (Washington, DC); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); National Collections of France, Ministry of Culture (Paris, France); Newark Museum (NJ); New Orleans Museum of Art (LA); New-York Historical Society Museum (NY); Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA); National Museum of African American History & Culture, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC); and The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY).
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is the exclusive representative of Barbara Chase-Riboud.
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is located at 100 Eleventh Avenue, New York, NY, 10011. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00AM – 6:00PM. For visuals and additional information, please contact Marjorie Van Cura at (212) 247-0082 or email@example.com.
[i] Barbara Chase-Riboud to Lawrence Rinder in Memory and Material: A Conversation with Barbara Chase-Riboud, conversation at the Berkeley Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, CA, March 6, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcxsOnZysoU. Accessed May 2, 2017
[ii] Chase-Riboud, “The Albino,” Every Time a Knot is Undone, A God Is Released (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2014), 266-267
[iii] Khan Academy, “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Paleontologist, Mystic and Jesuit Priest,” 2017, https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/early-humans/other-materials6/a/pierre-teilhard-de-chardin. Accessed April 28, 2017
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