Carol Bove / Carlo Scarpa brings together sculptures by American artist Carol Bove (b.1971) spanning 2003 to 2014 alongside rarely seen exhibition furniture, sculptures and architectural prototypes by Venetian architect and exhibition designer Carlo Scarpa (1906-78). Centred on themes of display, the case study and experimentation, the exhibition explores the artist's and architect's distinct vocabularies, treatment of materials and approaches to providing environments for artworks.
Of different generations, training and disciplines, Bove and Scarpa are bound by concerns for the object and its environment, the nature of encountering sculpture and the ways by which objects are given meaning. Experimenting with forms, Scarpa developed a highly personal, formal display vocabulary, while Bove uses a reduced language of museological display, employing plinths and armatures to cradle natural materials and flotsam. Scarpa's exhibition furniture - two vitrines and an easel from Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona and a vitrine from Gipsoteca Canoviana in Possagno - are shown in this exhibition emptied and divorced from their intended gallery surroundings. Each is paired with a sculpture by Bove, in which she forces seemingly worthless objects into becoming sculptures, questioning the boundary between detritus and artwork.
At the exhibition's centre is a new setting by Bove, in which the artist reconsiders Ambiente [Environment], a rare moment when Scarpa created his own sculptures for the 1968 Venice Biennale. The sculptures, made of precious stones, metal and bronze were exhibited within a bespoke display and set against freestanding textile panels. In Carol Bove / Carlo Scarpa photographs by Luciano Svegliado show the exhibition, while Bove's grouping asks how a historical exhibition of sculpture might be rethought today. Towering above the grouping is 'Cretaceous' (2014), an ancient chunk of petrified wood bolted directly to an I-beam. At almost four metres high, 'Cretaceous' extends Bove's concern with the fine line between 'specimen' and 'sculpture', the moment a ready-made is designated meaning as an art object. Each of Scarpa's sculptures are afforded their own support chosen by Bove, yet the boundary defining sculpture and cushioning is ambiguous - while some are sculptures by the artist, others are resolutely only exhibition furniture.
Held within one of Scarpa's vitrines from the Museo di Castelvecchio are his architectural prototypes for the Brion Tomb. Seen elsewhere in the exhibition emptied of contents, the vitrine is now used in accordance with its function. The Brion Tomb is a monumental burial structure in San Vito d'Altivole, Treviso. An elegant tomb surrounded by gardens, a meditation pavilion and chapel, it is considered Scarpa's architectural masterpiece. The prototypes are architectural tests for details, such as keyholes and candleholders that Scarpa planned for the tomb. Bove's 'Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges' (2003) sits as a counterpoint. Holding books, a metronome and string object, its references point to Bove's research into the subconscious, utopian ideologies, meditation and the appropriation of Eastern thought in 1960s America. Frozen in Bove's chosen arrangement, this experiment tries to seize a picture of a particular cultural period. Drawing on specimens, objects and sculptures ranging from the distant to recent past, Carol Bove and Carlo Scarpa constantly grapple with how we experience, make sense of and read history.
Carol Bove repeatedly includes natural objects in her sculptures, questioning their meaning and status as ready-mades. British artist Eileen Agar (1899-1991) similarly experimented with natural forms, such as shells and horns. In Gallery 4 from 27 May, Eileen Agar: Natural Ready-mades is a single sculpture study of 'Marine Object' (1939), accompanied by photographs of rock formations and driftwood found by the artist on visits to the French coast.
Carol Bove / Carlo Scarpa is curated by the Henry Moore Institute and produced in collaboration with Museion, Bolzano and Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle. The presentation at the Henry Moore Institute is supported by the Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. A fully illustrated catalogue is available in our bookshop, with essays by Philippe Duboÿ, Andrea Phillips and Pavel Pyś.