2017 FIAC- Excerpt from my essay on Barbara Chase-Riboud



Barbara Chase-Riboud
Malcolm X #13, 2008
bronze with black patina, silk, wool and synthetic fibers with steel support
86 3/4" x 45" x 34 1/2" / 220.3 x 114.3 x 87.6 cm
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Excerpt from "History in the Present Tense," an essay I wrote for the magazine.  All feedbacks and comments are welcome.  As we are still in the editing phase.

Barbara Chase-Riboud has been a prolific artist, novelist, and poet for five decades. Her well-researched narrative history novels emphasize forgotten people and events of cultural significant that change the way we understand our past. As a poet, Chase-Riboud is eloquent and spontaneous.  Simultaneously, her poems like her drawings inform her artistic practice as a sculptor. Focusing on form and material, her process as a sculptor is altogether different from writing. To Chase-Riboud, writing is a kind of accumulation of information, and the narrative unravels on a linear time line, but making a sculpture is to present all the information at once.



Barbara Chase-Riboud (b.1939)
Malcolm X #17, 2016
polished bronze and silk with steel support
89 1/2" x 36" x 30" / 227.3 x 91.4 x 76.2 cm
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Chase-Riboud is an American who chooses to live abroad in Europe. Born in Philadelphia in 1939, she moved to Paris in around 1961. The artist once said in an interview that she prefers to be identified as “une étrangère” not as an expatriate. Evidently, she enjoys being someone who never conforms to convention, and embraces her artistic freedom from being an outsider. In her 20s, Chase-Riboud attended the American Academy in Rome before moving to Paris. Between conducting research in the United States for her novels about American history, she writes and produces all of her works abroad.  Although, she considers her writing and her artistic practice as separate entities, however, similar conceptual concerns appear consistently in her writing and her sculpture.




Barbara Chase-Riboud (b.1939)
Malcolm X #20, 2017
bronze with black patina, silk, wool, polished cotton and synthetic fibers with steel support
98" x 40" x 22" / 248.9 x 101.6 x 55.9 cm
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY



Barbara Chase-Riboud
Malcolm X #19, 2017
bronze with black patina, silk, wool, polished cotton and synthetic fibers with steel support
89 1/4" x 44" x 27" / 226.7 x 111.8 x 68.6 cm
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

The multi-cultural aspect in Chase-Riboud’s work is hard to overlook. For instance, her “Malcolm X” (1968-2017) series uses the traditional Western technique of “lost-wax” originated from pre-modern Greco-Roman period, then she drapes fiber materials such as silk, originated from pre-modern China with other more ubiquitous fiber materials such as wool and cotton. At the bottom of her bronze pieces, strands of fiber are attached like the hanging tassels commonly found on African masks. These materials and how they were once used to produce monumental sculptures of culturally important individuals and spirits that were worshiped as gods point to the significance of her bronzes as paying homage to tradition and spirituality. Prior to the year she spent in Rome, she traveled to Egypt and according to Chase-Riboud, it was the first time she had been exposed to non-Western art. Because, in her formative education in art and architecture, the curriculums focused on the Greco-Romans as the beginning of art history. Upon the discovery of a non-Christian world, it compelled her to explore the artistic territories outside of the Western. Her travels to China and the learning of the excavation of a Han Dynasty (Western, 206 B.C. – 9 A.D. Eastern, 25 – 220 A.D.) burial in which contained the Emperor’s body encased in a jade suit (玉衣) inspired her to make a series of “Cleopatra sculptures,” (1973-2006). In this series, each of the pieces are draped with tiles of gold sewn together by red threads. Like the original intention of encasing the Emperor’s body in a jade suit, Chase-Riboud’s method of making “Cleopatra” elevates the symbolic meaning of her subject to a sacred relic.




Barbara Chase-Riboud (b.1939)
Malcolm X #16, 2016
bronze with red patina, silk, wool, polished cotton and synthetic fibers with steel support
92" x 32" x 30" / 233.7 x 81.3 x 76.2 cm
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY



This is only a part of a much longer piece. In the meantime, if you would like to see her work, she currently has a solo exhibition at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, on view until November 4th.




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