Tête (1984.080) [Head (1984.080)], 2020, Metal filling cabinet, plaster, wax, 85 x 101 x 45,5 cm
This plaster and wax cast of a pillow mimics the texture of non-woven polyethylene (Tyvek), a material used in preventive conservation because it is thin, strong, and waterproof, and its fibres are non-shedding, even when manipulated. It is commonly used as interleaving, for slipcovers, and as protective backing. The wax drippings on the work’s surface evoke the raw shapes and moving expressions of Rosengarten’s sculpted heads. The pillow’s indentation mimics not only the weight of a head but also the carved out polystyrene foam used to store three-dimensional objects in museum vaults.
On July 24, 2020, at 10:44 a.m., Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, Curator of Contemporary Art, sent Chloé Desjardins a description of the object 1984.080.
The object I chose is an ovoid bronze sculpture with a single point of support that serves as its base. It is a sculpture in the round made in 1972 by the Canadian artist Morton Rosengarten. Its title is simply, literally, Head. The work is 26.8 cm high, 14.5 cm wide, and 18.8 cm deep. Its point of support is circular, with a diameter of 11 cm. Its golden colour reflects the light. Its surface is not painted; its material is that colour. It weighs between 15 and 20 pounds.
The surface of the sculpture is irregular, as if the bronze has retained the traces of manipulation of the clay that must have been used for the preliminary stage in its production. A marked protrusion and two depressions are found in the centre of the front surface of the sculpture. Two other bulges, like pustules, are found on the top of the ovoid form. The sculpture’s dimensions are to scale and realistically evoke the human body.
I saw this work by chance in the museum’s storage spaces during our visit together on June 10. I immediately photographed it with my cell phone to remind myself of its existence. Contrary to what one might think, I don’t often go down to the vaults since I don’t work directly with the Museum’s collection, as I’m responsible for temporary exhibitions. When you asked me to send you a description of an object from the collection without describing its exact shape, in order to test an idea for the development of your project, I remembered this image in my phone. I naturally chose to describe this work to you. It first caught my attention because it spontaneously made me think of sculptures by Kader Attia that I saw exhibited in 2013 at the KW in Berlin, and then in 2018 at The Power Plant in Toronto. I found here, in a different material, the surface deformations of Attia’s sculptures – the material evocation of the suffering, scars, and wounds to which his wooden sculptures bear witness. Several of Attia’s works deal with the idea of “repair,” from a literal and material point of view, as well as from a conceptual one. It also made me think of the concept of plasticity explored by the philosopher Catherine Malabou, who is interested in neuroscience. She reflects on identity from the point of view of its malleability, drawing a parallel between the plasticity of the brain and the philosophical issues of identity construction. In Rosengarten’s work, we find this conception of flux: the traces of manipulation of the material, suddenly frozen, expose a state of perpetual transformation.
Morton Rosengarten, [Head], 1972, Bronze, 26,8 x 14,5 x 18,8 cm
Collection of Musée d’art de Joliette. Gift of George J. Rosengarten. 1984.080