Exploring Visual Arts across Madison
Dec 13, 2013
The Chazen's Three Women
COURTESY OF THE CHAZEN MUSEUM OF ART
Karen LaMonte's "Hanako" is one of three recent kimono sculptures on display at the Chazen.
When I first walked into the Chazen Museum of Art this afternoon, I wondered if no exhibition was being held in the expansive Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries. A soft light emanated from the space, so I wandered in—but I’m sure that’s not what drew me.
Rather, it was three glorious female figures bathed in light. This trio of recent sculptures by artist Karen LaMonte makes up Karen LaMonte: Material and Light, a new exhibition that opened today and runs through January 12. The three forms take up a small area of the gallery; the rest is left empty and dark. But see them in person and you’ll understand why nothing more is needed in this show.
Known for her life-size glass dresses, LaMonte spent seven months in Japan in 2006 studying kimono and has since explored with working in ceramic, bronze and iron.
The three forms in Material and Light are kimono, carried out in cast bronze, glass and ceramic. While the female body is removed—you see neither heads nor hands—its essence remains in how it shapes each dress.
The bronze work, “Odoriko,” means “dancing girl,” and indeed the work shows movement. The form’s arms are bent and folds of the skirt overlap. With a texture resembling aged leather in places and stone elsewhere, the matte bronze material features intricately detailed belts in front and a beautiful draped bow in back.
“Hanako,” which is an archetypal name for girls, including a flower girl, is an ethereal glass sculpture that’s smaller than the other two, as if a child wore the translucent white garment. Almost symmetrical, with the arms held behind the back, the stillness of the form is breathtaking.
And standing for the traditional form of Japanese theater, “Kabuki” is a ceramic work. Dark and shiny with patterns and folds throughout the kimono, the sculpture has a large bow in front and a skirt that pools in the back.
There’s so much to marvel over in these sculptures, from LaMonte’s technical mastery to how the forms are at once beautifully representational yet can also be appreciated abstractly, through their angles, lines and folds.
But most impressive to me was how the artist has created three distinct individuals. Standing in front of the kimonos, it’s clear that each has its own personality, due in part to the differences in materials but also because of something more.
Karen LaMonte: Material and Light runs through January 12 at the Chazen Museum of Art. For details, visit chazen.wisc.edu.