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WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY SCULPTURE TOUR

Figure (Archaean)

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Figure Archaean

Artist - Dame Barbara Hepworth
Born - 1903
Died - 1975
Origin - England
Year Built - 1959

About the Artist:  Dame Barbara Hepworth enrolled briefly at the Leeds School of Art in 1920, before receiving a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London where she studied until 1924. In 1931, she met Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), who encouraged her to join the Seven and Five Society, a group of British abstractionists. That same year, Hepworth created Pierced Form (destroyed in World War II), the first use of the hole or void in British sculpture. Hepworth's notoriety increased steadily thereafter; she was honored with a retrospective at the 25th Venice Biennale in 1950. Hepworth was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1965.

Also called Archaic Form, Figure (Archaean) is the culmination of Hepworth's experimentation in the Torso series (1956-58). The scapula-like form, also found in the Torsos, was created with sheet aluminum, which was folded over and then covered with plaster. The distressed, cratered surface of Figure (Archaean) reveals a record of both Hepworth's application of plaster and her subsequent carving of the surface. The artist worked the surface of the bronze casting as well, explaining: "I cannot stand deviations in casting . . . I am now inventing bronzes which will virtually become carvings!!" Her continuing interest in stone and stone carving is partly expressed with the supplemental title of Archaean, the oldest geological segment of the Precambrian era. This title, when considered with the primary title Figure, the secondary title Archaic Form, and the association with the Torso series, suggests a sculptural remnant of the ancient world, possibly that of Archaic Greece. As such, Figure (Archaean) carries archaeological connotations, that of an unearthed fragment of ambiguous yet important meaning.

Figure (Archaean) departs from the Torso series in the piercing of the sculpture, which frames the view of the landscape and creates ovoid forms of empty space, resulting in presence through absence. Hepworth acknowledged the framing ability of the piercings. The artist had the work photographed against the English coast with the horizon line framed in the middle of the upper piercing. She also saw the piercings as a means of inhabiting the sculpture: "Could I climb through and in what direction? Could I rest, lie or stand within the forms? Could I, at one and the same time, be the outside as well as the form within?" Hepworth's comments position Figure (Archaean) as a distinct object with overt anthropomorphic references.