Six of Daniel Arsham’s bronze sculptures will be shown outdoors in the 18th-century Formal Garden at YSP including Bronze Extraterrestrial Bicycle (2022), Bronze Eroded Bunny (Large) (2022), and the three-metre tall Bronze Eroded Venus of Arles (Large) (2022) – Arsham’s retelling of the ancient marble statue of Aphrodite from the 1st century BCE.
“As history progresses, all objects become antiquated and in some way, they all become ruins or relics, disused or buried. In 1000 years everything that we own will inevitably become one of those things. I don’t particularly see that as having an apocalyptic quality – it’s sort of just the march of time moving on.”
– Daniel Arsham
Arsham’s sculptures appear as archaeological remnants of our time that he describes as ‘future relics’. His artistic practice is underpinned by the formative childhood experience of surviving Hurricane Andrew, which struck the Southern United States in 1992 and destroyed his family home and everything around it. Reflecting this, Arsham’s works are partially decayed and explore regeneration represented by real crystals that have been cast in bronze. The inclusion of the crystal forms alludes to alchemical change (the transformation of one substance into another), growth, and progression. A visit to Easter Island in 2011 where he encountered a palaeontology research expedition deepened Arsham’s interest in archaeology and continues to inform his practice.
The artist was recently given access to the original foundry molds of some of France’s most iconic classical sculptures displayed in the Louvre, including a 3.9-metre-tall female figure that was carved around 50 BCE. The statue was unearthed in the 15th century and for the last 500 or so years she has been thought of as Melpomene, the Greek muse of tragedy. From the mold of this sculpture Arsham created Unearthed Bronze Eroded Melpomene (2021), which in this landscape connects the past with the present. The ground in which YSP stands has been inhabited since at least the 11th century; here, Arsham’s sculptures resonate with the layers of human activity that have shaped and will continue to shape the environment.
Alongside sculptures drawn from antiquity are works that use imagery from recent history and pop culture. Bronze Eroded Astronaut (2022) takes as its starting point the famous image of Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 Moonwalk in 1969. The image became an icon of innovation and the ambition of humans to explore worlds outside of our own. Bronze Crystallized Seated Pikachu (2022) is a recognisable cartoon character from the Pokémon world, which was created in Japan in the mid-1990s and became a global phenomenon. Created using traditional green patinated bronze, these modern-day images are reinvented to become artefacts that tell the stories of our time.
The exhibition is supported by Perrotin.
Image: Daniel Arsham, Unearthed Bronze Eroded Melpomene, 2021. Courtesy Perrotin Gallery and Arsham Studio. Photo © James Law