Few contemporary artists have the opportunity to show alongside one of their historical inspirations—especially a master of Impressionist sculpture—but British artist Rachel Kneebone is fortunate. Her show of porcelain works which opened last night at the Brooklyn Museum is dotted with (and in fact outnumbered by) Auguste Rodin bronzes, and this is only the artist’s first museum presentation.
Kneebone’s large-scale sculptures draw heavily from historical motifs in sculpture such as mourning, death, ecstasy, and vitality and on a basic level her works are often figurative. Kneebone and her nineteenth century forebear share an explicit interest in sexuality and gender as well as the expressive capacity of sculpture.
The exhibition reaches a crescendo with Kneebone’s The Descent (2008), a gaping three-and-a-half feet in diameter, which along with Rodin’s Gates of Hell (1880-1917) references The Inferno from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Kneebone’s delicate articulation of human forms intertwined in this and other works is both explicitly erotic yet abject and tragic.