Van Doren Waxter is pleased to announce an exhibition of bronze sculptures by New York-based artist Sarah Peters, entitled Figureheads. This is the gallery’s second solo show of Peters’ work, which expands upon her exploration of formal sculptural languages and themes ranging from power and authority to psychology, gender, and humanity.
Works on view reference antiquity, using the imagery of gods in a contemporary context. The bearded male “Herma” busts pay homage to ancient Greek land-markers of the same name, and also invoke current political and social conflicts over power and ownership. Several sculptures in this exhibition are larger-scale than previous works, lending these forms a commanding presence. Among them, the formidable female “Figurehead” (2018) anchors the exhibition and calls to mind nautical talismans, along with pyramidal Egyptian deities. Peters’ merging of the ancient and contemporary is often irreverent, with allusions to sex dolls, ventriloquist dummies, puppets and aliens, undermining the authority of the past, highlighting human fallibility and questioning notions of power.
Peters’ sculptural language draws from diverse iconographic influences which include Assyrian antiquities, Greco-Roman tragedy masks, Egyptian funerary figures and Cypriotic portraits, as well as the work of Elie Nadelman, early American folk art, Constantin Brâncusi, and early modernist figuration. The smooth, eyeless sockets of Peters’ heads prohibit an explicit or reciprocal gaze, asserting autonomous internality; the figures’ ambiguous expressions simultaneously suggest a state of contemplation, ecstasy, or catatonic paralysis. Gaping mouths mirror those voids, while evoking a sonorous sensibility perpetuated by rhythmic, undulating hair. The meticulously carved strands render chaos tamed, forming an organizing architecture that embodies the duality of our feral and rational human nature.