Contemporary in the Cloister: Sculpture in the Close at Jesus College, Cambridge
This summer Jesus College Cambridge will showcase five contemporary British and Irish sculptors amidst the buildings of a 12th century former convent, in its biennial Sculpture in the Close exhibition.
Sculptors exhibiting this year include internationally acclaimed sculptors Thomas Houseago, who most recently exhibited in New York's Rockefeller Plaza, and Eva Rothschild, who was elected to the Royal Academy in March. They are appearing alongside previous Turner Prize nominees Roger Hiorns and Lucy Skaer, as well as Royal Academy Jack Goldhill Award winner James Capper, who is just 27 years old.
Thomas Houseago is known for creating colossal figures with raw edges, which look back to modernism through a 21st century lens. He is exhibiting Striding Figure II (Ghost) (2012), an anthropomorphic striding figure in bronze, which is five metres high. The work’s title refers to legendary redemptive and retributive ghosts from literature.
Eva Rothschild’s sculpture This and this and this (2013) is a three-sided pyramidal structure made out of lightweight struts held together in geometrical arrangements. An angular structure, the three intertwined triangles seem to be resting effortlessly.
Roger Hiorns works inventively with materials as diverse as steel, ceramic, BMW engines, photography, disinfectant and foam. His large steel sculpture Untitled (2008) will be viewed against the backdrop of the College’s orchard.
Lucy Skaer’s American Images (2014) will be appearing in the UK for the first time. American Images is made up of three limestone boulders Skaer took from quarries outside a small Iowa ghost town. The fine-grained limestone was widely used in lithography in the early 1900s, but was soon replaced by metal plates.
James Capper, currently a Breakthrough Award finalist in the South Bank Sky Arts Awards, merges art and engineering to make machines. Capper will be exhibiting two land-marking machines, Tread Toe (2010) and Ripper (2008). Made of steel, electric motor, control levers, concrete blocks and cable, and weighing 1000kg, Ripper can drag itself along to 'rip' up a path, displacing whatever lies in its way. Tread Toe is a self-powered, steel-framed walking machine.
The modern pieces will be thrown into stark relief by their historic setting. Jesus College was built around an old Benedictine convent, with beautiful buildings dating back to the 12th century. The historic courts and listed buildings offer a surprising and provocative backdrop to the sculptures.
The Royal Academy’s Director of Artistic Programmes Tim Marlow is chief advisor to the exhibition. Tim said: “Jesus College’s commitment to contemporary sculpture is long standing. I’m delighted the momentum generated by a succession of strong shows featuring established sculptors is being built on, and I salute the inclusion of a younger generation of artists who are beginning to make their reputations on the international stage.”
Jesus College’s Rod Mengham curates the exhibition. Rod said: “This year’s exhibition will feature some really spectacular pieces. They will look incredible laid out in the College’s grounds, making a striking contrast with our listed buildings, some of which date back to the 12th century".
Jesus College’s biennial Sculpture in the Close exhibition is now in its fourth decade. The College’s permanent sculptures, including works by Antony Gormley, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Barry Flanagan, will also be available to view.
The free exhibition is open to the public every day between Monday 22 June and Sunday 27 September, 11am – 8pm. Guidebooks are available from Jesus College’s Porters’ Lodge.