Gaston Lachaise: Complicate the Joyfulness, A Discussion.

Recorded December 2020. Led by Sculptor Garth Evens, and joined for the talk by Choghakate Kazarian, Jock Ireland, Brandt Junceau, and Rachael Bohlander. Sculpture Forum confronts the work and legacy of Gaston Lachaise after visiting one of the sculptor’s final pieces, Floating Woman, now installed in Hunter’s Point South Park, Long Island City, NY. Video and editing by Rachael Bohlander.

The following are excerpts from the subsequent discussion:

I think Lachaise is well worth visiting/revisiting. He seems to me to be an artist who has been completely overlooked in the present day, problematic in many ways, perhaps misunderstood in many ways. –Garth Evans

The sad thing is that The Floating Woman was a lateral move that was not followed up. And I feel strongly that it really might have been. –Brandt Junceau

I think it’s still in a way the least literal piece that he made. –Brandt Junceau

I saw it in the distance and I thought it was just delightful. As I walked toward it, it seemed really joyful and really delightful. And when I got to it and began to spend a little time with it, I began to find it weirder and weirder. –Garth Evans

I believe it was “Elevation”—and I was traumatized by this sculpture. It was huge, but not huge enough to be a monument. Just a little bigger than life—still close, but far. I was terrified. It appeared to me very vulgar and overwhelming. With Lachaise it’s probably a more American type of body: fleshier, without bones. They’re the bodies of lazy women, a lot of flesh and lazy flesh: that’s what today kind of shocks you: this kind of expansion of flesh. And this specific “Floating Woman”—she has an animal form, a sea animal. I don’t know what type and probably the fact that she’s above water makes you really believe that she’s a sort of sea animal. –Choghakate Kazarian

I see Lachaise I guess through Sidney, Sidney Geist, and I see Lachaise as a virtuoso. Sidney talked about his—what Sidney called Lachaise’s “golden fingertips” or “golden hands.” Lachaise just had a gift for modeling in clay. –Jock Ireland

His obsession predated Isabel. He found a vessel for it when he met her—but I’m not even sure it had to do with women, with actual real people. I don’t think it had to do with women generally, and I think that’s why these figures are gender ambiguous. When I was walking up, my kind of gut reaction was: oh, great—another homage to fertility. Yay. But the more I looked at it, in a lot of respects, it reminded me of some of the African sculpture that we discussed a couple of weeks ago from the Sahel show. Where she really—by virtue of the way the torso and the breast bone and where the head is situated—she really projects an awful lot of power outward and a number of his sculptures do. –Rachael Bohlander

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