Continuing our series of contemporary art exhibitions at the Theseus Temple, this year we are presenting Bacchante, a new commission by the young American sculptor Kathleen Ryan. This is Ryan’s first museum exhibition.
Kathleen Ryan was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1984. She studied archaeology and art as an undergraduate at Pitzer College, and graduated in 2014 from the prestigious Master of Fine Arts programme at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). Her teachers there included the artists Charles Ray and Catherine Opie. She has had solo exhibitions at Josh Lilley, London, and Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles, and was selected for the Frieze Sculpture Park in London and the 71st Scripps Ceramics Annual, the longest continuous exhibition of ceramics in the United States. Ryan currently lives and works between Los Angeles and New York.
The exhibition is curated by Jasper Sharp, and generously supported by the Contemporary Patrons of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
A cascade of bursting ripe, oversized grapes tumbles to the floor. Tethered by raw stainless steel chains and cast in polished concrete with a buoyancy that seems to defy the material, they are draped over a terracotta cushion and laid on a stone mattress. The work’s title, Bacchante, points us away from the inanimate towards something more human, a female follower of Bacchus (Greek: Dionysus), the riotous, drunken Greek and Roman god of wine, freedom and ecstasy. Lying here in a temple, the sculpture is many things at once: playful and sensual, emancipated and restrained, ideal and blasphemous. The work draws on a visual vocabulary anchored in the history of art, from the voluptuous, overtly sexualized femininity of the Venus of Willendorf to the myths and iconography of Ancient Greece and the painted still lifes of Caravaggio. It manages to remain both resolutely classical and a contemporary provocation.
CONTEMPORARY ART AT THE THESEUS TEMPLE
Beginning in 2012, the museum initiated a new series of exhibitions within the Temple, a neo-classical structure built by court architect Peter von Nobile in 1823 to be the home for a single work of then-contemporary art: Antonio Canova's white marble masterpiece “Theseus Slaying the Centaur”. For almost seventy years this artwork stood alone inside the building, until in 1891 it was moved to the newly-completed Kunsthistorisches Museum where it still stands today. More than a century later, these exhibitions have returned the Temple to its original purpose: to house remarkable artworks by contemporary artists, one at a time.
Artists who have previously exhibited at the Theseus Temple include Ugo Rondinone (2012), Kris Martin (2012), Richard Wright (2013), Edmund de Waal (2014), Susan Philipsz (2015) and Ron Mueck (2016).