Helaine Blumenfeld

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In four decades of groundbreaking sculpture, Helaine Blumenfeld has held solo shows all over the world and exhibited with Henry Moore in New York; her work has been the subject of two dedicated books of art criticism and a wealth of press acclaim; and her public commissions grace landscapes as different as Cambridge, Brussels and Virginia. But of all the awards that she has received, it is perhaps the one given to her most recently - the International Award of Sculpture Pietrasanta and Versilia in the World - which means the most. In part, that is because the award comes from her peers and colleagues in Pietrasanta; with its unique resources of materials, equipment and skilled craftsmen, Pietrasanta remains the home of sculpture as a profession, and its ethos of passion and vitality, combined with a pride in the work and a certain artistic ruthlessness, informs Blumenfeld’s sculpture as much as the marble from the quarries at Carrara.

Without doubt, there has been a fundamental structural development in Blumenfeld’s work over the years, and it has brought a new degree of movement and lyricism to her sculpture. She began by taking solid, complex units and adding thinner, shell-like elements which significantly changed the mass of each piece: sculptures that had previously seemed heavy and earthbound suddenly acquired a sense of flight. Gradually, those additions acquired a primary importance, and she is now capable of manipulating them to the extent that they provide all the volume, complexity and movement that a finished work requires if it is to show - through the very real materials of marble and bronze - something which is in fact beyond substance. The outer surfaces of these pieces reflect an inner spirituality and, while transparency is not easily achieved in sculpture, Blumenfeld’s technical virtuosity means that she consistently brings light into her work as a fourth dimension.

Helaine Blumenfeld’s work communicates on many different levels - visual and imaginative, tactile and emotional - but underlying everything is an insistence on growth and development. For both artist and viewer, this sculpture represents a journey of revelation and discovery and, while that may be a solitary process, Blumenfeld is also keen to emphasis that the work cannot exist in isolation: she was the first recipient of the International Award of Sculpture Pietrasanta ever to thank the skilled craftsmen who work alongside the community’s artists, to recognise that a sculpture’s origins are singular but that its realisation is a collaborative process; and she has always believed that the success of her work depends in part on stories brought to it by the viewer - only when this exchange happens is a sculpture truly complete. There is a depth of connection in this exhibition which is not simply for the well-informed, or for those trained in the myths and history of a single culture, and an urgency to believe that sculpture - by resisting cynicism and rhetoric - can be a language of genuine social change. A new directness has entered Blumenfeld’s vocabulary, a directness akin to that which she saw in the Cycladic sculptures that drove her to sculpture in the first place, and which offers a sense of possibility and creative hope - as long as we are brave enough to respond. To borrow a phrase from Henry Moore’s famous manifesto of 1934, in Blumenfeld’s work we find ‘an expression of the significance of life’ and, even more importantly, ‘a stimulation to greater effort in living’.

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