WHEN ONE THINKS about contemporary sculpture in today's artistic climate, large-scale, abstract forms tend to dominate the scene. Figurative work, which reigned supreme for centuries, either is relegated to mass produced--almost kitschy--animals and dancing nymphs, or human forms that are poorly conceived because the sculptor does not know proportion or how a figure moves in three dimensions. Few sculptors have the capacity to imbue their subject matter with a sublime sense of something greater--to imply a presence that speaks to something more.
In 1991, as director of the Philip & Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Pennsylvania's Ursinus College, I was introduced to sculptor George R. Anthonisen. Five years later, the museum mounted a major exhibition of his work which, for the first time, brought together major pieces with their more-intimate counterparts, such as maquettes (models in preparation for large-scale executions). Revealing Anthonisen's work in an academic environment was an exciting multidisciplined exercise in student/faculty engagement. Art history and studio art students interacted with chemistry scholars (how are bronze patinas formulated?), along with psychology majors, those in English writing courses, as well as history and language students.
Anthonisen cites Frenchman Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and American Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) as major influences, as there is a certain dramatic energy that emanates from his figures and subject matter. Key themes emerge consistently, including the human family, the exquisite female figure, and commentary on key historical events, thoughtfully distilled into sculptural statements.
Permanent installations of Anthonisen's bronzesart can be found at the Berman Museum of Art as well as another Pennsylvania venue, The James A. Michener Art Museum. These bodies of work are powerful statements about the human condition. These discreet, perpetual exhibitions are carefully arranged groupings of work that interrelate aesthetically and in content, but are commanding individual statements.
Testament to the artist's global vision is that his work also is collected outside traditional museum organizations, including Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music (bas-relief of pianist Rudolf Serkin); Georgia's Clark Atlanta University (African-American standing female nude); New York's Shorin Club Room (portrait head of George Gershwin); and Connecticut's Yale University (a two-tiered sculpture garden of Anthonisen's bronzes).
These site-specific sculptures are thoughtful homages...