At the Prometheus of Brancusi
Danielle: Have you seen this before?
Tim: Some of us have seen it here. We have all seen a version
of it at the Brancusi retrospective at MOMA last year. This is like The
Newborn, but it's
earlier piece - like an archetype for all of the work that is to follow.
John Ravenal: Take a really good look. There are one or two little
details that are
Jorge: It's an egg...also a head.
Robert: In Rubens' Prometheus, he's a guy who pays for giving
mankind fire. Here, Brancusi is playing Prometheus - he's giving life to this little
of marble - to stone.
Tim: It's an egg, it's a face, it's a head, it's a brain ...
but first of all it's art,
it's pure sculpture. It's intelligence made
material. But like the Prometheus of
it's full of possibility, potential, growth. It's almost like a fetus. It's full of
John: Very deliberately.
Emanuel: And you can see the beginning of eyes, a
you can see all that in the shadow that it casts on the pedestal.
John: And this piece has all these great imperfections. You have a sense that this
like a creamy, translucent skin that is containing life - shown honestly with blemishes
and all. Brancusi was very aware of the nature of marble, with its light and its
Tim: Marble suits the Prometheus theme because it contains
This piece of marble is glowing.
Jorge: Rubens' Prometheus glows too. It's like he's made of
when everything else in the painting is dark - except the fire.
Tim: There's something so moving and touching about
Prometheus; it teeters on the edge of corniness. It's about to hatch.
John: So much of Brancusi is about birth and growth and origins, all as metaphors
Tim: So much of recent art is about what is impossible. The
modernists were about what is imaginable. The perfection - the utopia - of Brancusi may
an idealistic myth, but I believe it's a myth we need to survive with
Emanuel: Doesn't The Newborn look like the face
John: Exactly. It's like a crying baby. It's lower lip seems almost quivering, like
way a baby would cry in a cartoon.
Daniel: Are there any other Prometheus works here?
John: There's the Lipchitz sculpture out in front of the museum.
Danielle: We used to display this amazing Thomas Cole painting
the side of the Palisades with a huge turkey vulture coming to attack him. The vulture
is much more noticeable than the figure of Prometheus.
Jorge: In the Brancusi, is the acrylic cover and the linen
pedestal part of the artwork?
Tim: No. I think this is before Brancusi started creating his
pedestals to become part of the whole sculpture. His Prometheus is just an object,
for a table. We can check that out. He took these beautiful, funky photographs of his
work in his studio, so maybe we can find out how he wanted his Prometheus to be