VIRGINIA, 1970

IMPORTANT AUSTRALIAN + INTERNATIONAL FINE ART
Sydney
20 September 2017
10

CLEMENT MEADMORE

(1929 – 2005)
VIRGINIA, 1970

painted aluminium

46.5 x 183.0 x 71.0 cm

edition: 5/6

signed and numbered at base: Meadmore 5/6
cast by Lippincott Sculpture, Connecticut, USA

Estimate: 
$80,000 – 120,000
Provenance

Lippincott Sculpture, Connecticut, USA, acquired directly from the artist
Private collection, Florida, USA, acquired from the above in 2007
Private collection, Sydney

Exhibited

Clement Meadmore, Max Hutchinson Gallery, New York, 6 – 31 March 1971 (another example)

Catalogue text

‘Modern American art came into its own when it stopped trying to be American’.1 It is interesting that Clement Meadmore should say this for it speaks volumes about his reason for leaving Australia for the USA in 1963. He found that the general expectation that Australian artists should be working in an Australian idiom was inhibiting his development. He therefore yearned to be near the artistic capital of the world and with good reason; once he had established himself in New York, accolades and commissions soon followed.

By the time Meadmore moved to the United States the international minimalist movement had peaked. Interpreted by many as a logical response to the excesses of abstract expressionism and born out of the cool lines of modernism, the minimalist movement produced giants of twentieth century painting and sculpture: Donald Judd, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, Richard Serra, and Frank Stella to name few. However, it is arguable that Meadmore’s elegant curves would have overstimulated the minimalists and therefore disqualified him from the club. But it was the minimalists’ predilection for closed form sculpture which became the movement’s lasting legacy for Meadmore. From 1966 onwards, the artist worked within a narrow range of forms and materials to create his remarkably even body of work. Eric Gibson has written extensively on the artist, and below talks about the artist’s choice of square, tubular metal to create his forms ... ‘coupled with the clear-cut edges and smooth surfaces, the blunt ends are the chief means by which his sculptures set themselves off from space. In them line, edge, and plane come together to delineate abruptly and clearly the end of the form and the beginning of space and to keep them clearly separate. They are a way of asserting the sculpture’s status as an object, as something distinct from the space around it’.2

In the late 1960s plans for a National Gallery for Australia were being drawn up and it began acquiring works of art for its collection. The gallery’s proposed sculpture garden, to be situated on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin, would be a feature of the new building and so the acquisition of major sculpture was a priority. The Gallery commissioned the international Australian sculptor Clement Meadmore to create a major work for the site and this resulted in the massive, rusted, corten-steel work, Virginia, 1970, of which our current example is a large maquette.

His infinitely variable maquettes were bronze cast in small editions and chosen examples were then massively upscaled at the Lippincott sculpture fabricators in Connecticut. The current example on offer was originally owned by the Lippincott family, who acquired it directly from the artist in lieu of payment. Further midsized examples of Meadmore’s sculpture were also created at Lippincott and exhibited at commercial galleries in Australia and New York. Max Hutchinson Gallery in New York became an important venue where Meadmore’s work was accessible to the local audience. Many Meadmore works are colossal in scale and proudly occupy the sculpture parks and malls of major cities the world over.

1. The artist quoted in Gibson, E., The Sculpture of Clement Meadmore, Hudson Hill Press, New York, 1994, p. 14
2. Gibson, E., The Sculpture of Clement Meadmore, Hudson Hill Press, New York, 1994, p. 42

HENRY MULHOLLAND