Four sculptures made in 2018 by Harold Ancart are on view in The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace in Jaipur. The artist loosely defines the works, which are made from oil stick on cast concrete, as "stairs."
The genesis for these works was a series of "pool" sculptures the artist began working on in the summer of 2017. "I had just moved to my new studio [in New York], which was bigger than the former one," Ancart explains; "Bigger meant that I could do more, such as casting concrete forms, which I had done in the past. I knew that I wanted to do something new but had no idea what that would be. As summer was making itself comfortable over the city, it got warmer and warmer in my studio. My assistant and I were complaining about the fact that almost nobody had a swimming pool in New York. It is because of the real estate, the price per square foot, and the density of the population that no one has one. But what if they were smaller? Anyone could afford the space for one, and even if one could not bathe in it, one could still invite their friends to have a drink or a cigarette around the pool.… Everyone knows that once you own a pool you never go in."
"We cast the first one on the same day. We used a fast-drying, already mixed concrete, and by the end of the day we had our first ‘pool.’ It was really basic: a rectangle carved into another rectangle gave shape to a ‘basin.’ For the second ‘pool,’ we decided to add ‘staircases.’"
Ancart, who is best known for works on canvas, used oil stick to paint the concrete casts, observing, "Once something is painted, it enters the world of painting, in which everything is possible. This meant I did not have to worry about the depth of the ‘basin’ versus the scale of the ‘stairs.’ It all started looking supernatural and effortless at the same time."
The sculptures, which are small scale, are in the form of flat, mostly rectangular landscapes with subtle gradations in depth across platforms or recessed areas. "Their compositions are fairly simple," Ancart says; "The ‘basin’ can have any size and take any shape, as can the ‘staircases.’ … The color can be anything too. Soon enough I realized that the realm of possibilities was infinite, so I decided to make more of these works."
Opened in December 2017, The Sculpture Park is India’s first public park for contemporary sculpture. A nonprofit collaboration between the government and Saat Saath Arts Foundation, which is supported by corporate sponsors and curated by Peter Nagy of Nature Morte gallery in Delhi, the park is located inside the Madhavendra Palace within the historic Nahargarh Fort in the northern city of Jaipur, capital of the state of Rajasthan. Originally built as a series of apartments for the Maharaja’s queens inside the three-hundred-year-old fort, the Madhavendra Palace is now the setting for large-scale annual exhibitions, of which this is the second. Ancart is one of twenty-one international artists whose work is featured in 2019. "Contemporary art in public spaces is something the whole country is engaging in," says Tarana Sawhney, a New Delhi-based collector who is a member of the Advisory Board of the Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) and Tate Modern’s South Asian acquisitions committee. The establishment of the sculpture park and the Jaipur Literary Festival have turned the city into "a real cultural center," Sawhney says.
Image: Installation view, 2019 exhibition at The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace in Jaipur, India, 2019
October 13, 2018–April 15, 2019
A new installation by Harold Ancart features in Painting the Night (Peindre la nuit), an exhibition exploring nighttime as a rich source of inspiration for modern and contemporary painting. Ancart will be showing a single untitled work measuring fifteen by forty-four feet.
Curated by Jean-Marie Gallais, head of exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, the exhibition approaches night as both an evolving and a topical subject of modernity, which relates to societal questions around commercial opening times, the effects of technological development from the illumination of streets to mobile devices, politics (the French Nuit debout movement included nightly assemblies in 2016), and scientific advancement, among other connections.
The selection of works in the exhibition, which is itself intended to be a "nocturnal experience," focuses on the perception of night rather than its iconography. In an Artforum review of a solo exhibition by Ancart in New York in 2015, Chinnie Ding described how "vibrant plants, bonfires, and astral confetti in the show’s seven oil-stick paintings thrum in tropical colors against abundant, magnetic fields of black that concentrate contemplation, evoking lacquerware worlds. . . . Seen up close, even the color-flecked carbon black sometimes suggests ripped rind more than deep space." Ancart recalled a visit to the Musée d’Orsay where a painting of a nocturnal scene inspired his work in that exhibition: "There were a whole bunch of masterpieces on offer but the one that really made an impression was a painting by Félix Vallotton of a black landscape under a blue night sky. In the center of the painting is a full moon and directly below is its unbroken reflection in a serendipitously wide river. . . . I was struck by the thought that this was the only place in the world where the moon and its reflection were really made of the same stuff."
Cover Image: Harold Ancart, Untitled, 2018 (detail)