Beyond: Alain Elkann presents the work of Louise Manzon

Sculpture exhibition by Louise Manzon
Gallery 61-New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), New York City.

Curator: Jennifer Mitchell-Nevin
From April 12th to June 3rd 2016

An event by Advantage Première Art Fund



by Alain Elkann


I have always looked at sculptors with envy because there are not very many of them and I would have wanted their same talent!


Why? Because sculpture is an extremely physical art in terms of the artist who creates it, the materials that are usually used, and for the end result.


There is a vitality and a movement in sculpture that in a certain sense can also be found in music. But music is immaterial, while sculpture is the art form that is the most material, the most concrete. Sculptures are placed in parks, squares, gardens, churches, museums, palaces, confident of living through the centuries and ravages of time, albeit perhaps with some event as occurs when a tyrant is killed or when sculptures suffer damage like the Samothrace now in the Louvre. She has lost her head, but not her wings.


So, gazing at some of the marine forms, some of the fish, they make me think of Balla’s speed. It occurs to me that Louise Manzon’s work is a pearl that belongs to the long string of pearls that is sculpture.


A Brazilian artist, who has experienced North America and the works of Louise Nevelson, who has known Paris and the works of Camille Claudel and Rodin, who looked upon the works of Brancusi and Moore, has been able to find her own materials and turn them into voluptuous, restless forms that seem to want to flee, to break through, to look for the light. But the sculptures can not escape because they are immobile, and therefore it is fascinating that the artist knows how to give them a sense, the illusion of movement, by using forms she models in materials that are sometimes rough and difficult to shape. I enjoy imagining an initial sketch, and then the transition to the transformation of the material in its form. Louise Manzon has her recognizable cipher that is carried along with faded memory, the memory of those who came before her. Calder worked with wire and colorful metal plates inspired by the works of Mondrian and he was able to reproduce the world of the circus that so fascinated him. Giacometti invented those slender bodies that were inspired by primitive totems. That same primitive art was to inspire sculptors like Brancusi and painters like Picasso – who also tried his hand at sculpture.


Louise Manzon is not intimidated by her illustrious predecessors because she has her own poetic world and creates its forms in green, red, blue, fish or in the depiction of a young blonde girl with an angelic and ambiguous face, absent and dreamy, with her long neck and blue robe. As I looked at this sculpture, I do not know why the Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca came to mind.


Louise Manzon’s sculptures, modeled in clay, seem to come from the depths of the sea after having fought through the seaweed and the reefs, her woman-Nereid figures are billowing and alive, tenuous. Hailing from Brazil, her many travels have given her a strong desire to live, to breathe the fresh air of the early morning and feel happiness of what is newly found, a fabulous unknown that her fish look at with eyes wide open. Her forms to some seem Baroque; to me they call to mind futurists such as Balla or Medardo Rosso. But the colors produced by the artist bring us back to an older, submerged world. They are the colors of the vases found on the seabed or the chains and anchors of the galleons sunk by pirates. I do not see compromise in her work, decorative elements or elements that link to anything too precise. Through the clay, everything finds its own energy, its own place, its own form. There is no perfection without commitment and Louise Manzon’s women-Nereids, with their gaze turned upward, know this well in their attempt to go beyond moral conventions and stereotypes that remain attached to them like the labels that can be glimpsed on one of the flowing robes. The artist goes beyond the repetition of familiar stories, the intergenerational transmission of secrets and burdens, obligations and apparitions of past lives that remain trapped in the fibers of the clothes worn by these beautiful women. Michelangelo hits all the marks: the strength of Moses, the sweetness and delicacy of the Pietà, the beauty and youth of David, and the incompleteness of the Rondanini Pietà. Louise Manzon has certainly looked at Michelangelo and especially the works of Bernini while walking through the streets of Rome and pausing to gaze on his fountains. Water, fish, mythological figures. But Louise Manzon is just herself; she has found her forms, her light, her poetic world, her message to today’s world, which is at times mysterious and at times clear. Beauty always accompanies her forms and perhaps Louise wants to say that the world is being destroyed and self-destructs; we are surrounded by the noise of weapons, and tension of terrorism, but she sculpts her fish with sensual shapes, articulated with the most beautiful colors. Matisse did the same thing during the First World War in his tenacity for painting beakers containing gold fish. Or as did Morandi who painted vases and bottles under the drone of trumpet calls and the rhetoric of the totalitarian regimes


Louise Manzon wants simply to be a sculptor and lose herself in the dreamy, mysterious world of her forms that are neither abstract nor figurative. They are impressive, strong, unique and eye-catching because they are immobile but moving.


This phenomenon of immobility in motion gives the artist the role of knowing how to tell or to explain nature and life in the age in which she lives and she has witnessed. And so the contemporary and the classical blend together in the centuries and we can see the Discobolus of Myron or the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, through a long string of pearls, arrive at the sculptures of Louise Manzon.


December 2015