January 16-March 8, 2015
Opening Friday, January 16, 5-8 pm
A video recording of Myron’s gallery talk is streaming below and is also available on YouTube.
Trying to harness the diverse content and materials in these sculptures is like trying to organize debris at a picnic on a windy day.
– Myron Helfgott
Presenting over 50 works, including several room-size installations, this retrospective covers nearly 45 years of production and fills all three floors of the Gallery. It is curated by Director Ashley Kistler, who has worked closely with the artist over the last two years to develop the exhibition.
A native Chicagoan, Helfgott joined the faculty of the VCUarts Department of Sculpture in 1968. He has since been a creative mainstay of the Richmond arts community, while also exhibiting at numerous venues beyond the region. In the aftermath of his retirement from teaching in 2003, Helfgott’s activity in the studio has continued unabated. Organized thematically, the exhibition combines new and recent works from this enormously productive period with significant pieces selected from over the decades, including sculptures he made not long after arriving in Richmond.
Helfgott has always conceived sculpture as a flexible and inclusive activity, capable of accommodating diverse materials, objects, approaches, ideas, and collaborations. “This gives his work a vitality and depth that is fresh, edgy, and often badly behaved,” observes VCUarts Dean Joe Seipel. “Its underlying mischievous and subversive character keeps the viewer engaged with complex issues and imagery.”
As an undergraduate, Helfgott studied architecture and design at the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University before completing his MFA in sculpture at SIU. In the late 1950s and early 60s, studies with the visionary architect R. Buckminster Fuller instilled in him a lifelong interest in physical structure, apparent today in the meticulously made plywood armatures of his sculptures.
At the same time, Helfgott’s exposure to Gestalt psychology shaped other enduring aspects of his work, including his concept of the viewer’s participatory role and the psychological self-portrait, which reappears in different guises through the years, often in a fragmented state. As a young artist, he was also intent on incorporating in sculpture the figure-ground relationship and pictorial space of painting, a concern reflected more recently in his manipulation of photographs into three-dimensional components.
During the 2000s, deeply influenced by literature and film, Helfgott introduced the element of time by first adding kinetics and then audio to his work—the latter based mostly on his own texts whose wide-ranging existential musings are full of humor, wit, and pathos. “The challenges and rewards of an open-ended process draws Helfgott back into the studio each day,” notes Kistler, “not only in terms of material experimentation, but also for the meaningful self-discovery that is gleaned in the making.”
Published by the Anderson Gallery, and funded by generous contributions from individuals and the Dean’s Office, a fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. It will include a foreword by Seipel, essays by Kistler and VCU Professor Emeritus of Art History Howard Risatti, a story by fiction writer and critic Dinah Ryan, a comprehensive biography by Gallery Coordinator Traci Garland, and additional contributions from sculptors Elizabeth King and Lester Van Winkle, editor Mary Flinn, and poet Elizabeth Seydel Morgan.
Style Weekly, “The Provocateur,” 2015 January 13
Richmond Magazine (online), “Inside Myron Helfgott’s Head,” 16 January 2015