Installation shot (Foreground: Persistence )
Sabin Howard has found his way into these pages before. Back in 2007 James Panero visited the sculptor’s studio tucked away in the South Bronx. Last Thursday The National Arts Club raised the curtain on Howard’s latest exhibition, Sculpting Gods, showing through January 15 in the Marquis Gallery. It’s easy to see why The New York Times calls Howard “a sculptor of immense talent,” creator of “some of the last decade’s most substantive realistic sculpture.” Never mind the last decade. Howard’s work indubitably takes its place among the best examples of classical realism America has seen in half a century.
Entering Sculpting Gods, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into Cellini’s studio. Busts of deities watch over figures crouched in deep repose. Rippling physiques meet eyes fixed earthwards in inert cogitation. An imperturbable Hermes holds his arms aloft without his Caduceus, the snake coiled around his wrist, eyes locked on the far distance.
There’s nine sculptures here, all in bronze save Fragment of Ego (1997) and Fragment of Stubborness (1997), both in patinaed plaster. Real standouts include Persistence and Stubborness (1996, 1997), analogies of the “commitment sculpture would require as a life path,” recalling the tormented figures of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The more recent works, Fragment of Hermes (2006) and Fragment of Apollo (2010) (pictured below), cut from the monumental Hermes and Apollo respectively, tell an intriguingly different story from their antecedents.
Fragment of Apollo (2010)
Speaking about the Renaissance Masters, Howard says:
This art elevates viewers, and I aspire to make art at this level. So I emulated these masters with a cult-like persistence. As years went by, my own soul and individual experience crept in. My art focused less on the Masters and more on the energy I experienced as a child in Italy. I wanted to experience and express the feelings I had when I stood under the porticos in the majestic, spacious piazzas of Torino, holding my grandfather’s hand: I was, literally, awe-inspired, dazzled, and uplifted. Looking up at Baroque church steeples surrounded by an azure blue sky left an imprint on me. Art is sacred and connects me to something larger than myself. That’s why I sculpt.
Howard will be presenting a talk at the exhibition’s opening reception on Thursday, January 10, 6:00PM – 8:00PM. For more information click here.
The National Arts Club is consistently reaching its goal, to “stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts.” In addition to Sculpting Gods, this month it’s showing Nelson Shanks and the Studio Incamminati in the Grand Gallery through January 14, featuring a collection of works from the fine arts atelier, which in 2012 celebrated its 10th anniversary. There’s also JC Leyendecker: It’s a Man’s World, showing through January 19 in the Gregg Gallery, a collection of original paintings by the illustrator Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874–1951, best known for his poster, book and advertising illustrations. Both are highly worth seeing.
A full listing of projects at The National Arts Club can be found here.
All photos © Neilson MacKay 2013