Barbara Hepworth: A Matter of Form

Barbara Hepworth


Presented in association with the Hepworth Estate, Barbara Hepworth: A Matter of Form is the first exhibition in the U.S since 2001 dedicated to the British artist. It is staged at Pace, 537 West 24th Street and runs until 21st April.

Hepworth established an enduring commitment to carving wood and stone, and transformed modernist sculpture with her pioneering method of piercing the block. She made her first pierced sculpture in 1932, introducing voids in her compositions.

A Matter of Form includes works in a range media—from bronze and marble to mahogany and aluminum—as well as sculptures from across Hepworth’s thematic range—such as relationships between mother and child, man and nature, and the individual to the group. The impact of Hepworth’s ongoing commitment to the “direct carving” technique stands out throughout the exhibition. Rather than traditional casting, “direct carving” allowed Hepworth to pursue profound spiritual connections with her material.

The stunning exhibition features more than twenty-five sculptures and selected paintings spanning the artist’s career—from the 1930s through the 1970s. It reveals Hepworth’s legacy as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

On the relationship between her body and her material, Hepworth said: “My left hand is my thinking hand. The right is only a motor hand. This holds the hammer. The left hand, the thinking hand, must be relaxed, sensitive. The rhythms of thought pass through the fingers and grip this hand into the stone. It is also a listening hand. It listens for basic weaknesses or flaws in the stone; for the possibility or imminence of fractures.”

The physical and bodily relationship to process and form deepened Hepworth’s focus on interior and exterior space. Major works in the exhibition—such as Elegy III (1966), and three sculptures from the Family of Man series: Ancestor I (1970), Ancestor II (1970), and Bridegroom (1970)—illustrate the rich vitality of form that Hepworth invented throughout her career.

Image: Three Forms, 1935, cast in 1971, polished bronze © Bowness, Hepworth Estate