Representing the human figure has been fundamental to art throughout time. Over the course of the 20th century, however, profound social, political, and artistic developments greatly expanded how the human form is rendered in art, liberating it from illusionistic demands for physical likeness. Comprising a range of mediums and approaches, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, video, and needlework, this exhibition explores various themes and issues that guide contemporary artists’ approaches to the figure.
Acting as the literal interface between an individual’s physical and psychological worlds, the figure has become a powerful vehicle for artists to make their internal realities visible. Some artists use themselves as subject matter while others work with live models, photographs, or personal memory as a starting point. They then employ processes of stylization and embellishment, enlist the universal language of symbols to make their interior worlds tangible to others, and/or reinterpret art history while reflecting the world in which they live. The selection of objects in this exhibition includes a number of recent acquisitions that are being exhibited at the Museum for the first time.