The Philadelphia Museum of Art has announced that it will present the first comprehensive survey of Barbara Chase-Riboud’s iconic Malcolm X steles this fall. With related sculptures and drawings, the exhibition brings together more than 40 works from the US and Europe in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in more than 10 years.
Chase-Riboud’s sculptures dedicated to Malcolm X have been likened to contemporary interpretations of the steles erected in various parts of the ancient world to commemorate important people and events. Cast from cut and folded sheets of wax, the sculptures combine bronze, manipulated into undulating folds and crevices, with knotted and braided silk and wool fiber. This melding of forms and materials is evident in the museum’s own Malcolm X #3 (1969), which matches the golden hue of polished bronze with cascades of silk thread, a combination said to convey a “subtle tension and unity among opposites”.
The artist developed the first four sculptures in this series in 1969, inspired by the civil rights movement and her political and personal experiences living in France and traveling to North Africa, China, and the Soviet Union. Chase-Riboud returned to the series in 2003 and again in 2007 to 2008, creating a total of nine additional works. Reconciling vertical and horizontal, mineral and organic, light and dark, the artist has forged in the Malcolm X steles beacons dedicated to the possibility of cultural integration. The exhibition also includes sculptures that share an affinity with the Malcolm X series, such as All That Rises Must Converge/Gold (1973) and Tantra #1 (1994).
Selections from the artist’s Le Lit (The Bed) series of drawings from 1966 will also be on view.
The Museum will offer a poetry reading with Barbara Chase-Riboud on the evening of September 11.
Born in Philadelphia and educated at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and the Yale University School of Design and Architecture, Chase-Riboud has lived in Paris since 1961. She held solo exhibitions at the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and in major arts festivals, including Documenta VI. Chase Riboud is also an award-winning poet and writer.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest museums in the US, with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries presenting painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the US. Its facilities include its landmark Main Building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Perelman Building, located nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Rodin Museum on the 2200 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and two 18th-century houses in Fairmount Park, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove.