Adrián Villar Rojas Cuts Michelangelo’s David Down to Size at Marian Goodman in London
The artist's travesty of one of history's great masterworks forces the viewer to reconsider status.
In 1817 the radical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a sonnet in which he describes the ruins of a sculpture of a once-great king. All that remains of the colossal work is a barely legible boast—”Here lies Ozymandias, King of kings”— an assertion that can only ring hollow given the statue’s dilapidated state. The poem sends a clear message: status, no matter how great, is a transient thing.
The lessons of Ozymandias are not lost on young Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas, whose large-scale sculptural installations often play with notions of primacy and the changeable value of well-known masterpieces outside of their familiar contexts.
On the first floor of London’s Marian Goodman Gallery, Villar Rojas presents a life-sized marble reproduction of the legs of Michelangelo’s David. The untitled sculpture is part of the artist’s ongoing series The Theater of Disappearance, which you might have already seen on the roof of the Met or in the immersive exhibitions in Austria’s Kunsthaus Bregenz and Athen’s NEON Foundation.
The fact that the legs are a replica of Michelangelo’s celebrated work means they can’t be considered outside of an understanding of David’s status in the art world. That said, they are literally severed from that context, too, making an artistic statement that is wholly their own.
Villar Rojas’ installation does a job of interrupting the established status quo, calling into question the supposed supremacy of any particular artwork. Here David’s legs, just like Ozymandias’ “vast and trunkless legs of stone,” serve to remind the viewer of the seeming inevitable decline of empires and the ephemeral nature of status in any one era.
See some images of the work below:
Adrián Villar Rojas’s “From the series of The Theater of Disappearance“ is on view at Marian Goodman, London, June 5 –July 24, 2017.
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