Sculpture in the Home, Pangolin, London

Sculpture in the Home was a brilliantly conceived and inviting exhibition. It celebrated a series of touring shows with the same name that took place in the 1940s and 1950s. Pangolin’s generous Kings Place space was transformed into a number of domestic settings, incorporating post-World War II furnishings and objects such as textiles, books and magazines and records that bring the 1950s alive again. The superbly illustrated catalogue lists the many individuals and organisations – such as Amelia McNeil, Carter Wells Interior Design Agency, Race Furniture, Sanderson and Twentytwentyone – instrumental in its conception. It also includes photographs of the sculpture and two-dimensional works by artists operating in that innovative post-war period that forms the core of the exhibition.

In recent years, visitors to exhibitions have been accustomed to view artworks, often on a huge scale, in largely dehumanised, warehouse-like spaces. A nice feature of Sculpture in the Home was that its modestly sized works were at home in a domestic setting, open-plan but room-like in conception. That domestic atmosphere was immediately apparent on entry, where a 1960s teak hall stand wass casually littered with coats and hats. The hall stand was for sale, like most of the artefacts and all but a few of the sculptures and wall-mounted works.

1. Interior with Lynn Chadwick, (photo: Steve Russell, Pangolin, London)

In her informative catalogue introduction, gallery director Polly Bielecka outlines how the first of the five Sculpture in the Home exhibitions was organised by the Artists International Association (AIA) in October 1945 at Heal’s Mansard Gallery on Tottenham Court Road, the Arts Council taking on the series the following year with a pared-down show. Frank Dobson, the recently appointed professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art, was asked to make the selection that proved eclectic, including both traditional figurative and abstract work. By the time of the 1950 exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, Dobson –- a sculptor whose own work incorporated long-practised skills with elements of Modernism –- was including a strong group of young sculptors, including Robert Adams, Reg Butler, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull.

2. Geoffrey Clarke, Horse and Rider, (photo: Steve Russell, Pangolin, London)

The early 1950s were a highly creative period in British sculpture as these artists experimented with newer materials. Their increasing success was reflected in the 1953 Sculpture in the Home show, in which Lynn Chadwick, Geoffrey Clarke and Elisabeth Frink were included for the first time. The last Sculpture in the Home show took place in 1958, where the majority of the sculptors were young. Alongside the long-term and established supporters of the series – Dobson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore – now Ralph Brown, Anthony Caro, Robert Clatworthy, Kenneth Martin and Leslie Thornton showed work. Introducing the catalogue, the then director of the Arts Council, Gabriel White, took credit for the Council having developed the public’s taste in sculpture and its widespread acquisition for domestic settings.

3. Ralph Brown, Running Girl, (photo: Steve Russell, Pangolin, London)

The Pangolin exhibition includes a good selection of works on paper, by Kenneth Armitage, Butler, Chadwick, Clarke, Frink, George Fullard, John Hoskin, Meadows and Paolozzi, with unframed examples and lithographs available in a browser. The sculpture on display was impressive, the artists represented being Armitage, Brown, Butler, Chadwick, Clarke, Clatworthy, Hubert Dalwood, Dobson, Frink, Fullard, Hoskin, F E McWilliam, Meadows, Moore, Paolozzi, Willi Soukop, Leon Underwood and Rosemary Young.

4. Rosemary Young, Young Women and Children, (photo: Steve Russell, Pangolin, London)

There were many special delights among the 32 sculptures displayed. For this reviewer, especially memorable were Ralph Brown’s joyous Running Girl with a Wheel; Reg Butler’s Study for Fetish aptly placed near his wife Rosemary Young’s delightful Women with Children; Lynn Chadwick’s Mobile and his haunting, pterodactyl-like Stranger; Geoffrey Clarke’s impressive Horse and Rider; Frank Dobson’s pensive Head of a Girl; George Fullard’s enigmatic St Francis; Henry Moore’s unusual Wall Relief IV; Willi Soukop’s lovely Head; and Leon Underwood’s bounding Atalanta.

This exhibition was full of delights and invited more than one visit.

Sculpture in the Home, Pangolin London, King’s Place, 90, York Way, N1 9AG
April 8th – May 17th 2014

Main image: Installation view, Sculpture in the Home, Pangolin London, (photo: Steve Russell, Pangolin London)

Aurora Corio