This summer, three major sculptures by Sophia Vari can be found installed on the Smithson Plaza, continuing an established legacy of showcasing significant works of modern and contemporary art in this important location. Vari's Le Roi et La Reine (2000), a sculpture in two parts, and Trouble Essentiel (1993) are black and white polychrome bronze sculptures which encapsulate the key concerns of the artist's sculptural practice.
Le Roi et La Reine (2000) presents two figures abstracted from the game of chess, a subject which has preoccupied a diverse range of artists, from Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso, to Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer. In this pair of sculptures, Vari presents monumental renditions of the king and queen, which, lifted from the chess board, soar upwards together with curvilinear and intertwined forms. The voluminous shapes of the sculptures appear to emerge and twist together, in compositions which balance abstraction with figuration, movement with stillness, and strength with elegance. Black and white are usually representative of opponent forces on the chessboard, and Vari's decision to combine the two in each piece increases this sense of unity and co-dependence.
Also included in this outdoor exhibition, Trouble Essentiel (1993) a compact composition containing a vibrant energy, nods to Olmec artistic traditions, one of a multiplicity of influences which informs Vari's rich and timeless sculpture. These sculptures were forged in one of the historic bronze foundries of Pietrasanta in Italy, with whom Sophia Vari has been collaborating for several decades. The industry of bronze casting was indubitably and exclusively male-dominated when Vari began work in this medium in the 1970s; undeterred, she has persevered to create her work on an ever larger scale and continues to make new work today.
The installation of these works by Sophia Vari is part of an ongoing collaboration between Waddington Custot and Encounter Contemporary. It is the fourth exhibition initiated by the two organisations at the Smithson Plaza, following the presentation of three works by American sculptor Jedd Novatt in 2019, a collection of sculptural pieces by British artist David Annesley in the same year and Jean Dubuffet's monumental Tour aux récits (1973) in 2020.