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Ugo Rondinone

SUNRISE. west. april, 2004
97.0 x 68.0 x 29.0 cm
In 2003, Ugo Rondinone began a cycle of different series of grimacing, grotesque masks of animals and humans. The series SUNRISE. west is made up of twelve aluminum mural sculptures approximately one meter in height, and it responds to the series MOONRISE. west, cast in black rubber.

Although the complete series refers to the rising sun, the brink of day, and one of the four cardinal points (west in this case), each individual work is more specifically associated with a month of the year, from January to December. The whole is therefore closely linked to the natural cosmos and its temporal cycle as represented by the annual calendar, governed by the movement of the sun.

Contrary to what one might think, the source of the artist’s inspiration is not African tribal art, and it is therefore not so much connected with the primitivism that was in fashion in the early 20th century. Instead, Rondinone seems more interested in the masks of the Yupik, an Inuit population living mainly in Alaska.

Made of pieces of wood skillfully covered in painted decorations, these personify invisible spirits and are used in spiritual ceremonies celebrated with music and dance. Rondinone abandons their original ritual function by enlarging them considerably and reducing the facial elements to distorted, simplified shapes and well-known mischievous facial expressions (like a wink in this case), and by reformulating them abstractly in modern materials.

Modelled in clay, then cast in aluminum, they present a rough surface that caries the trace of the artist’s fingers in the raw material, and by extension bears his personal stamp, one that is more tangible than spiritual.
Ugo Rondinone, SUNRISE. west. april, Levé de soleil. ouest. avril, 2004