Critical texts Art


In the 90's, Barbara Chase-Riboud emerged with a series of exhibitions as a singular and highly original post-modernist voice, apart, yet revered enough to have achieved a personal exhibition of her drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1999 (June-September, Paul Klee Gallery), a rare honor making her the first American woman to be so distinguished during her life time.

Chase-Riboud's reputation is based on a surprising number of firsts. She was the first American woman to have had a personal exhibition in a major American museum (Berkeley University Museum, Los Angeles, 1973). She was the first American woman and artist to visit the Republic of China after the revolution (1965). She was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, at 15 years old and has received numerous important fellowships including a John Hay Whitney fellowship to complete her studies at the Yale University School of Design and Architecture from which she graduated with a master's degree. She has a long list of honors, including numerous honorary Doctorates and a knighthood from the French government. She is included in major public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The National Collections, France, The George Pompidou Museum, Paris, The Philadelphia Art Museum, and the Berkeley Museum, California.

Chase-Riboud developed her mature style and her signature sculptures in the early 70's with an exhibition of her Malcom X series at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in Boston. These sculptures consisted of beautifully executed high reliefs of bronze with fiber which evoked intense emotional and shamanistic power in their surprising combination of contradictory materials. Her breakthrough came with the revelatory inversions of relationships these sculptures produced: the ísoftî material of silk fiber evolving into hardness and the ìhardî material of bronze melting into crushed, convoluted and Baroque softness.

During the 80's, not only did Chase-Riboud attack a new method of working with multicolored "woven" bronze plaques thrown over neo-classic architectural elements in her Cleopatra series (Cleopatra's cape, Door, Chair, Bed, and Marriage Contract which was shown at the British Museum, London in 2000) but she published a series of historical novels and poetry collections which made her famous in the literary world in the United States and Europe. Much of the public of her books was not even aware of her artistic career and vice-versa.

Finally, in the 90's, a kind of reconciliation between her art and her poetry took place with a new series of 25 drawings (The Monument Drawings exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum), a new series of more orchestrated and interwoven bronze and silk sculptures (La Musica series) and large scale public monuments (cumulating with the prize winning African Burial Groung Memorial on lower Broadway in New York) which have enhanced Chase-Riboud's statue as a post-modernist classicist whose brilliant technique, virtuosity and emotional and intellectual depth make her a revisionist pioneer of considerable impact.