It required a certain amount of courage, recklessness even, to start making sculptures of dogs, horses, elephants and hares—in short, an incongruous bestiary—at the height of abstraction and minimalism’s undisputed reign. Yet, when he took part in the 1982 Documenta VII art show in Kassel, Barry Flanagan had no qualms about exhibiting a 2.75-metre-long hare! As a young artist, after making several formal experiments with wood, fabric, rope, sand and stone, he chose to work in bronze, a classic material that lent itself to a truly subversive expression: the revival of burlesque animal sculpture. Straight out of La Fontaine’s fables or Lewis Carroll’s novels, his famous “mad hares” that leapt, danced, beat drums, boxed, or assumed comic anthropomorphic attitudes to reflect on life earned him a worldwide reputation and became his trademark. Flanagan had a very British sense of humour but was also a lifelong fan of Alfred Jarry and his “science of pataphysics” (of which the sculptor was a self-proclaimed practitioner). In this pursuit of the absurd and the ethics of nonconformism applied to sculpture, Flanagan found “imaginary solutions” to real artistic questions.
Photo : Carla Borel