Internationally-renowned contemporary artist Philip Haas is the subject of a one person show, titled Four Seasons, at The New York Botanical Garden May 18–October 27, 2013. Haas’s work is distinguished by meticulously rendered tableaux seeking to illuminate the source of creativity, often through contemporary interpretations of masterworks from the history of art.
In Four Seasons, Haas has created four monumental, 15-foot-tall, portrait busts that reference each of the seasons and are displayed in the round. In the artist’s exploration of the past, reinterpreted in the present, Haas references classical Italian Renaissance portraiture, with roots in the celebrated Four Seasons series created by Renaissance master Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Haas gives viewers a fresh perspective on the classical form by blowing up the scale to colossal proportions. What has formerly been a two-dimensional experience—the painted portrait—is given new context through this series as viewers are able to walk around the sculptures, to see the subjects from all sides, rather than simply in profile as with a painting. Further, as in Arcimboldo’s work from the 1500s, flesh, hair, and human features have been replaced with organic material native to each season. In Winter, for example, the skin of the subject is represented through oversized forms of bark and hair by gnarled tree limbs and ivy. Spring features a riot of flower forms in bright hues arranged to represent a human portrait.
The placement of the four sculptures within the symmetrical courtyard of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory has the busts facing one another in a square configuration, creating a dialog between not only the four “subjects,” but also the viewer who can walk around and in between the works, creating an involving and personal experience.
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