Irish-born sculptor Eva Rothschild puts her own spin on the modernist formalist sculpture tradition. Her works nod to Brancusi, to Hepworth and Moore, to Caro, to minimalism. They also refer to vernacular forms: barriers and enclosures, curtains and seats, displays and play spaces. They are made from diverse and novel materials: concrete, leather, jesmonite, plastic. A floor-to-ceiling column—Technical Support—is actually a stack of brightly coloured resin casts of rolls of tape.
Rothschild is eclectic; she plays the field. Her sculptures can be big or small; can sit on plinths, dangle from the ceiling, or surround the viewer. One may be spray-painted steel, another upholstered in printed fabric. Her exhibitions place contrasting approaches and qualities in counterpoint.
Rothschild's works converse with one another. As critic Declan Long explains: 'Eva Rothschild has created an ever-updating ensemble cast of sculptural characters. Her boldly zig-zagging and skinny, stripy, precariously propped-up forms appear to have strong, stand-alone personalities—variously antic and assertive, enigmatic and energetic—but they are profoundly interdependent … Her works are always … under each other’s influence.'
While she draws on the formalist tradition, Rothschild is not a dogmatic formalist. She says: 'I am a firm believer in almost everything. I couldn't make art without it having some sense of anxiety, superstition, belief, transcendence. I grew up within a Catholic background, so the idea of an object having a power beyond its material presence is not unusual to me.'
Rothschild's sculptures call for our physical engagement. There's a wall to walk around, an enclosure to enter, a curtain to pass through, a punching bag to hit. Rothschild even fashions stools for us to sit on while looking at other works.
Viewer involvement is the explicit subject of Rothschild's video, Boys and Sculpture (2012). For this controlled experiment, she invited young boys to physically engage with a group of her works. 'They dismantle the show', Rothschild says. She has also worked with choreographers, to stage dance pieces within her shows.
Kosmos is the first survey of Rothschild's work in Australasia. It’s a joint project with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, and is curated by ACCA Director Max Delany and ACCA Senior Curator Annika Kristensen.
Rothschild will represent Ireland in the 2019 Venice Biennale.