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 Barry Flanagan  (1941 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: New York / Ireland      Known for: sculptor-anthropomorphic rabbits

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Barry Flanagan
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Contemporary Welsh sculptor Barry Flanagan is best known for his animal sculptures, particularly those of triumphant, leaping, anthropomorphic hares. Flanagan poses his hares as if they were people, sometimes in stretched-leg, sinuous jumps, dancing, or gazing into a telescope.

Born in North Wales, Flanagan studied at Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts, England (1957-1958) and St. Martin's School of Art, London (1964-1966). He went on to teach at St. Martin's and at Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, from 1967 to 1971.

Flanagan early works were often bags stuffed with sand or plaster, installations, and "soft" sculptures using materials such as cloth, canvas, rope and sand. He has also worked with prints and pottery. His first solo exhibition was in 1966 at the Rowan Gallery, London. He soon established an international reputation and has exhibited around the world since 1968, including the MoMa in New York (1974). Flanagan's first bronze 'Leaping Hare' was cast in 1979. Much of his work has been installed in public spaces, including 'Baby Elephant' and 'Hare on Bell' installed at Equitable Life Tower West, New York.

In the 1980s he began to focus on the creation of representational sculpture of animals, with his most common motif the hare. Subtly appropriating human gestures, his rabbits take on such spirited activities as dancing, prancing and even boxing. His works are noted for a sense of spontaneity and the playfulness of the hare itself. He has used bronze in a manner that challenges traditional concepts of 'heroic' bronze figures. His bronze hares can be linked to his admiration for the literary work of Alfred Jarry, in particular his notion of 'pataphysics' -a science of imaginary solutions. Jarry, who is associated with Dadaism and Surrealism, is noted for an iconoclastic humor through which he attempts to demolish logic and morality. It may be said that Flanagan approaches his art in somewhat the same manner, as many of his hares are given human qualities and other anthropomorphic traits, however they do not project any specific politics or morality. It's possible that his use of the hare as subject matter implies knowledge of its broad transcultural associations, for example, as a symbol of life in Egypt and China. Flanagan's bronze hares have been exhibited in many outdoor spaces, most notably on Park Avenue in New York in 1995-6 and at Grant Park, Chicago in 1996.

The artist's interest in horses dates to the early 1980s, when he began a series of sketches of the equestrian statues at San Marco Square in Venice, Italy. His horses have been described as "androgynous", sometimes with gracefully rounded contours with a female quality, despite obvious male attributes.

"I seem to pursue shape and form as an abstract constituent in sculpture almost exclusively in stone, whereas the bronze work is the result of another set of ideas really. The themes are evocative of a human situation or another."
-Barry Flanagan

Barry Flanagan has lived in New York and has exhibited extensively in the U.S. He currently lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.

Credit for much of the above information is given to the websites of: the Richard Gray Gallery; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Fukuoa Art Museum; Waddington Galleries.

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