Mercurial Rock: Ugo Rondinone

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Ugo Rondinone, we run through a desert on burning FEET, all of us are glowing our faces look twisted (2009), grout, grit, stones, light-weight concrete, 380 x 187 x 133 cm. NGC. © Ugo Rondinone, courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels 

we run through a desert on burning FEET, all of us are glowing our faces look twisted is a towering combination of grout, grit and concrete that aims to evoke an experience of the sublime. Created by internationally renowned artist Ugo Rondinone, this sculpture references the ancient Chinese tradition of scholar’s rocks, the appreciation of stones that naturally resemble an animal, person, or some other sentient form. Describing this age-old tradition, artist John Mendelsohn writes: “Nature made art in its own image, an eccentrically evocative fractal of itself.” The objects, he says, were “meant for the tabletop contemplation of the universe.” Rondinone modelled his series of artificially constructed scholar’s rocks after originals found in the Tai Lake region of China. He scanned select samples from which he created his uniquely editioned oversized reproductions. Each sculpture in the series shares the same title with one word capitalized, indicating a particular focus: in this case FEET.          

Nearly four metres high, we run through a desert... has been installed permanently in the rotunda outside the Gallery’s group tour entrance. The location is ideal, for the granular surfaces of the hole-laden sculpture evoke movement and beg to be studied from all sides. The five entrances to the rotunda offer numerous vantage points from which to absorb the work’s contours and crevices. From one angle, the rock curves upwards roughly in the form of an ‘S’; from another perspective the object adopts a decidedly anthropomorphic air. An attempt to pin-down an exact shape and subject here is, perhaps, beside the point, for contemplation of appearances and essence is exactly what scholar’s rocks – also called “viewing stones” – are all about. While real examples are often small enough to sit on a desk for intensive study, Rondinone’s giant renditions call on viewers to use their eyes, mind and body to engage with the looming inanimate being before them. An absorbing representation of an act of nature that has been revered and appreciated for millennia, we run through a desert on burning FEET, all of us are glowing our faces look twisted symbolizes the primal creative act at the basis of art.


Installing Ugo Rondinone's sculpture, we run through a desert on burning FEET, all of us are glowing our faces look twisted [nous courons dans le désert sur les PIEDS brûlants, nous sommes tous rougis nos visages semblent tordus] (2009). 

NEW! National Gallery of Canada Director Marc Mayer in conversation with internationally-acclaimed artist Ugo Rondinone about his varied production over the past two decades. Click here to view.

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