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Rachel Kneebone's The Descent


Rachel Kneebone's sculptural women are perched on pedestals, their torsos deformed and twisted, their arms intertwined with flowers and plants creating abstract shapes in a hellscape.

Kneebone's most ambitious work includes "The Descent," from 2008.

"The Descent" is a 11½-by-5-foot porcelain caldron filled with hundreds of tiny human forms being pulled into a hellish pit. Kneebone's figures become more abstract the deeper they fall into hell. She notes, to "the loss of the individual, of self" amid chaos.

Kneebone says her inspiration was Rodin's magnum opus, "The Gates of Hell" (1880-1917), a pair of monumental doors illustrating Dante's "Divine Comedy".

Catherine Morris, the curator of the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, says there is a striking resemblance between the feminist art of Rachel Kneebone and Auguste Rodin.

Rodin was famous for affairs with his models, but instead it was often "personal, sensual, physical," she says. "Rachel takes that same notion and feminizes it."

Rachel Kneebone, 38, studied at the Royal College of Art in London where porcelain caught her interest early on. "Porcelain is a very definite material," she says. "It has boundaries within its possibilities and I work with or against them, depending on what I am asking in the work."

"Rachel Kneebone: Regarding Rodin" runs through August 12th 2012 at the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

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