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Kitschy Sculptures Update Renaissance Portraiture for Modern Times

Gerard Mas sculpts 15th century marble ladies chewing gum and picking their noses.

by DJ Pangburn
May 19 2017, 4:52pm

Images courtesy the artist and 3 Punts Galeria

Snarling punk attitude meets reserved Renaissance sculptures in the work of Barcelona-based artist Gerard Mas, a man who also has a penchant for blending humans and animals into bestial portraits. Fifteenth century ladies pick their noses and blow bubbles, sheep's wool becomes a topiary-esque labyrinth, and fractal Romanesco broccoli morphs into a shower cap. As with Qixuan Lim's tiny baby head sculptures , Mas is also interested in infants, placing them atop pigs and in other odd scenarios. Whatever the material and subject matter, Mas's work is surreal, humorous, and always bitingly satirical.

While Mas was establishing his art practice, he was working as an art restorer. For ten years he modeled and carved stone ornaments for façades and churches. Realizing it took more and more time to create his own work, he decided to dedicate himself completely to sculpture. But by then, art restoration had infiltrated his own aesthetic. "The continuous contact with dusty works of art from the past had irreversibly contaminated my way of work," Mas tells Creators. "I did not consider that any inconvenience."

'La Gran Dida'

In La Gran Dida, a human baby lies beside piglets suckling at their mother's teat, sculpted in pink stone. While studying at the Escola de la Llotja in Barcelona, Mas had the opportunity to see pieces made by classmates in polished Portuguese pink marble. "It is a material with great kitsch potential," Mas says, noting that his parents' toilet was made of the very same marble.

Mas's irreverent sculptures pairing 15th century subjects with bubble gum and telephone headsets emerged around the same time. The first was a woman defiantly sticking her tongue out at the viewer. "I was fascinated with the latest gothic sculpture in polichrome alabaster," Mas recalls. "I love this precious way of working, as if the sculptures were jewels. It gives an impression of unreality. I can say the same about the first Renaissance portraits."

'Lady of the Finger in the Nose'

"I thought about the millions of attitudes and situations that old artworks couldn't capture, because they were simply inappropriate for a lady in the 15th century," Mas adds. "I decided to try to do it in an old media and style. It was something like an invented old art. After that, the anachronisms came and pop elements, too, as a natural evolution."

In creating his sculptures, Mas says a dialogue between mystery and materials usually lights the way. And day-to-day events give him all the conceptual fodder he requires—he need only be attentive and able to connect the subject matter. "The idea comes like a flash, but just then an absolute conscious work begins," Mas says. "I make maquettes, I model with clay, I make moulds to make copies in a hard material, then I copy these shapes in definitive materials like stone or wood. It's a long process, but usually I cannot choose the easier media—each piece is who really chooses its matter."

'Lady of the Broccoli'

At 3 Punts Galeria's recent showcase at CONTEXT New York art fair, Mas exhibited one of his alabaster ladies, Lady of the Lollipops. He also showed a full-sized French Bulldog. Currently, Mas is working on human busts that interact with animals, as well as "animal deities."

"[They're] kind of Egyptian and unusual sacred animals," says Mas. "Humans and animals have exactly the same interest for me. Actually there is no border between them."

'Rata Deïtat'

'Call Center Lady'

'Frenchie'

'Lady of the Lipstick'

'Gos detait'

'Lady of the Chewing Gum'

Click here to see more of Gerard Mas's work.

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