Kenneth Armitage Sculptor: A Centenary Celebration
Various authors (Sansom & Co, £25)
The centenary of Kenneth Armitage’s birth (1916– 2002) is being celebrated with books and exhibitions geared to reminding us just how good a sculptor he was—something easy to forget once the artist himself is no longer there to focus interest. even when there is a large amount of his work scattered through the museums and public places of the world—as in this case—the years immediately after an artist’s death can be deleterious to even the most well-established reputation.
Armitage first came to prominence in the 1950s with the so-called ‘Geometry of Fear’ sculptors (including Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler and Geoffrey Clarke) and was given a solo show at the 1958 Venice Biennale.
his work is less armoured and spiky than that of some of his contemporaries and is notable for its radical simplifications of the human body. The critic John Berger thought he made his figures look like tabletops and that their arms and legs stuck out like people in the stocks.
In the main essay in this excellent introduction to the sculptor’s life and work, Ann elliott explains: ‘Throughout his career he returned time and again to making linked, single figures and screens; hands, arms and legs made in isolation that tell of humanity’s wide and varied attitudes.’
John Mcewen, a close friend of the artist, contributes an affectionate and perceptive preface, and Tamsyn Woollcombe has compiled a 20-page chronology of the sculptor’s career. There are other specialist essays, but the chronology forms the backbone of the book and offers a succinct commentary on his achievement.
There is a Kenneth Armitage Foundation to promote his name, awarding prizes to students and consecutive two-year residences in his former London studio. Meanwhile, his best work continues to resonate and beguile.
An exhibition at Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, until November 27 (www.victoriagal.org.uk; 01225 477233), focuses on Armitage’s Corsham Court years. his later works, including some beautiful 1970/80s drawings of Richmond Oaks, will be the subject of an exhibition at The Tetley, Leeds, next spring (www. thetetley.org; 0113–320 2323).
Also next year, the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, will show some of his 1950s sculptures and drawings from March 15 to July 15 (0113–343 2778; https://library. leeds.ac.uk/art-gallery). Leeds, Armitage’s birthplace, also has several of his late large pieces as civic sculptures. Andrew Lambirth