Skarstedt Gallery presents an exhibition of new works by Stefan Rinck in East Hampton. Titled Semigods of the Jockey Club, the show marks Rinck’s first solo exhibition in New York.
For this exhibition, Rinck has brought to life a new cast of motley characters centered around themes of sports, gambling, and symbols of modern life. Best known for manipulating stones such as diabase, marble, quartzite, and sandstone through traditional hand-carving techniques, the works on view feature Rinck’s signature textured and polished surfaces that allow the works to glisten and gleam as light hits the assorted man-made grooves or crystals inherent in some of the stones. This play of light activates the works with a sense of theatricality, aiding in the narrative elements of his figures. Inspired by French Romanesque, Pre-Columbian, and African sculpture, the works are imbued with an atavistic nature with a decidedly modern twist.
Sports and gambling collide in the layout of the exhibition, which is set up like a racetrack, with some figures about to race one another while others engage as spectators. Forecaster, with the results of the race emblazoned on the back of his mask, looms over the group, ominously aware of the outcome. Many objects on view sport the vestiges of the athletic activities they represent. Chief of the Feather Industry dons a tennis headband out of which sprouts a multitude of feathers, while Lifeguard clutches a ring buoy, his round belly indicating he may not quite be up for the task. Meanwhile, other characters are engaged in more nefarious activities, such as Wrong Bet Rabbit, whose name implies his misfortune while his shoulders slump as he hides his shame behind a mask. Then there is Modernistic Squeezer, whose bluffing strategies are revealed through Miro-inspired smiles and Brancusi-esque forms, or Two-armed bandit, so enamored by the slot machine that the symbols flash in his eyes.
With a total of twenty-four works, the exhibition also features creatures who expand upon Rinck’s previous investigations into popular culture and contemporary society, embedding his pieces with references to film, mythology, art history, French culture, and literature. Marcel Proust’s multi-volume magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time, serves as a thread that ties many of the exhibition’s elements together. The title Semigods of the Jockey Club is itself is a subtle reference to Charles Swann, a primary character in the story whose membership in the prestigious Jockey Club indicates his stature in society, which slowly falters as political and personal events progress throughout the book. The Jockey Club, a real-life gentleman’s club based in Paris, was originally founded as an authority on horse racing and breeding, linking the cultural elements latent within these objects to those which overtly symbolize sports and gambling. Likewise, Proust’s exploration of involuntary memory speaks to Rinck’s deft ability to harken back to another time and place while remaining firmly in the present, shifting timelines with unique ease and making his style as necessary to the meaning of his works as the actions and titles of the characters he creates.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)