FEMME DITE “LES TROIS PLIS” – WOMAN KNOWN AS “THE THREE PLEATS”
Medium : Iron, cast, welded
Dimensions : 125,3 x 27,7 x 16 cm
Art historian Tomas Llorens explains "Femme aux trois plis"
A peasant woman in soldered scrap metal
A sheet of cut iron forms the frontal silhouette of a woman dressed as a peasant with a long skirt. Head, arms and feet are missing, as is the left half of the skirt, submerged, one imagines, in the shadow. Just to the right of the figure’s vertical axis, bordering the shadows, the artist has vertically soldered, by means of autogenous welding, three L-shaped platens, of different lengths. These, the three pleats mentioned in the title, are situated in the central axis of the skirt, and are formed by the rounded volume of the legs. Just above, to the left of the triangular neckline, a thin, narrow platen, forged in a tight succession of S-shaped waves and soldered to the main sheet, simulates the hem of the dress.
The sculpture is life-sized, or perhaps slightly smaller. The iron sheet is most likely scrap metal. It is formed by two pieces, united by a weld seam which extends horizontally, just underneath the peasant woman’s waist. The silhouette has been cut so as to leave visible the sharp, deliberately jagged edges produced by the shears. Its flatness and rigidity confer an archaic, vaguely Egyptian quality to the work.
An innovative take on a traditional theme
The theme of women in the countryside, immersed in rural scenes, is probably the most prevalent in Julio Gonzalez’s work. In the first half of his career, this is the subject of countless drawings, pastels and paintings. They are inspired by a tradition in line with Pissarro’s rural scenes, and their stylistic treatment is quite conservative. At the end of the 1920s, when Gonzalez abandons painting to devote himself entirely to metallic sculpture, countryside scenes practically disappear from his production. However, the figure of the isolated peasant woman persists. This is the subject, for example, of a small group of iron reliefs created between 1928-1930. In some of them, the peasant woman is a mother holding a baby in her arms. These are small works, with a purist style. Rendered as silhouettes, they have a rather flat quality, and foreshadow the work that concerns us at present. This work, however, is more ambitious. This is not only because of its much bigger format, but also because of its textured materials, its edges and welding marks left in a brute state, the rigid primitivism of the silhouette and the audacity of eliminating the head, arms, the right side of the chest and the entire left side of the figure. The ensemble of the work is imbibed with a monumental presence, an enigmatic memorability which engraves itself powerfully in the imagination of the viewer.
-- Tomas Llorens, Art Historian, author of Julio Gonzalez's catalogue raisonné
(translated by Amanda Herold-Marme)