As we wrote last week, the Clark Institute’s outdoor show “Ground/work” is one of summer’s more exciting events, offering visitors the chance to engage with bold public artworks outdoors, at the institution’s sprawling Berkshires campus.
And one of the show’s most fun and resonant works is that of Iranian-German artist Nairy Baghramian, whose installation Knee and Elbow (2020) represents the feeling many of us in the last year can share. In the piece, two abstracted forms of two of the body’s primary joints—carved from marble and steel—face off and work together at the same time, suggesting the dual modes of strength and fragility that people around the world have had to endure throughout the pandemic.
The blocks of marble are “heavily veined and pitted on their surface, suggesting, in the artist’s words, ‘possible collapse,’” according to the show’s notes. At the same time, their power—the ability of knees and elbows to hold the body up—is also emphasized through the work’s dynamic, humorous nature, suggesting themes of hope, possibility, and change. Furthermore, the artist sought to shift the joints from their usual orientation so they could “rest and recover from the stress and impact of daily use.”
The Clark also notes that Baghramian—who has long dealt with issues of vulnerability, power, and authority through her careful deconstructions of the human form—sought to build the artwork near the top of Stone Hill’s open meadow, to which visitors must hike. The sculpture’s vantage point, the show notes, “encourages viewers to find a moment of contemplation and pause as the panorama of the landscape unfolds below.”
See images of the work below.