We commemorate! Memorial Sculpture and Collective Rituals at the Online Club

In commemoration, we tend to pause and remember. In the Online Club on 2nd May 2022, the question of what we’re remembering, what characterises us, and what guides us, played just as important a role as the process of remembrance being a mark of unity did.

Using their own works, two particularly impressive contributors showed our 45 interested participants what different kinds of commemoration there are, how memories are a big part of us, and how much they influence us.

part 2: Marvin Liberman

Struggling with Life – In Conversation with Sculptor, Marvin Liberman

Currently living in Spain, American artist Marvin Liberman presented his sensitive works in the second lecture of this online club.

Vessel 4, 2019, branches, fabric, color, 73
Vessel 4, 2019, branches, fabric, color, 73" x
70.5" x 24.5" (h·w·d)/ 185,4 x 179 x 62 cm

Whilst his early works were mostly figurative self-portraits in clay, he now creates abstract sculptures in muted colours from simple materials such as gauze and branches. They are often fragile structures made of textile folds, under which ghostly floating figures seem to emerge. Other times, the materials seem to be tightly intertwined, as if something were caught in them, twisting between the branches.  

The material gauze, as a classic bandage material, holds associations of injuries that the figures carry with them and that come from a past unknown to us.

The confrontation with these fragile figures raises questions, and that is precisely what the artist wants.

The Online Club 2 May, Marvin Liberman Murmur no 4, 2012, Traces 5, 2021, and Discord no 9, 2017
The Online Club 2 May, Marvin Liberman Murmur no 4, 2012, Traces 5, 2021, and Discord no 9, 2017

Impressively, Marvin Liberman told us in the Online Club about his life and career, his Jewish roots, the story of his Ukrainian grandparents' escape, his personal dramatic experiences as a young man, and his many years of work at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington. Liberman eventually returns to sculpture. But not, as one might think, to come to terms with the subject of the victims of the Holocaust that had preoccupied him for so many years. But rather to devote himself to the drama and trauma of the survivors.

Discord 10 2017, fabric, color, 51.3
Discord 10 2017, fabric, color,
51.3" x 31.5" x 19" (h·w·d)/
130 x 80 x 48 cm

Based on his own experience of trauma, he focuses his work on what is happening in the present and aims to raise the viewer's awareness of the times in which we live. What traumas have we gone through ourselves? What have these experiences done to us? What traces have they left behind and how have they changed or shaped us?

The fragility of his materials is deliberately chosen and represents our own vulnerability in life, both physically and emotionally. His sculptures evolve out of the process, without a prior design. This is palpable, as the figures seem to first develop, move and wrestle with life under the material, as Liberman himself puts it.

He deliberately creates his figures life-size and presents them in contrasting light. The interaction between light and shadow brings his figures to life. Any encounter brings you almost face to face with them, making it feel like you could simply strike up a conversation. And it is precisely this intimate exchange that the artist is pursuing with his works. His works are bodies that carry their own hidden history. It is a history of traumatic experiences that has changed and shaped these bodies. And only in dialogue and confrontation is it possible to understand what is hidden, human nature, its vulnerability, its will to survive, and the wounds that lie hidden beneath the surface.

Julia Weiss

Author: Julia Weiss

Julia is an art historian from Munich. She has been working for sculpture network since April 2022.