Work

Studies for Caryatids/Atlantes (Miami Beach Boys)

2002

The Studies for Caryatids or Atlantes (popularly known as the Miami Beach Boys), are a series of seven monumental free-standing stained glass artworks, first exhibited at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York in 2002, and for the first time in Europe at Christie's in 2011.

"The seven similar-but-different beach boys brilliantly up-date Duchamp’s Nine Malic Molds (1914–15), and his themes of modern, mechanised, commoditised love on endless, impotent repeat. Clarke’s multiplications of bodies, bathers and Ben-Day-style dots image a post-modern, screen-based desire for a digital age. The ‘caryatids’ evoke classical kouroi, Gothic saints, beauty pageant, boy band, frames of celluloid: their transposition of body/pillar image/sculpture condense being and artifice. They disturb expected distinctions between sacred/profane, figure/space, object/aperture. Power relations are also unsettled, the acquiescence signalled by the youth’s semi-nudity and animated, amiable gazes, are unnervingly contradicted by their superior size and stillness." – Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art at Tate Britain, in her essay ‘Weissnichtwo: Brian Clarke and the Global Sublime’, 2011.

"The concept for the seven Studies for Caryatids is located within the long tradition of the architectural arts. There was clearly a resonance for Clarke in the multi-registered niched and canopied figures in the sculpted western facades of medieval churches, or rows of classical caryatids, such as those supporting the Acropolis. Although the most overt reference to medieval Gothic (in the form of the fleur-de-lis quarries) was eliminated from the final conception, he retained the idea of an episodic succession of frontal, hieratic figures articulated by subtly modulated gestures as a leading motif; among many ancient examples, the fourteenth-century programme of canopied figures carved on the west front of Exeter Cathedral was a specific source to which Clarke referred. Beyond the formal design inspirations, the Studies for Caryatids bear a no less significant emotional meaning. The reference to medieval representations of past biblical figures suggests a memorial function, and the series indeed evokes a succession of vertical tomb slabs, a sign of the presence of death even as the peak of life (youth, growth, power) is celebrated. The use of photography – the snapshot, after all, functions as one of the most powerful agents in recording personal memories, a documenter of past histories – serves to amplify the pervading atmosphere of change, contingency, and impermanence. The Studies for Caryatids also operate, particularly through the medium of glass, as a complex commentary on the human gaze and on eyesight. All seven figures return the glance of the spectator through sunglasses; a layer of darkened glass – 'shades' – registered here in glass, deflects our gaze, an 'opaque' passage within the dominant transparency." – Martin Harrison in his essay for the catalogue of the exhibition Transillumination.