„Handaxe to Figure Stone“ – how sculpting started in the Stone Age in the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX

Artist Unknown: Handaxe with twisted profile Greenhithe, England, ca. 300,000, Flint, 5 1/4 x 3 3/4 x 1 in. (13.6 x 9.4 x 2.5 cm), The British Museum. Source: © The Trustees of the British Museum

The exhibition until April 28, 2018 also shows early human ability to recognize beauty and meaning in found objects

„First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone“ is the first museum exhibition to present ancient handaxes and figure stones as works of art. Traditionally understood as the longest-used tool in human history, with examples dating back more than 2 million years, some handaxes are equally fascinating for their non-utilitarian, aesthetic qualities.

The exhibit in the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas until April 28, 2018 will present these objects as evidence of the earliest forms of artistic intention, highlighting the aesthetic qualities of each stone and providing crucial historical and scientific information to give the viewer a deeper understanding of human history, as well as an enriched appreciation for humankind’s early ability to sculpt beautiful objects.

Whether carved from visually interesting stones or rendered at unusual sizes that would inhibit use of the object as a tool, a case can be made for the handaxe as the first sculpture our prehistoric ancestors conceived.

Artist Unknown:, Makapansgat Pebble, ca. 2.5 million years, Jasperite, 3 x 2 1/2 in. (7.6 x 6.3 cm), University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Brett Eloff / Nasher Sculpture Museum

The exhibition’s second focus, that of figure stones, suggests early human ability to recognize beauty and meaning in found objects. These naturally occurring stones possess evident shapes and patterns, including geometric forms, animals, and especially faces. Prehistoric people recognized these shapes, and augmented their mimetic qualities through additional carving.

„First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone“ is the product of a unique curatorial collaboration between Los Angeles-based artist Tony Berlant and anthropologist Dr. Thomas Wynn, Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

It is made possible by the Eugene McDermott Foundation and the Lyda Hill Foundation, with additional support provided by Nancy O’Boyle, Betty Regard and the Museum of Street Culture.

The Nasher Sculpture Center is an institution devoted to the exhibition, study and preservation of modern and contemporary sculpture. Its collection of more than 300 sculptures together with 20th century paintings, drawings, prints and photographs has its home in a building designed by architect Renzo Piano including a spacious garden created by Peter Walker.

Nasher Sculpture Center

(08.02.2018, USA: 02.08.2018)