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Collage and Ink Figure Study No. 35 [Joan Brown], 1963
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This collage invites us into the physical space of the artist’s studio, as well as his process. Neri anchors the scene with flat paper shapes glued to the page. He suggests depth and volume with hastily brushed black ink, and a profusion of fingerprints index the artist’s handling of the collaged elements. Two figures without hands or feet—it is unclear if they are sculptures or models—pose beneath a bulky light fixture. The kneeling figure at left has the distinctive profile of Joan Brown’s round face. The pose of the standing figure at right evokes the monumental bronze relief sculptures in Henri Matisse’s Backs series, in which the bodies of four burly women protrude from unyielding grounds. Neri created most of his sculptures in plaster, a medium that enabled him to work and rework his figures quickly. Brown described Neri’s process of constructing his plaster sculptures as though they were collages: “Manuel would put on plaster real fast, take a hatchet real fast, cut that arm off, throw it away and twenty minutes later, he’s got a new arm on there.”

-Sidney Simon, PhD ’18