This sculpture is part of a body of work that includes a collection of fish, primordial (2016), of horses, primal (2013), and birds, primitive (2011) all cast in bronze. The groupings of creatures from sea, land and air represent the wider world, and encapsulate the trinity of themes – natural phenomena, Romanticism and existentialism – that underpin the artist’s oeuvre.
The fundamental subject matter that the small bronze figure of a fish probes is visually emphasized by their honest and unadorned aesthetic. Each animal is unique, hand modeled by the artist in clay before being cast into bronze. The roughness of the process means that fingerprints are still visible in the bronze, calling attention to the individuality of each sculpture and the manner of its creation. Rondinone has spoken of how each sculpture “represents the emotional situation of the time I made them,” and how the traces of his personal touch give them an immediacy that should speak directly to the viewer.
When viewed as a grouping in an exhibition context – as they were in his 2016 solo exhibitions Becoming Soil at the Carré d'Art in Nîmes, France – it is as though the fish are set within an imaginary aquatic landscape. In conjunction with the way their distinctive modelling bestows upon each fish a sense of personality that echoes the way individual characters interact in society, the scale of the sculptures encourage reflection on mankind’s correspondence with his surroundings. Moreover, each sculpture is named after natural phenomena – the dew, the bubble – further transforming the solid bronze sculpture into a conduit of contemplation.
The meditative quality of each work in this series perhaps derives from the fact that Rondinone integrated the making of these hand-made sculptures into a daily routine – drawing up a list of titles for each piece and then executing them one day at a time. Making these works became “a daily meditation on life,” he has said, explaining that making art is “something healing. It’s like soul food. It connects you to your fundamental desire, needs and emotional states… It brings us closer to our feelings and makes a better society.”