brown gray nun is a unique sculpture that belongs to Ugo Rondinone's new body of work, nuns + monks. Conceived on the occasion of the artist's 2020 solo exhibition at Esther Schipper, Berlin, the 3-meter tall sculpture is made of two parts – the body and the head – that form the basic shape of a human body wrapped in a cloak. Made in painted bronze, the sculptures were conceived from limestone models, scans of which were “three-dimensionalized” within a digital program. Each sculpture weighs 450 kg approx.
The sculptures of nuns + monks present themselves in their original beauty. An "archaic" beauty that brings to mind two other groups of works by the artist: the raw stone figures of Human Nature in Rockefeller Plaza, 2013, and the neon-colored stone mountains Seven Magic Mountains in the desert of Nevada, 2016. These groups are the study and enjoyment of naturally formed stones as objects of beauty and contemplation, and in turn generate personal, meditative states of looking in which the boundaries between the outside world and internally visualized spaces break down. In doing so, Rondinone makes sculptures of what it means and feels like to see, whether this is understood to be a physical or metaphysical phenomenon.
The series nuns + monks continues to address this dual reflection between the inner self and the natural world. Just as the external world one sees is inseparable from the internal structures of oneself, nuns + monks allows such layers of signification to come in and out of focus, prompting the viewer to revel in the pure sensory experience of color, form and mass while simultaneously engender in an altogether contemporary version of the sublime.
The creation of these works was nourished by Rondinone’s assiduous frequentation of the medieval sculpture department at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and in addition by a powerful confrontation with Giacomo Manzù's cardinals (born Giacomo Manzoni, 1908-1991), whose own particular modernity, permeated by a classicism that defies time and categorization, inevitably corresponded to Rondinone's interest.