Good Figure

Bruce Gagnier

:Plaster Works from 2019 and 1983


Aug 21- Sep 22, 2019

Good Figure focuses on plaster works from the crucial years, 2019 and 1983 of Bruce Gagnier's practice. Traditionally, plaster has been considered an intermediary material for being used in the casting process as an artist proof. It creates an optimal surface for light and shadow, in fact, bringing a sculpture to life. Just as Giacometti valued plaster for its humble, fragile quality, Gagnier thinks highly of the material. Plaster is malleable as clay, but it dries to the end material that ages beautifully. The moral side of Gagnier’s sculpture lies in its process; the figure changes without a predetermined image, so does the artist himself. Through this process, the truth of the human situation is unfurled; we are in a constant tension between inner life and outer circumstances. Plaster is a good material to deliver a sense of being in this state, being a human, the representation of it, and its ever-changing, evanescent aspects of human life. 

Below are the excerpts from Gagnier’s notebook in relation to this exhibition. 



It had the form of a wish

to make something of human in clay


Random experience

confused with the past and present


knowing that a figure in clay 

as a replica of the expected norm 

did not represent

and the fantasy illusion to

imperfect anatomy 

as a representative distortion

was uncomfortably normal


the outer form of a figure made in clay 

was where the limits of the body 

met the social space.    


I did not know who they were until they finished with themselves 


Blaming interference of myself

in the process of making a figure in clay 


Skill matters 


In the necessity of finding the inner life 

on the surface image 

anatomy is abstract.


One is not particularly alienated from 

a form of the kind that realizes a unity outside of content 

and on the basis of its own ideology 

proposes shaping that arranges

around an empty center.    




There are not many patterns of the body

that mean 


Street reality has many body types

not all are chosen, whose everyday variations 

might not say 


the past offered criticism


Closing the lid on one of these people 

wrapping it up in its own form of flesh,   

one tries to pack it all in —

something is always sticking out,  

one keeps bumping into others

the parking places between the samples are just too small


the human as the ineffable in the form can end in a rubble

the residue is trying for a story 


That might be where the subject lies – at least some of it.  

pinched, punctured, anatomized

sometimes I was on the inside 

and sometimes on the outside


The past sticks its nose in once in a while

You might imagine it far away 

but no, it is suddenly right there

Never only like the evasive anatomy of a person walking down the street 

That distorts also 

Bruce Gagnier (born 1941) studied art history at Williams College and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and Columbia University, where he studied with Nicholas Carone, Peter Agostini and John Heliker. He has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the world for over 40 years of his career. Most recently, Gagnier received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016, also the Arts and Letters Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2014. In 2004, he was elected Academician by the National Academy. Gagnier has taught at Yale University, Sarah Lawrence, Parsons, Haverford College and the International School of Art in Umbria, Italy. Between 1979 - 2017, he taught drawing and sculpture at the New York Studio School. Currently, he teaches drawing at the NYSS. Gagnier lives and works in Brooklyn.