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.