Rainbow Lake

2012.52.32


Raoul Hague

Raoul Hague (1904-1993) was born Haig Heukelekian in Constantinople, Turkey, and immigrated to the United States in 1921. Hague studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1928, moved to New York City. He found community through studio classes at the Arts Students League, and throughout his lifetime, befriended many influential artists, such as Arshile Gorky, Bradley Walker Tomlin and Philip Guston. Working in stone and wood, Hague’s early abstract sculptures, which are evocative of the human figure, attracted acclaim. His sculpture privileges surface quality through texture and the play between shadow and light. Hague became an American citizen in 1931 and participated in the Federal Arts Project of the Works Project Administration from 1935 to 1939. His work was first featured in the group exhibition American Sources of Modern Art (1932-1933) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, organized by Holger Cahill, National Director of the WPA. Following service in the American Army, Hague moved to Woodstock, New York, in 1943. Using GI Bill benefits, he traveled through Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Returning to America brought a new phase of his career. His sculpture became larger and more abstract. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Hague’s work continued to be exhibited in and collected by American galleries and museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, all in New York. Hague’s first retrospective, curated by Gerald Nordland was at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in Washington, DC in 1964. Following this exhibition, the artist was presented with numerous awards, including those from the Ford Foundation in 1961, the Guggenheim Foundation in 1967, the Mark Rothko Foundation in 1972, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973. Hague’s work in the 1980s and 90s evolved to feature rougher surface texture. His sculptures evidence the tools he used: chainsaws and power tools. Using these tools, he opened the forms further, exposing the natural qualities of the wood, including its decay. Rainbow Lake is representative of this later work. The artist’s knowledge of material informs his technique, and ultimately, the shape of the sculpture. Although monolithic, Hague’s sculpture is expressive and retains the natural qualities of walnut – warm in tone, flowing with the grain of the wood. In a 1979 interview with Paula Giannini of Art International, Hague explains this process: “I cut the mass into fragments and I move in it. One can orchestrate in the wood — I don’t have a clear idea when I start. I am not a conceptual artist. So you begin. You stare at it, and finally you have to do something. You are not making a story out of it. You make a cut. From then on it follows. Like the jazz musician, music comes out of you. You make one cut, then you become intimate. That thing becomes humanized, a being.” Raoul Hague passed away in his cabin in Woodstock, New York in 1993 at the age of 88.

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