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Little Big Horn on the Seine Salah Hassan on Ousmane Sow's Epic on the Pont des Arts ••Recently, nearly sixty works by the Senegalese sculptor Ousmane • S o w , representing his series on Nuba wrestlers, the Masai and HMF Zulu warriors, the Fulani nomads, and America's Natives at grips I wk with General Custer's 7th Cavalry - a stunning ensemble of H • t w e n t y warriors, soldiers and eleven horses - transformed the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge over the Seine River connecting the Louvre and the Institut de France into a full scale replay of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Sow's exhibition is a result of an initiative by the mayor of Paris, to make contemporary art, particularly sculpture, accessible to the public at large. It is part of an effort to turn the various public spaces in Paris into regular exhibition venues for the display of sculptural works. Following the spring '96 Champs d e la Sculpture historical retrospective of the first part of the 20th century on the Champs Elysses and the tribute paid to Mark di Suvero on the Esplanade des Invalides and other Parisian venues in 1997, the City of Paris decided to host the world premiere retrospective of Ousmane Sow, from March 20 to May 20,1999 on the Pont des Arts. This exhibition inaugurates the occasion of the international celebrations of the lournes de la Francophonie. Through the above named series, the Parisian public have been exposed to a diverse set of overwhelming sculptures. Sow's first four series, which include the Nuba, Masai, Fulani, and Zulu, were s h o w n before, together or apart, in different European venues prior to the current exhibition. The Nuba series, for example, was exhibited to rave reviews at Kassel's Documenta in 1992, and at the Venice Biennale in 1995. Sow's Toussaint Louverture, conceived with Marianne and the Revolutionarie, in the framework of the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution, were exhibited in Paris in 1989. Sow, who has consistently first unveiled his work in Senegal before traveling to venues abroad, was honored, and deservedly so, as a special guest of the 1995 D a k a r Biennale. Ousmane Sow was born in Dakar, Senegal, October 10,1935, he traveled to Paris in 1957, after earning a degree in business s c h o o l . H i s intention at first was to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but the realities of life persuaded him to rather train in physical therapy and for almost three decades, Sow made his living as a physical therapist. Surely it is no coincidence that Sow turned to sculpture later in his life. Indeed, one only has to look at Sow's work to see how his training as a physical therapist influenced, and in fact enhanced his ability as Opposite: Ousmane Sow installing Little Big Horn on the Pont des Arts, Paris, Marchl999. Above: Two Moon from The Bottle of Little Big Horn, 1999, mixed media, both photos: Martine Franck, Magnum a sculptor. A profession that demands sensitivity and skill in maneuvering the different parts of the body must have contributed greatly to Sow's unusual ability to relate to the human anatomy. Sow's sculptural works are hard to situate within the parameters of contemporary art. He defies categorization within modernist or post-modernists practices. His sculptural practices transcend different genres and cut across different techniques and processes. His figures may fall within the normative practices of sculpture, but the arrangement of these figures into various tableaux transcends classical sculptural practice and moves them into the domain of conceptualism. Improvisation remains key to Sow's art. He created his sculptural ensembles one figure at a time, without sketches or models, and has never worked from measurement or scaled-down models. He employs a variety of media: clay, plastic, glue, stone, metal, fabric, wood, plaster, rubber, and random "found" objects. His material can be molded, carved, cast, welded, sewn, assembled , or otherwise shaped and combined. He has experimented with recyclable materials collected from nearby factories, mixing and then stewing them with glue and plastic waste to...


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