The Hysterical Material

September 14, 2017–December 17, 2017

Auguste Rodin, The Hero, 1896, Bronze, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 1998.363.

This is a show about feelings and emotion: how these twin registers are represented and produced in both the materiality of the body and in the objects we call art. The exhibition investigates these possibilities in the work of two leading artists of Western art history, Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) and Bruce Nauman (born 1941).

The body is something used and depicted in the work of both of these artists; however, they employ it in radically different ways. While Rodin was a master of conflating corporeal representation with the raw materials of traditional European sculpture, Nauman’s work in the exhibition deplores the body as a literal tool, asking questions of the material delineations between object and maker and by extension object and viewer.

This exhibition features nine sculptures and works on paper from the Smart Museum and other collections. It places works by Rodin and Nauman into unusual spatial relationships, calling attention to the artists’ mutual artistic concerns while also focusing a lens on how each sculptor conceives of the body as an emotional instrument, something not always understood by the rational mind.


A publication, co-published by the Smart Museum and Soberscove Press accompanies the exhibition. The book, designed by David Khan-Giordano and Geof Oppenheimer, features texts by Mieke Bal, Anita Chari, Ankhi Mukherjee, as well as Geof Oppenheimer. Now available.

On campus

In conjunction with the exhibition, Professor Oppenheimer will offer a class in the Department of Visual Arts on the conceptual and practical application of casting.

Rodin 100

The Hysterical Material is presented as part of Rodin 100, a worldwide celebration of the artist's work and legacy.

Rodin 100