Artist Saint Clair Cemin channels Oedipal artistry at Paul Kasmin Gallery

From murdering his father to marrying his mother and clawing his eyes out – the great Greek tragedy of the king of Thebes unfolds in a series of captivating and witty bronze sculptures

Oedipus Blind by Saint Clair Cemin
Oedipus Blind by Saint Clair Cemin | Image: Courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery

New York-based Brazilian artist Saint Clair Cemin, celebrated for his captivating sculpture ranging from the naturalistic to the surreal, turns his attention to Sophocles’ Greek tale Oedipus Rex for his latest exhibition. The story of the mythical king of Thebes is brought to life through a series of 20 cast-bronze sculptures, and is being showcased until Saturday April 14 at Paul Kasmin’s New York gallery.

Sphynx, which depicts Oedipus answering the riddle of the Sphinx
Sphynx, which depicts Oedipus answering the riddle of the Sphinx | Image: Courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery
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Each piece in the collection captures a key moment in the tragedy: from a bronze of the Oracle of Delphi delivering the news to King Laius that his son is destined to kill him and sleep with his wife, to scenes of Oedipus answering the riddle of the Sphinx, marrying his mother and then discovering her identity.

This statue of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Apollo, sits in the centre of the works on show
This statue of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Apollo, sits in the centre of the works on show | Image: Courtesy the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery
Logos by Saint Clair Cemin
Logos by Saint Clair Cemin | Image: Christopher Stach

Each sculpture is presented on an individual plinth and will be displayed in the gallery in a spiral formation sweeping into the room. Tiresias, the blind prophet of Apollo, revered for his clairvoyance, sits in the centre of the configuration, posed in a moment of gesticulation – as though frozen in the midst of a passionate recounting of the tragedy.

Works such as Ismini feel alive with movement
Works such as Ismini feel alive with movement | Image: Christopher Stach
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The sculptures feel alive with movement – they are caught wrestling and tumbling – but also convey a charming sense of comedy. One has Tiresias dressed as a tapir and Oedipus as a prairie dog. In another, Oedipus is told the truth about his parentage by his best friend – a drunken elephant. The humour adds an intriguing new dimension to an otherwise tragic tale. Prices range from $120,000 to $250,000 for individual sculptures (12cm and 18cm high), and works are also being sold in editions of five bronzes.

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