Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Looking at some images from the movie Star Wars the other day, we were struck by the strange familiarity of some of the Battle Droids. The answer, when we found it, was in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery. 

No doubt Epstein’s Torso in Metal from 'Rock Drill' will have a prime spot in the 3 September opening of the Auckland Art Gallery. It certainly represents a key moment in twentieth century English art (something we were rather transfixed by back in the fifties and sixties). And as you can see its influence lived on way past Sir Jacob Epstein's death in 1959. 

When he first made the work, back in 1913, Epstein had the torso that became the Auckland Gallery work attached to an actual rockdrill making it look even more like an armed and dangerous Battle Droid. As Epstein put it at the time, “Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow.” Later, disillusioned by war, Epstein cut away the drill and cast the upper torso giving it the more abject appearance we can see in the Auckland work. It is one of three castings, the others are in the Tate and in the National Gallery of Canada with a later, slightly different sixties version is in the Museum of Modern Art.

Images: Top left Epstein’s Rock Drill and right a Star Wars Battle Droid. Bottom left the version of the Epstein sculpture in the Auckland Art Gallery and right more droid. To compound matters you can see the LEGO version here and Star Wars' Battle Droids in action here.