Your chance to see famous Auguste Rodin sculptures intermixed with stunning contemporary figurative works at Grand Rapids' Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park continues. The gardens' official ArtPrize exhibit is open through January 7.

Auguste Rodin "The Kiss" on view in Grand Rapids
One of Auguste Rodin's most famous works, "The Kiss."
Photo courtesy of Holly Bechiri.

Art enthusiasts and novices alike now have the chance to visit six sculptures by the art history great, Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), right alongside the work of 17 contemporary figurative artists at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. What started as an ArtPrize exhibition theme now extends its stay in Grand Rapids for a few extra months. The show “Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition” is a gorgeous, impressive collection of work including recognizably famous artwork such as “The Kiss,” so be sure to slow down in this exhibition.

“[Rodin] was aware of the rules but was also breaking the rules,” says Joe Becherer, Chief Curator and Vice President at Frederik Meijer Gardens. “And there are a lot of rule-breakers in this exhibition.”

Despite this, the average eye (okay, this art-educated eye as well) may not pick up right away that these artists are breaking rules. Figurative sculpture seems to be a pretty traditional format in which to make art. The stellar curation, right down to the choice of calming wall color to set off the natural tones of many of the sculptures, makes it feel very official and museum-like and yet somehow noticeably relaxing at the same time – not really the setting we picture for rebels.

Auguste Rodin - Age of Bronze sculpture on view in Grand Rapids
Rodin's rule-breaking piece, "The Age of Bronze," greets guests in the exhibition.
Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens.

Take the work by Rodin that greets you as you enter the galleries, “The Age of Bronze.”

“When you look at this, it looks very classical, like it could come out of Greece or Rome, but then you realize it’s kind of stepping out, and awkward in pose. People didn’t really understand what Rodin was doing,” Becherer explains. Ah, the misunderstood genius: a story as old as time. “When people finally began to understand what he was doing and appreciate his genius, it really started the trajectory for how he could be an innovator.”

Rodrigo Lara Zendejas' Crowd Gate on view in Grand Rapids
"Crow Gate" by Rodrigo Lara Zendejas combines Mexican culture with art history.
Photo courtesy of Holly Bechiri.

With this rebellious spirit in mind, Becherer and his team set out to find living artists who are also innovators in figurative art. They achieved an impressive collection of art that utilizes new media (there are two videos, one kinetic sculpture, one gorgeous figure made from concrete, and a piece made with a 3-D printer), combines cultures (like Rodrigo Lara Zendejas’ “Crowd Gate,” an iconic, larger-than-life dialogue between Mexican culture references and art world references), and breaks the rules of construction (molds are a no-no but there it is, a large sculpture made by combining various molds of human bodies).

They succeeded, mightily. The resulting exhibition is a chance to dip into one of figurative art’s greatest contributors of all time on the 100th anniversary of his death. It also introduces visitors to today’s greats with work that ranges from playful to peaceful to confusing to stunning.

Rolf Jacobsen - Recovery of Icarus on view in Grand Rapids
Look and think about the "Recovery of Icarus" by Rolf Jacobsen and many more figurative works today at Frederik Meijer Gardens.
Photo courtesy of Holly Bechiri.

“This is a show about looking and thinking,” says Becherer. “ You can come in and say you saw some great Rodins and you saw some interesting things, but it’s really about looking.”

Don’t miss your chance to look and think at Frederik Meijer Gardens while you explore Rodin’s works and other figurative works before the exhibition closes January 7. Entrance to exhibition included in general admission.

Also happening at Frederik Meijer Gardens:

The holiday season is a great time to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens (when isn’t it?) because of its annual event, “Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World.” Surround yourself with the holiday spirit with over 400,000 Christmas lights, strolling carolers, over 40 trees and displays, and of course, the incredible train set with buildings and settings designed from natural materials. This holiday event runs from November 21 - January 7.

Are you looking to dive into more art in Grand Rapids? Visit the Experience Grand Rapids Art page for more information.