The subject of authorship, authenticity and reproducibility, and the shift in understanding these terms within a digital-driven paradigm, has shaped the core of Oliver Laric’s practice. His sculptures, based on 3D scans of often (neo) classical “originals” from museum collections, together with Laric’s immersive animations, have questioned the permanence of forms, pointing to their variation, multiplication and hybridization through time. Despite the undisputable materiality of Laric’s sculptures, their digital DNA is stored and freely shared via threedscans.com – a free website launched and run by the artist – allowing for these scans to be accessible for further circulation without geographic restrictions, Ram with Human, 2021, being no exception.
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Ram with Human is Oliver Laric’s latest sculpture and derives from a 3D scan of a Roman marble “original” from the 2nd century CE. With the artist unknown, the sculpture is presently part of the Doria Pamphili Gallery collection, in Rome. It depicts a scene from Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus escapes the Cyclops. On finding a large carve, Odysseus and his men entered the cave, helped themselves to food and drink, and fell asleep. Polyphemus, the Cyclops in whose cave Odysseus and his man found shelter, was enraged by their intervention, killing some of the men. To escape, Odysseus and the remaining man constructed an elaborate plan. They blinded the Cyclops and escaped through the cave’s mouth, tied to giant sheep from the Cyclops’ flock. The sculpture depicts Odysseus holding on to a giant ram as he escapes the cave.
Laric’s approach to selecting his subjects, that being existing works of art, can in many ways be seen as discursive and not directly connected to the narrative or art-historical standing of a chosen work. In Ram with Human, this becomes visible through the absence of Odysseus’s acknowledgment in the title of the piece. Instead, the work can be seen as a continuation of Laric’s interest in the relation between human and non-human animals. Here, Laric questions the rigid hierarchies imposed upon an understanding of nature as the Other and subject to domination and power imposition, rather than as a complex web of interdependencies. Ram with Human can be understood as an example, where traditional hierarchies between animal and human have been blurred. The sculpture emphasizes the profound connection between humans and animals, their mutual affinity, and their dependence on each other.
Assembled from multiple elements, printed in SLS (selective laser sintering) nylon and SLA (stereolithography) resin, Ram with Human brings together materials characteristic for texture, color, and surface diversity. The perforated head and bottom back of the ram allow for the passage of light, emphasizing the lightness of the statue while reminding of the immateriality of its scan – the turning point of its transformation into a new version of the work. The sleek and shiny surface of Odysseus’s figure holding on to the belly of the ram and the ram’s back legs, produced from the same material, establish a relation between the two figures, furthered by the intensity of the grip in Odysseus’s hand.
This module of the sculpture is sanded/polished down, creating a pattern, which allows for partial transparency of the module, disclosing the layers of its materiality. The formal multiplicity of the sculpture, the treatment of the material and the sculptures fragmentation into elements, creates a heightened experience of its structural side, highlighting the process of the work’s making, where the way and the circumstances under which its elements are brought together becomes crucial for the perception of the final work.
Despite based on a 3D scan, the back of Ram with Human has been subject to Laric’s subjective postproduction, a consequence of the display at Doria Pamphili Gallery, where due to the position of the “original” work (it was set against a wall), it became impossible to scan its rear side properly. 3D sculpting this part of the sculpture widens the space between the initial work and Laric’s version. However, it is important to note that a similar, slightly more expressive version of the original Roman piece, formerly at the Villa Albani, can now be seen in Rome’s newly restored Torlonia Collection, a work that was recently also subject of Laric’s photogrammetric scanning. The existence of this (classic) version of the sculpture points on the one hand to the aesthetic of repetition in art, challenging the traditional understanding of art’s originality and uniqueness, while on the other hand highlighting that Laric’s approach, in fact, scrutinizes the aesthetic of repetition not as something new, but as something inherent to sculpture, as would be the case with classical Roman sculpture, and sculptural copies, also referred to as Idealplastic.
Oliver Laric has exhibited his work at SMAK (Ghent), Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Guggenheim (Bilbao, Spain), São Paulo Biennale, ICA Boston, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Whitechapel Gallery (London), ExtraCity Kunsthalle (Antwerp), Kunstlerhouse Benthanien (Berlin), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), among other.
The work of Oliver Laric is included in the collections of Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, Ohio), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Haubrok Collection (Berlin), Kadist Foundation (Paris and San Francisco), Zabludowicz Collection (London), among other.