Balancing on a Unicycle
Also a painter and draftsman, Chaim Gross first won his reputation in the 1930s as a sculptor. A native of Austria and the son of a lumber merchant, Gross emigrated to the United States in 1921, where he studied in New York with Robert Laurent and Elie Nadelman. It was probably Laurent, a proponent of direct carving, as well as his childhood memories of his father’s lumber factory that led Gross to concentrate on carving hardwoods, especially exotic species. Always interested in movement expressed through the human form, Gross’s work depicts mothers playing with their children, dancers, circus performers, and acrobats. His penchant for depicting female gymnasts is seen to good advantage in “Balancing on a Unicycle,” the second of three bronze casts made in 1967 from a 1940 ebony carving. The surface of the cast closely imitates the polish and color of the original dark wood. Echoes of the carved original are revealed in the cascade of hair framing the face. Otherwise, the body of the performer is rendered in smooth, simplified volumes. By showing the acrobat balancing upside down as she maneuvers a unicycle, Gross invites the viewer to consider the human form as an upward spiral of interlocking forms.