Melt/Carve/Forge: Embodied Sculptures By Cassils

Exhibition Info
Curated by
Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art
Powerful performance-based sculpture that ignites the canon of art history

Cassils' first solo museum exhibition in the United States addresses timely concerns of the often forgotten violence used daily against transgender bodies. Thinking of their body as raw sculptural material, Cassils shapes their physique through strict physical training regimes in order to perform transgender as a continual process of becoming. Melt/Carve/Forge features the artist’s groundbreaking work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance in conversation with PAFA’s 19th century building and historic American art collection.

The Morris Gallery features work related to Cassils’ powerful performance titled Becoming an Image. The potent photographs from this piece show the artist sweating, grimacing, and flying through the air, a primal force pummeling a block of clay and confronting the invisible histories of violence against transgender people. A new series of concrete and bronze sculptures called The Resilience of the 20% is also on display. These pieces are cast from bashed remnants of performances of Becoming an Image and proposed as a public monument marking sites where acts of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people have occurred. Cassils’ exhibition continues in the rotunda of PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building with additional photography and video that upends figurative art traditions.

Melt/Carve/Forge is presented in conjunction with PAFA’s exhibition Thomas Eakins: Photographer, which celebrates the centenary of Eakins’ death. Eakins, primarily known as a painter, was an important leader in 19th century American figurative art and an early adopter of photographic technology. Cassils’ innovative approach to media and the figure resonates with Eakins’ (at that time) incredibly forward thinking attitude towards art-making and the human body. 

For more on the Morris Gallery program, click here.


Press Coverage

The Huffington Post: Transgender themes in art and dance at PAFA

Philadelphia Gay News: Gender Noncomformity on Display at PAFA

Artblog: Violence, birth, and Becoming an Image – Cassils at PAFA

The Dance Journal: Intimacy and Isolation in the Dark – Cassils at PAFA

Philadelphia Gay News: The Inspiration That Is Cassils