Curator's comments: Audio (1:42)
Acrobatic Performers
Chaim Gross

birds-eye maple
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation

The composition of the two figures in the relief creates a powerful sense of circular rhythm and motion. Yet a complex, abstract interweaving of lines and planes holds the figures in careful balance. Although the wood is only one-and-one-quarter-inch thick, the illusionistic physicality of the figures testifies to the artist's talent. Chisel marks are used to distinguish the slippers, pants, and hair of the two performers. The hardness of bird's-eye maple and its unusual graining must have appealed to Gross, but this relief is only one of a few that he carved in this variety of wood. At least two casts of this piece were made in bronze.