Headless Drummer Boy is a sculpture that stands out from a distance. It is tall and might initially seem perplexing. The figure seems to stagger forward somnambulantly, rather than striding forward with poise. Also, it headless. It does not depict any particular person; it is a spectre, a dream or an apparition.

Classicism on stilts

Headless Drummer Boy is a challenging sculpture that is not easily decoded. It is not only physically big and unwieldy, it also resists any simple narrative. As an open work of it clearly represents a quality that is common for Tal R’s art: a formal certainty in execution combined with ambiguity of statement. The movement pattern suggests ‘classicism on stilts’ with a disquieting potential for the figure to run wild, lose its bearings and wander blindly into disaster, leading the audience with it.

Tal R and sculpture

Sculpture adds a new chapter to Tal R’s practice. ‘Tal R – Animals and People’ is the title of the artist’s current exhibition at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, which includes Headless Drummer Boy. Drawing on inspiration from everyday objects, animal figures and his own family, the artist explores the traditional materials of bronze and plaster. On the one hand, his sculptures have a contemporary expression that is clearly aligned with his paintings but they also send a nod to post-war sculpture.

Resonance with the permanent collection

Louisiana Museum of Modern art has a history with Tal R that goes back decades, including hosting Tal R’s museum debut just over 20 years ago. In 2017, Louisiana showed the retrospective exhibition ‘Academy of Tal R’, and the artist has a significant presence in the Louisiana collection. Headless Drummer Boy will be one of the principal pieces in the museum’s Tal R collection and also resonates with Louisiana’s historical collection of sculptures. One such obvious reference is Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man from 1960 as well as Germain Richier’s hybrid creatures that are either kneeling or have stilts strapped to their bodies.

About Tal R

Tal Shlomo Rosenzweig (b. 1967) lives and works in Copenhagen. He graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. He was a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Art Academy of Düsseldorf) in 2005–2014. Tal R is best known for his paintings but engages with a wide variety of media in an explorative approach. Tal R has received numerous accolades, including the Eckersberg Medal (2005), the Carnegie Art Award (2002) and the New Carlsberg Foundation’s Artist Grant (2016).