When looking at Brâncuşi's sculpted birds you discover a big family: they all have something in common, yet each one is a little different. Sometimes you find the same shape assigned to different materials, so that the bird can change its plumage from mate marble to a shining bronze. Children, just try to imagine 16 different flying birds!
Brâncuşi liked to work in series, playing with a theme throughout several years. In doing this he was searching for the best combination between the shape of the bird, the material of the sculpture and the idea of flight, which was so dear to him because it embraced all the birds of the world.
Some of the birds he envisaged rise up gradually, like The Rooster (Cocoşul, 1924, cherry wood and 1935, bronze) with its song dedicated to the sun and to the breaking of the day. Others seem to be gliding skyward; some shine like a flame, others are well-grounded like a column.
Have a look at Măiastra (1911), the golden bird: with its puffed up chest, its raised head, arched neck and distinct beak, it is a heavy, rather sturdy bird. It invokes the idea of flight through its volume (we can imagine the air inside its rounded chest) and its singing. Măiastra is a singing bird, an artist. With its puffed up chest, pushed forward, ready to sing, this bird is more about the miracle of the charming sound. It's this embodied flight that interests Brâncuşi now. With its round, proud and shining belly Măiastra is a bird full of, pregnant with singing... It is majestic and static like every being which hides inside itself (hosting it for a while) flight itself.
The bird in grey marble (1923/1947) has its beak open towards the sky. It is so very sky-oriented while singing, that its head and the rest of its body form together one single, elongated shape: seen from one side it looks perfectly vertical and perpendicular to the ground; but also round and full from the other.
As the title itself suggests, Bird in space (Pasărea în văzduh,1924) is a bird in full action, above the ground. And this thanks to its shape (slim and vertical) and its texture: it is so smooth that it can easily cut through the air and slide; and the polished bronze also makes it luminous, like the sun itself.
Bird in space is simultaneously slenderly curved and sharply determined.
It is slender and its arching still reminds us of its kindred ones: not so much of Măiastra's inflated chest, but of the grey-marbled bird, ready to set its song free. Seen from certain angles its shape resembles that of a bow, an archer which can launch itself towards the sky. And its beak has the sharpness of a spear, but without the menace.
While flying, the bird appears thinned, refined. In such a way that its whole being concentrates into a feather. This is Bird in Space: one single thin, luminous feather. This is how Brâncuşi saw the essence of flight. He stripped the bird of its heavy coat of muscles and plumage and presented it to the world like an arch and like an arrow: simple, perfectly aerodynamic, born to fly. Of all the complicated anatomy of its body the sculptor kept only the feather. He disarmed the entire arsenal of flying and reconstructed it, concentrated into one single flaming feather, rising up.
One single quill, magical... With it Brâncuşi wrote, like birds do, the story of flying.
Berlin, 26 October 2016.
Text published in Ghidul pozneţ de cultură Nr. 8 (The Naughty Cultural Guide) on the theme of Flight.