The Hepworth Wakefield is delighted to present a new public art commission and exhibition by contemporary British artist, Des Hughes, inspired by the legacy of one of Britain’s most famous sculptors, Henry Moore.

Hughes’ longstanding interest in the work of Castleford-born sculptor Henry Moore has informed his new solo exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield and the new public art commission - a pair of reclining figures that will be sited at Castleford Academy and outside The Hepworth Wakefield respectively.

For his exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield, Hughes will focus on the story of Moore’s involvement with Castleford, as a community and as a location for sculpture. Bespoke, large-scale cabinets made by Hughes will display archival material (press cuttings, photographs, posters and correspondence) relating to the 1980 exhibition and Moore’s Working Model of Draped Reclining Figure, as well as a series of sculptures by the artist. This will be the first time that works from 'hood' and 'head’ series will be exhibited, and the first time that a complete set of the bronze ‘flints’ will be shown together.

Hughes has been interested in artistic engagement with education and community groups, the process involved in creating new public sculpture, and the idea of ‘productive vandalism’, for example when Moore’s sculpture was defaced, or added to, by the inclusion of glasses drawn on its face by an unknown member of the public.

Throughout 2015, Hughes has visited local primary schools in Wakefield, working with pupils who will attend Castleford Academy from September and his large-scale cabinets will also exhibit several art works made by local school children, created in response to his practice.

A significant new public art commission will also go on display, comprising a new pair of reclining figures that take Moore’s gift to the people of Castleford as its starting point, to be sited at Castleford Academy and outside the Hepworth Wakefield respectively. Placing Hughes’ sculptures in Wakefield and Castleford, two towns located in the district of Wakefield, will draw on the on-going competitive tensions and connections between the respective birthplaces of Hepworth and Moore.

For the past two years Hughes has been granted access to the Wakefield archive held at The Hepworth Wakefield, undertaking research to help broaden his understanding of Moore’s work. This research has provided the starting point for developing his work and the creation of a new public art commission. Hughes became particularly fascinated during his research by the bronze sculpture Working Model of Draped Reclining Figure, 1979, gifted by Moore to his hometown of Castleford, West Yorkshire in 1980.

Born on 30 July 1898 in Castleford, West Yorkshire, Henry Moore grew up to become one of Britain’s most famous sculptors. The son of a coal miner, Moore retained a connection to the town in which he was born and raised throughout his life, regularly appearing in the local press, where he became affectionately dubbed ‘our henry’.

Moore’s generosity was celebrated in the exhibition Henry Moore and the Children of Castleford held at Wakefield Art Gallery in 1980. Held in honour of Moore’s donation of a reclining figure to the town, this exhibition of children’s work highlighted the inspirational effect of this gift on the town’s young people. Working Model of Draped Reclining Figure, 1979 was sited outside Castleford’s Civic Centre in 1980, where it remained until thefts of public sculpture across the UK in 2012 prompted its removal and storage. The sculpture is now displayed in the new Castleford Forum Museum.

Des Hughes’ sculpture sited at Castleford Academy will continue a long-term project by The Hepworth Wakefield, working with local schools to engage young people in cross-curricular learning through art. The commissions reflect the gallery’s commitment to working with young people, helping them to engage with contemporary art through onsite and offsite projects. A celebratory event with the schoolchildren will be held in the gallery.

Des Hughes said: “With the sculptures, prints and artistic methods of Moore being a continuing influence on my own practice, I am thrilled to be working on this project with the gallery. The exhibition will include works from my 'hood' and 'head’ series never before exhibited, large-scale cabinets that I am making to highlight themed collections from within my practice as a whole and two new outdoor sculptures that continue my interest in funeral effigies and the reclining figure as recurring motif in sculpture.”

The exhibition is part of The Hepworth Wakefield’s forthcoming autumn 2015 exhibition programme, which includes exhibitions by contemporary artist Enrico David and a survey of sculpture and prints by modern British artist Gertrude Hermes, both exhibitions open 13 November 2015 until 24 January 2016.