Hither sculpture

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Well, Roberta, here’s the heart of the matter for sculpture–it’s making objects that have to compete in a world of objects. Unlike a painting, which differs from sculpture in its 2-dimensionality (its object-hood best discussed in some other context, not this one), sculpture is just another object. And often it’s not nearly as wonderful as the real thing.

Take Carl Andre’s checkerboard rug of metal plates (shown above), which is not nearly as sensual as a real rug (see heriz rug image).

And yet I wouldn’t dismiss Andre, even though his rug is visually less interesting than the oriental rug, because Andre has plenty of ideas. I’m entranced by that false invitation to walk on a sculpture, and to make the precious sculpture look like serviceable kitchen tiles. The ideas compensate for the look, here.

On the other hand, this garden sculpture (shown right) may as well not be there. It disappears amidst nature’s glories, as do so many outdoor sculptures.

But not all outdoor sculptures fail to dominate their spaces. Here I’m in agreement with you. The statues seem to hold their own a lot better than abstracts and shapes with industrial symmetry.

But for every rule I make up, I can come up with an example of something that breaks it, like the Richard Serra “Torqued Ellipses” (shown left). Their imposing size, weight and threat are quite unlike anything that’s part of normal experience–or at least unlike my normal experience, since I don’t normally stand under supertanker hulls in drydock.

I’d say that Donald Judd hit the nail on the head when he made a suite of metal office furniture (right) that looks a lot like his sculptures, which look a lot like office furniture to me. I can’t help but view this work as an admission of failure–failure to rise above design and failure to make something that competes with the 3-D reality that surrounds us and assaults our eyes every day.

I don’t think sculpture–or installation, for that matter–is in trouble. I just think there’s a lot of boring sculpture out there. I’m thinking of so many of the pieces showing now at Third Street Gallery (see Aug. 3 post) that seem like pale imitations of reality and pale imitations of previous sculptors’ work.

A decent sculpture is harder to make than a decent painting. It’s got to work harder than a painting to differentiate itself from reality.

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