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Old 12-06-2004, 10:58 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: New Orleans, LA
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Re: direct modeling without; More on defining sculpture

Hanee - I’ve just read your two pieces in response to my question about defining sculpture. It’s very provoking, in the sense of stimulating, and I thank you for taking the time to do this.

Here are some random reactions, in no particular order of significance, and I may have left out other issues equally significant.

(1) Your use of binocularity as a necessary part. That seems to suppose an observer, and one with two functioning eyes. (Of course, you suggest that one eye will suffice, with the option of displacement.) An objection is that even fully planar objects such as paintings will appear subtly different at different angles.

One interesting property of the typical human mind, with experience in binocular vision: Someone demonstrated convincingly at a science conference I attended many years ago, that a truly flat, two-dimensional form which varies in time can be perceived as three-dimensional. In that case, the presenter had used a computer to generate a succession of 2D images of a very complex 3D object - a small protein molecule, represented as a long piece of regularly bent or crumpled wire. Watching the projection of these images generated a perception of a rotating, 3D object, the wire or protein as it would appear in 3D space. The mind is quite experienced in translating 2D views into 3D concepts.

(2) You require “form” to be in 3D space which, it is true, I assumed. However, you also exclude any variation in time (the 4th dimension conceptually) and thus appear to exclude kinetic sculpture.

(3) Challenging the idea of “primary purpose” is excellent because, it is correct, we mustn’t need to read the sculptor’s mind to decide whether a work succeeds as sculpture. However, basing the distinction on perception allows something to be sculpture for one person and not for another. Maybe this is OK.

(4) Your questioning of my term “single or compound”, which it seems you replace with single, though possibly complex, emphasizing unity. The emphasis on unity is critical, but I meant the word compound essentially to be synonymous with your complex. (And by compound, I intended to include works with two or more physically distinct parts, such as, in a very simple example, Serra’s groups of bent metal sheets. It’s not clear to me you give complex the same meaning.)

(5) I also dispute your requirement that art be beautiful. I have trouble defining beauty, in fact. I’m perfectly content saying that art must force one’s attention to the state of existence, to the perception of being and the reaction to that perception. In that sense, beauty is not required, unless anything with that effect is de facto beautiful.

(6) I’ve worried most about your examples of Ugolino and Laocoon as indisputably beautiful, and works of (good or excellent) sculpture. I simply don’t see them that way, but I’m prepared to admit a deficiency on my part, an inability to see beyond a certain level of complexity.

Generally speaking, I find Hellenistic art, with Laocoon as example, overly theatrical or over-wrought emotionally, in comparison with Classical Greek art, from which it derives historically. That may reflect an inability to perceive its complexity as unity. I appreciate the individual figures in Laocoon, though not as especially good examples, but I fail to see value in the assemblage, beyond the typically known narrative.

To elaborate on this point a bit: Michelangelo’s David or Moses, or even his two Medici portraits or the four allegorical figures in the Medici chapel, individually are engaged in movement of some sort, but the motivation need not be known to appreciate the sculpture. The more exaggerated movement or postures in Laocoon, and especially the three together, virtually demand explanation, a snapshot of narrative. By “visual narrative or theater” earlier, I intended to describe exactly this characteristic of the piece. I find it unsatisfying in and of itself, despite respecting the individual figures to a degree. In effect, I find it lacks unity because it demands something it doesn’t contain - the justification for the postures and emotions.

In fact, I see now that also is my objection to Ugolino.

Last edited by fritchie : 12-06-2004 at 11:06 PM.
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