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  #76  
Old 06-25-2004, 12:41 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

From there it was a hot, hot, hot drive to Springfield, MO to meet up with Russ (where he and his wife Pam have graciously taken us in for the night). We made it here a bit early so we had time to stop by the Springfield Museum of Art. There were a handful of large works outside, including their most prominent large, yellow scupture by John Henry (sorry, no pic). Inside we found their national watercolor show up which was a nice change of pace. And a show of American Regionalists including Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. I found the lithographs by Grant Wood to be very good. I didn't quite realize the quality of his work before.

There were no labels on the works outside, so my guess will have to work. The first is by Richard Hunt, the second I'm not sure, and the third looks to be by Trova.
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  #77  
Old 06-27-2004, 04:54 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour! Fool's gold

[quote=fritchie]Youíre right, Sam. This isnít hematite, which is an iron oxide, of theoretical formula Fe2O3, but a related material, FeS, commonly called Foolís Gold because of its color. I canít recall the formal, common, name right now. QUOTE]


Pyrite, aka Fool's Gold.
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  #78  
Old 06-27-2004, 05:03 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Sam,

I have to offer a huge thanks for giving all of us a taste of your trip and providing the forum with a great hub for discussion! I finally decided to sit for awhile with the thread and spend some time with the great images you posted.

Be sure to keep enjoying yourself and be safe!

A million thanks
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  #79  
Old 06-27-2004, 12:57 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Friday morning, we headed over with Russ and Pam to check out the shop. I can say now that I have seen the future of sculpture and it is called RuBert Studios. There I saw the near complete integration of material and computer technology. It is a marvel, but left me pondering its limitations as well. But for the material, scale and style of Russ' work, it seems to be a near perfect fit. The building itself has the size, equipment, and character that any sculptor would love to work in.

Thanks again to Russ and Pam for their hospitality!
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  #80  
Old 06-27-2004, 01:17 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

From there, we headed to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. It was in the middle of construction/expansion as well, but there was still plenty of galleries open and of course the grounds around the musum. The museum has the largest collection of large-scale bronze sculptures by Henry Moore outside of England. There is a sizable display of his work in the interior courtyard as well. It was nice to see some stellar examples of his work.

L to R: Oldenburg's Shuttlecock (there are 3 more on the grounds), interior Moore courtyard, Moore sculpture with visitor
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  #81  
Old 06-27-2004, 01:24 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

And while I was in Kansas City, I made a quick visit to the Zone Gallery. I'm scheduled to have a show there some time next year so I wanted to check things out. Stretch, the director, was out of town but there were plenty of his works in the adjoining yard. And there was plenty of activity in the old warehouse which contained both the gallery and shop space. It looks to be a good venue and I'm excited for the show. Now just to make the work...

L to R: Outdoor yard with work by Stretch, gallery space, shop space
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  #82  
Old 06-27-2004, 01:34 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Saturday found us in Des Moines, IA to visit their Art Center. What a pleasure to find the most beautiful small museum of our entire trip there! There are three separate parts designed by three separate architects and they compliment each other beautifully. The museum's collection leans heavily toward contemporary work, though there are some very good modern works there as well. Unfortunately there was no photography allowed indoors or I could show you one of the finest sculptures I saw on the entire trip, a smaller work by Ernest Trova. And Mandy was overjoyed to see the Andy Goldsworthy installation near the gardens in the back. The piece is entitled Three Cairns and we saw the East Coast Cairn at SUNY in Purchase, NY ealier on the trip. Now she wants to go to San Diego to see the third...

L to R: Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Andy Goldsworthy.
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  #83  
Old 06-27-2004, 01:55 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Now, after 20 days, 4700 miles, 2500 pictures and 38 places visited, we are finally back home safe and sound. I doubt I could have asked for more from the trip. We saw some incredible things and met some incredible people. We also saw some truly terrible work and signs of carelessness and neglect. In short, I think we got a fairly decent picture of sculpture and its presentation today.

It has been said that a fish cannot understand the water it swims in. That was precisely my goal on this trip, and I think I achieved some glimpses of it. Nietzsche wrote of the Spirit of Gravity that holds us down. To his mind, in order to see clearly, one must overcome this pull and fly high above to get a decent perspective. Now that I am back home, I look forward to using the pictures, information and memories I have gathered to give me wings.

Many thanks once again to the General Mills and Jerome Foundation for making this experience possible.

Sam
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  #84  
Old 06-27-2004, 05:50 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sculptorsam
Now, after 20 days, 4700 miles, 2500 pictures and 38 places visited, we are finally back home...
What! Get back out there! We want more pictures, more commentary and more quotes... else what are we to do, log-off and do some work?

PS Did you get the title of the last Trova, perhaps we can find a picture of it.
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  #85  
Old 07-04-2004, 12:03 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Sam,
I've just spent the last hour and a half going through your Dream Tour from start to finish. It's an amazing resource and your comments are wonderful to read. I could be wrong, but did you at one point mention that you may put all of this together in book form? That would be a great idea... a field guide to U. S. sculpture, Mid/north region or some such. I'd certainly like a copy (autographed by the famous Sam and Mandy of course). Then you could do the same for other regions of the US and once that's exhausted, you could do Europe, Africa, Asia or wherever.
The New England Sculptor's Association sponsored "A Guide to Public Art in Greater Boston" by area sculptor Marty Carlock in 1993, which I have a copy of. It includes monuments, figurative sculptures, murals and contemporary sculpture, trying to be encyclopedic. It would be great to see a comprehensive regional guide just showing contemporary sculpture. Seems like you're the man to do it.
Thanks so much for posting all of this.
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  #86  
Old 07-04-2004, 10:19 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Hi Mandy & Sam, Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful tour with us. It was very enjoyable and educational. I'll bet you can't wait to get back in your studio!
Sincerely,
Jeff
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  #87  
Old 07-06-2004, 12:55 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Araich
PS Did you get the title of the last Trova, perhaps we can find a picture of it.
I contacted the museum and they forwarded me the information on the work:

Ernest Trova (American, b.1927)

FM/Shadow, 1969-70

Chrome plated bronze; aluminum

Overall: 24 inches (61 cm.)

Running a search on Google popped up this image, (though it looks better in person and from the opposite angle):
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  #88  
Old 07-06-2004, 01:07 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Thanks, JAZ. I went back through it all as well a couple days ago and it helped my memory a lot. I'm very glad I documented it here for my own benefit as well.

There actually is a book I got for the trip called "A Guide to the Sculpture Parks & Gardens of America" by Jane McCarthy and Laurily K. Epstein. It was published in 1996 and is currently out of print (though it's easier than ever to find used books online). Right now, I'm just aiming for a decent article/report of the trip. If I wrote a book on it, I'd like it to be something more along the lines of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance than a traditional travel guide. So many different strains for reflection, and not simply what makes for a Good sculpture.
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  #89  
Old 07-06-2004, 01:14 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ironman
Hi Mandy & Sam, Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful tour with us. It was very enjoyable and educational. I'll bet you can't wait to get back in your studio!
Sincerely,
Jeff
Hey Jeff, thanks! You're more right than you know about wanting to get some work done again. I'm hoping this week I can make some progress.
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  #90  
Old 07-07-2004, 03:47 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Hello there,
As a new member of 20 min ago I just wanted to say what an epic, inspiring and informative post.
And a question, I've just been perusing your website, and your works amaze me. Sculpture's like "Jacob's Ladder" , "Kubrick" is anything in there found object? or have you fabricated it all?

Ciao 4 now,
Tim
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  #91  
Old 07-07-2004, 10:22 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Welcome, Tim. Except for the very, very rare occasion, all my work is fabricated. The Images Gallery is a good place to find discussions on works and a place to post works of your own for us to see and ask questions about. I look forward to seeing some of your work down there, though your website is nicely designed and user friendly as well.
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  #92  
Old 07-11-2004, 11:33 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

I thought y'all might be interested in my final report for the trip. Let me know what you think...


On June 7, 2004, I left my home in mid-Minnesota and, along with my wife, began a road tour of sculpture parks, museums and studios to the East Coast and back. When it was over, we would have traveled 4700 miles over 20 days through 15 states. We visited 38 different places while taking over 2500 photographs. It has been said that a fish is unable to see the water that it swims in, that while fully immersed in an environment, it is unable to fully understand it. Well, that was my goal for the trip. I wanted to ďseeĒ the sculpture environment so that I could better understand it as well as my place in it.

Upon leaving, I compiled a list of four hypotheses that I would attempt to test with what I saw. They were:
1. There is a noticeable difference in quality from great works of art to second- and third-tier works.
2. Good site selection and placement play a crucial role in how we see sculpture. It is so important that good placement can make bad work look good while poor placement can make good work look bad.
3. The superiority of blue-chip sculpture is due to qualities inherent in the work and not due to social and theoretical constructs surrounding the work.
4. Craftsmanship in outdoor work is more important than indoor work. A well put-together sculpture looks better than one that is poorly constructed.

The first day was a crucial beginning for the trip. In fact, it could be seen as a microcosm of the trip as a whole. I saw then that there would be no easy answers or black and white judgments. The first stop was the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis, MN, and the last stop was the junkyard sculpture park by Dr. Evermor in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It is hard to imagine a wider spectrum of work.

I had been to the Walker Sculpture Garden many times. It is a very deliberately and intelligently designed park. Formal gardens create a group of outdoor galleries at the beginning. These give way to a more free-form park area of grass expanses and trees. Since I had been there before, I was familiar with nearly all the work. There were only a couple new pieces or groupings on display, and these were all located in the more organic part of the garden. The formal gardens almost never change. The works there are placed permanently and beautifully. Just the right level of light flickers through the trees, dancing over the surfaces of high modern and contemporary work. They are all by big name artists. Only towards the way back did I see something really new. There was a recent competition to design miniature golf holes and a dozen of the winning proposals were installed there. The opening for the show had been a week earlier. These installations were new to the park and yet they were somehow familiar to me. Many of them played with commercial imagery in an ironic attempt to co-opt popular advertising. But mostly they came off as looking as if they were sponsored by major department stores. The works were slick and intelligent. They were high contemporary slumming it for their own amusement.

At the Walker I saw what would become a staple at the more prestigious venues across the country: high art as high religion. You were not invited to touch the work. Children running and playing in the grass seemed somehow inappropriate. A lot of nodding and quiet contemplation. The systematic movement from one work to the next, pausing for an obligatory amount of time. The identification of sculptures by their maker and not their subject or title. And occasionally, you would happen across a transcendent experience, a work so beautiful it would stop you dead in your tracks. A single sculpture that would expand in time and space to eclipse all the others and render them beside the point.

Dr. Evermorís park was completely different. At a junkyard, one man has fashioned an idiosyncratic vision of classic outsider art. The centerpiece is his Forevertron, an expansive, undisciplined work to serve as both a figurative and literal transporter to other worlds. The surrounding areas are replete with fanciful birds fashioned from musical instruments and giant lizard forms with individual scrap metal scales. There is very little thought given to placement beyond expediency. Works are crammed in with like works in whatever space is available. Often, only enough room to walk between them is left. Viewers are not only allowed to touch the work, they are encouraged to bang on open-ended cylinders attached to a giant, curving dragon to create atonal chimes. The sculptures are often made of rusted metal left unpainted or painted metal in a state of decay. But what imagination! Giant cylinders are transformed into the breasts of an enormous bird. Trumpets and trombones become the tails of peacocks. They donít simply ďrepresentĒ these things; they become them! They are the vision of a single man made manifest in the world. They are both a gift and a natural expression. They are like the shells fashioned by the nautilus; unconsciously created, they are an evolving expression of life.

It would have been enormously convenient for my trip if I had been able to easily dismiss this work. If the Walker had succeeded in every way that Dr. Evermor had failed. But it was not that easy. There were a pair of gigantic custom bass violins fashioned into birds at Dr. Evermorís that did not simply succeed as interesting outsider art; they succeeded as sculpture. They were able to overcome poor placement to shine, and I couldnít help but wonder how they would have stacked up in the Walker collection with proper placement. And there were sculptures in the Walker propped up with a tasteful display and a big name that if placed in these weeds would have shriveled up into nothing. Though created from junk, the craftsmanship of some of Dr. Evermorís work rivaled that of sculpture in the Walker collection because craftsmanship is not just technique, it is the care and grace with which that technique is used. But one thing was noticeably missing from the junkyard park, and that was the transcendent experience. As wonderful as certain works were, as much as they evoked amusement and compassion on my part, they could not deliver an other-worldly experience. Is it because they lacked the religious environment of the Walker? Did they lack the aesthetic dimension of a profound sculpture? Was it due to something inherent in the work, the environment of the work, or in my expectations and training as a sculptor myself? In the course of my trip, any answers only became cloudier as I saw the repeated successes and failures of sculpture and sculpture organizations.

The first day set the tone not just thematically but practically as well. We would visit 2-3 different venues each day while driving between 200 and 400 miles. Really important or high profile places, such as Grounds for Sculpture and the Storm King Art Center, would pretty much get the day to themselves. In the evening, I would download all the digital pictures I took that day and post highlights along with a dayís summary on the Sculpture Community Forum of the International Sculpture Centerís website. Using these technologies, I was able to bring others along for the ride and use their questions and reactions to help me clarify my own thoughts.

As the trip progressed, I was surprised at how my thoughts moved from what I could learn from individual sculptures to the construction of the venues. I did not expect how great a role the design and care of the sculpture parks as a whole would affect how I saw the individual sculptures. But if the sites were not maintained, the works were not kept clean, the labels were obscured or absent, it made it difficult to see the work. It did not help either that there were so many poorly constructed and designed sculptures. I learned that a great sculpture can overcome a poor placement, but a mediocre one cannot. In that case, the two seem to pull each other down even lower.

But the other reason for my attention turning away from the individual works is simply because Iíd seen many of them so often. A number of museums and parks not only have works by the same artists, but the exact same work as well. I began to wonder about the reasons for this phenomenon which led me to thinking about the nature of these artistic organizations. It dawned on me that in many ways, they were organizations before they were artistic. It is human nature to not trust your own value judgments and the structures of the art community make that even harder. In a notoriously subjective sphere, big names and recognizable works can provide security and prestige. It is the same phenomenon seen in mutual fund managers transferred to the artistic realm. Since nobody really knows what makes for a good stock, buy blue chips. At least you wonít be alone if youíre judgment is poor. The viewer is no different. Since many feel themselves lacking in the expertise to pass value judgments beyond ďI like itĒ or ďI donít like it,Ē being able to recognize big names can impart the appearance of a meaningful cultural experience. And so the politics of safety motivates organizations to choose certain works over others. Parks are then designed to house these works, and I, as the viewer, find myself in them looking at works of a certain type. I have now come full circle.

Of course, the flip-side of this coin are the aggressively cutting-edge exhibitions that seem to render value judgments beside the point. The works are political, economic, or theoretic. In fact, they are most anything but aesthetic. Just another way of avoiding the question and retreating to the safety of a particular niche. They are little more than a foxhole dug for defense in the culture wars. Identical foxholes can be found housing their exact polar opposites on the other side of the front.

These forces are not only dangerous because of the repetitive experiences they result in, but the weakened sculpture community that could be created. Many if not most of the works at the top museums and parks are by the same, older artists. In fact, it seems as if these forces are so strong that an inferior sculpture by a big name will be chosen over a great sculpture by a lesser or unknown artist. Calder, in particular, is a sculptor prone to this phenomenon. I saw many poor stabiles by him in collections across the country whose main attribute seems to be that he made them. What this does is potentially create an enormous gap of the work of mid-career or younger sculptors. This slack seems to be taken up by the smaller or second-tier sculpture venues where many younger sculptors can be found. In these places, the quality of work fluctuates wildly. Some of these gems shine gloriously and inspire, but all too many are poorly made and poorly designed. At my darkest moments, I could not tell if the large museums were overlooking great younger artists or if there were simply none to find.

But itís not even as simple as that. Due to our first day, I knew that there were many factors contributing to my ďseeingĒ of a sculpture beyond its inherent design and material. Slowly, I began to get a hint of the Patina. What I call the Patina is the final finish that seems to adhere to world-class work. But unlike a usual patina that is applied by the artist, this Patina is applied by the cultural times, a dealer, a gallery, a museum or an institution. It exists between the viewer and the physical object being seen. Our expectations, education, and inadequacies connect the dots to form the picture we intend to see. The institution, the layout, the big name, the color brochure all help to guide the viewer to see ďproperly.Ē The more I think about the Patina, the more it undermines all my own expectations as to what makes for a good sculpture and how a quality work should be received in the world.

Whenever my thoughts began to wander too far, meeting with a great artist in his studio brought me back to the immediate concerns of sculpture. By far, the highlights of my tour were seeing the different ways such talented and intelligent people navigate their way through this complex community. From a single-man shop to one with 3-4 people in the administration alone, each one demonstrated skills beyond simply those of making sculpture. As much as I could learn aesthetically from encountering a great sculpture, I could learn from a great sculptor what makes for a great character. I think sculpture has always attracted more practically oriented people due to the increased interaction of people and the greater responsibility that brings. No matter how large the painting, if it falls over itís not going to kill anyone. Perhaps most inspiring to see was the great discipline and effort with which they undertake their multiple responsibilities. And being a successful sculptor is about juggling multiple responsibilities. Responsibilities to their collectors, galleries, public boards, employees and, above all, their work. It is just this type of discipline that is obviously lacking in inferior work. It is hard to truly understand just what is missing until youíve seen the absolute epitome of a great modern sculptor.

In the end, I realized that my initial hypotheses were a good place to start, but they did not take into account the complicated intersection of forces and motivations in the art community today. There is often a noticeable difference in the quality of blue-chip work and lesser work, but I canít always attribute this to the qualities of the work itself. It is vitally important that a sculpture park be well designed, accessible, and well maintained, but that isnít enough. The work must inspire awe and imagination as well. A well crafted sculpture does hold up and look better in the natural landscape, but it take more than just that. Cold technical skill are no substitute for the passion and care of the artistís hand. In short, sculpture today is more grand and meager than I could have ever expected.

My thanks again to the General Mills and Jerome Foundation for making this experience possible.
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  #93  
Old 07-12-2004, 09:54 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Hi Sam, Nice report, it sounds like you validated the four hypotheses that you started out with. I just want to say something about the difference between great art and second tier stuff. You always knows when you're seeing a great work of art and it's because of that certain intangible quality that's just about impossible to put into words. It's a visual/feeling thing that there isn't a vocabulary for. Since we live in a world where "communication" is mostly through words it's hard for some people to accept a "wordless" visual communication that really can't be put into words.The saying "a picture's worth a thousand words" comes to mind and I think that we as visual artists communicate thru pictures (sculptures) and not thru words. AM I MAKING ANY SENSE HERE?
Another thing I wanted to say is that when a museum acquires a work of art the work gets some sort of stamp of approval and legitimacy as a worthy piece of art (I hesitate to use the word, "masterpiece" here) that it wouldn't necessarily have when viewed outside the museum environment.
Another point I wish to address is that museum curators are just as insecure as the rest of us, maybe more so and with the proliferation of so much art and so many different styles (pluralism) they don't want to go out on a limb for work by relatively unknown artists, even if they like it, so play it safe and only acquire works by known artists with pedigrees already intact even if the work isn't first rate.
I too love the Walker Art Center, The Lipshitz, "Prometheus slaying the dragon" (I think that's the title) just blew me away and I also liked "Spoon bridge and Cherry", although not a great work, it made me smile, Oldenburg's a funny man. This is bringing back memories. How about that Ruben Nakian piece?, a real gem! I don't remember much else as it's been 13 yrs since my visit.
By the way, the U of A art museum in Tucson has some of the contents of Lipshitz's studio, maquettes, plasters, tools, etc. and is well worth a visit if you're out that way. It's in a room of its own and permanently on display.
Have a nice day, Jeff
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  #94  
Old 07-12-2004, 05:08 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Quote:
Of course, the flip-side of this coin are the aggressively cutting-edge exhibitions that seem to render value judgments beside the point. The works are political, economic, or theoretic. In fact, they are most anything but aesthetic. Just another way of avoiding the question and retreating to the safety of a particular niche. They are little more than a foxhole dug for defense in the culture wars. Identical foxholes can be found housing their exact polar opposites on the other side of the front.
By 'polar opposites on the other side of the front', what kind of work do you mean?
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Old 07-12-2004, 10:27 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Araich
By 'polar opposites on the other side of the front', what kind of work do you mean?
I was thinking of work on the "conservative" end of the spectrum that is only aesthetic on a very superficial level; that is really about something else as well. A lot of contemporary religous art is a good example. Or figurative work that is not about exploring the figure, but about trying to turn the clock back to more "wholesome" art. I had in mind a section from Vonnegut's Cat's Craddle, "Show me a specialist and I'll show you a man so scared of the world he's dug himself a hole to hide in." Only my thought was a little different...
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Old 07-16-2004, 11:39 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Sam - I finally had time to copy and read your report. We all see the world differently, and thatís one reason itís difficult to evaluate art and to separate the great from the mediocre. The point in your report that I could relate to most closely is the ďgroup instinctĒ or ďherd instinctĒ seen in many and probably most public venues.

As I settled into my own professional career locally with a university many years ago, I began to look seriously at the local art scene and to ask how it might help create a richer artistic environment. I saw many young artists, and Iím thinking now primarily about sculpture, but this applies to painters also, who were producing excellent work and selling it at relatively low prices.

I thought, ďHow great an opportunity for the city museum to build a superb collection with minimal resources!Ē Unfortunately, the managers, not only here, but probably almost everywhere, were as timid as the ones you infer. They would buy one work by a ďnameĒ artist, even a relatively mediocre work by my estimate, rather than spend the same amount of money to acquire fifty to a hundred works by young artists, works that I might consider superior.

Of course, to be fair to these managers, they have to consider not only the risk of making an esthetic decision that is expensive and may later be shown to be poor, but also the need to attract visitors, public dollars, and hopefully major donors. They are hired to balance all those matters, and not simply to exercise individual esthetic judgement.

Over the years, Iíve come to decide that institutions canít collect great art; only individuals can do that. What the institutions can do, if they amass enough resource, is to buy or receive great collections from individuals. That, in fact, is what the best and the richest institutions do.

And how to recognize great art at first sight? Each person has to set his/her own criteria. I was fortunate to have an early scholarship that enabled me to see the ďbestĒ collections in New York and various Western European centers at the beginning of my adulthood. That experience, and complementary ones over the years, informed my esthetic taste, primarily along pre-modern lines, of course, but I see equally good modern and postmodern work. The best never is common, and there always is the problem that ďone manís treasure is another manís trashĒ.

Last edited by fritchie : 07-16-2004 at 11:42 PM.
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Old 07-17-2004, 12:52 AM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

I fully understand the difficulties these institutions and their administrators face. Put in their shoes, and given their responsibilities, I could even see myself making similar ones. I didn't intend my report to come across as a condemnation of the profession but as observations of one who loves sculpture and wants the community to be as strong as it possibly can be.

But I will disagree that aesthetic judgment comes down to arbitrary taste. I believe it is possible to discern Quality work (a la Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), though in many cases we have created, or allowed others to create, filters through which we see or even obscure. Or perhaps we have not allowed ourselves to pass judgments for fear of being wrong or lacking sufficient knowledge for 100 percent certainty.

While on the trip I spent as much time as I could watching people's reactions to the works to see what I could learn. Often, they were very complex and mediated by a multitude of expectations, education, class and personal pride. In many cases, these seemed to just make it harder for the viewer to pass a judgment on the work. In fact, these forces seemed designed to short-circuit the critical function inherent in us. And I think the individual critique of a work is very important for a fully engaged viewer. It binds you to the work, in a sense, and forces you to own a stake in it's existence. To have a "dog in the fight" as it were, even if you wish that dog a painful death and quick obscurity.

This is one of the reasons I felt it was so valuable to have my wife along with me. She is not inherently an art person and can be brutally dismissive of sub-standard work. Yet we seemed to be able to agree generally on the relative ranking of the quality of works we saw. There were of course times we disagreed, and then much discussion would result. Sometimes I could convince her of the merit I saw, sometimes it came down to taste, but quite often I was able to see that my own blinders were on. I found myself arguing in favor of the conventional wisdom or from a "learned" perspective as to the "importance" of a work. I don't exclude myself from my criticisms, but nor do I feel it's honest to say it's all subjective.

Thanks for taking the time to read and react to it, fritchie. I appreciate it.

Sam
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Old 07-17-2004, 10:09 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!; esthetic grading

Quote:
Originally Posted by sculptorsam
I fully understand the difficulties these institutions and their administrators face. Put in their shoes, and given their responsibilities, I could even see myself making similar ones. I didn't intend my report to come across as a condemnation of the profession but as observations of one who loves sculpture and wants the community to be as strong as it possibly can be.

But I will disagree that aesthetic judgment comes down to arbitrary taste. I believe it is possible to discern Quality work (a la Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), though in many cases we have created, or allowed others to create, filters through which we see or even obscure.. ....
Sam
Sam - I understand that you are taking an open, positive approach, and of course I agree that that is best. Iím just relating that my own early approach was somewhat similar to yours, and that over time I came to see more complexity in institutional management. Times and places are different, and you should approach this situation in any way you think best. (As if you would do otherwise!)

Typically, I have an instantaneous reaction to the quality of a sculpture, and often to a painting as well. Either itís good (excellent) or itís not. If I donít consider it excellent, I still may find value in it for historical or cultural reasons. I suspect this is what you describe as a Zen approach, but itís been about 40 years since I read that book, and it passed through without leaving any great memory, so Iím not sure. I do fully respect the Zen approach, I just donít remember that book very well.

Over a lifetime, Iíve only met one other person who has admitted to having similar esthetic reactions, an area painter who was largely self-taught but not in the sense of naive. He had worked with various excellent schools and individuals, and had a quite sophisticated approach, but it was completely original, almost 3D painting on a 2D plane, with exceptional presence and unusually vivid but appropriate colors.

I had found his first exhibition (at my Art School) striking but puzzling, and I had made many long visits, trying to understand his approach. He was there one day, and I told him my problem. In the following conversation, he volunteered that he would walk about just looking, and something would just hit him - an inch or two to the right or left was wrong, but that spot was exactly right. That seemed similar to my perception of sculpture. Itís exactly right on first viewing, or itís never right.

Can I assume that my evaluation would match yours?

Last edited by fritchie : 07-17-2004 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 07-20-2004, 09:37 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!

Sam - I tried to get "Zen and ..." at my college library today, but there's one copy and it's out. I did enjoy this earlier, and Iíll reread it as soon as I can.
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Old 07-20-2004, 10:46 PM
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Re: Dream Sculpture Tour!; esthetic grading

Quote:
Originally Posted by fritchie
Can I assume that my evaluation would match yours?
No, I don't think this can be assumed for a variety of reasons. I will add though that I think it's possible to recognize a Quality work, or body of work, without liking it. I'm not arguing that we all don't have personal preferences, just that it's possible to see beyond them. Noguchi is a good example of someone whose work I initially did not "like" but still respected. Over time, I came to see him as one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century. And of course, I'm not alone in that.

And you should be able to pick up a copy of Zen at a used book store for under a buck. There were umpteen-million printed and they're always turning up somewhere.
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