Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES

 

 
 

 
 

CHAPTER TWO
 

TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
 

SCULPTURE BEFORE WORLD WAR I
SCULPTURE BETWEEN THE WARS - Part1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
SCULPTURE SINCE 1945 - Part1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
 
 


SCULPTURE

 


SCULPTURE SINCE 1945

 


Primary Structures and Environmental Sculpture

Like painting, sculpture since 1945 has been notable for its epic proportions. Indeed, scale assumed fundamental significance for a sculptural movement that extended the scopethe very conceptof sculpture in an entirely new direction. "Primary Structure," the most suitable name suggested for this type, conveys its two salient characteristics: extreme simplicity of shapes and a kinship with architecture. Another term, "Environmental Sculpture" (not to be confused with the mixed-medium "environments" of Pop), refers to the fact that many Primary Structures are designed to envelop the beholder, who is invited to enter or walk through them. It is this space-articulating function that distinguishes Primary Structures from all previous sculpture and relates them to architecture. They are the modern successors, in structural steel and concrete, to such prehistoric monuments as Stonehenge.




Mathias Goeritz.

The first to explore these possibilities was Mathias Goeritz (born
1915), a German working in Mexico City. As early as 1952-53, he established an experimental museum, The Echo, for the display of massive geometric compositions, some of them so large as to occupy an entire patio (fig. 1144). His ideas have since been taken up on both sides of the Atlantic.



1144.
Mathias Goeritz. Steel Structure. 1952-53.
Height 4.5 m. The Fcho (Experimental Museum), Mexico City





Ronald Bladen

Often, these sculptors limit themselves to the role of designer and leave the execution to others, to emphasize the impersonality and duplicability of their invention. If no patron is found to foot the bill for carrying out these costly structures, they remain on paper, like unbuilt architecture. Sometimes such works reach the mock-up stage. The X (fig. 1145), by the Canadian Ronald Bladen (1918-1988), was originally built with painted wood substituting for metal for an exhibition inside the two-story hall of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Its commanding presence, dwarfing the Neoclassic colonnade of the hall, seems doubly awesome in such a setting.



1145. Ronald Bladen. The X (in the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.).
1967.
Painted wood, later constructed in steel,
6.9 x 7.3 x 3.8 m.
Courtesy Fischbach Gallery, New York


 

 


Ronald Bladen         

(b Vancouver, 13 July 1918; d New York, 3 Feb 1988).

Canadian sculptor and painter. He studied at the Vancouver School of Art and at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. While living in San Francisco in the 1950s, he produced paintings related to the Abstract Expressionism of Clyfford Still, using mythic and pictographic forms (e.g. Untitled, c. 1956–9; New York, Met.). In the early 1960s he turned to sculpture, abandoning the subjectivity of his previous work in favour of large, simple structures, such as Three Elements (painted aluminium, 1965; New York, MOMA), that demanded to be appreciated in formal terms alone, without explanation, interpretation or evaluation. Nevertheless, the anthropomorphic qualities seen by some critics in his massive solid forms separated his sculpture from the more geometric forms of Minimalism practised by sculptors such as Tony Smith, Donald Judd or Sol LeWitt. In the mid-1980s Bladen again created visual drama by reflecting light from aluminium sheets attached to skeletal wood constructions.
 

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Coltrane
1970

 

 


Ronald Bladen. V

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Cathedral Evening

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Black Triangle

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Curve

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Raiko

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Sculpture

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Sculpture

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Black Tower

 

 


Ronald Bladen. The Cathedral Evening
1971

 

 


Ronald Bladen. Sonar Tide






David Smith.

Not all Primary Structures are Environmental Sculptures, of course. Most are free-standing works independent of the sites that contain them. Bladen's The X, for example, was later constructed of painted steel as an outdoor sculpture. They nevertheless share the same monumental scale and economy of form. The artist who played the most influential role in defining their character was David Smith
(1906—1965). His earlier work had been strongly influenced by the wrought-iron constructions of Julio Gonzalez (fig. 1139), but during the last years of his life he evolved a singularly impressive form of Primary Structure in his Cubi series. Figure 1146 shows three of these against the open sky and rolling hills of the artist's farm at Bolton Landing, New York. (All are now in major museums.) Only two basic components arc employed: cubes (or multiples of them) and cylinders. Yet Smith has created a seemingly endless variety of configurations. The units that make up the structures are poised one upon the other as if they were held in place by magnetic force, so that each represents a fresh triumph over gravity. Unlike many members of the Primary Structure movement, Smith executed these pieces himself, welding them of sheets of stainless steel whose shiny surfaces he finished and controlled with exquisite care. As a result, his work displays an "old-fashioned" subtlety of touch that reminds us of the polished bronzes of Brancusi.




1146. David Smith. Cubi Series. Stainless steel.
(left) Cubi XVIII.
1964. Height 9'8" (2.9 m). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;
(center) Cubi XVII. 1963. Height 9'2" (2.7 m). Dallas Museum of Fine Arts;
(right) Cubi XIX. 1964. 9'5" (2.9 m). The Tate Gallery, London
 

 


David Smith

David Smith, in full David Roland Smith (born March 9, 1906, Decatur, Indiana, U.S.—died May 23, 1965, Albany, New York), American sculptor whose pioneering welded metal sculpture and massive painted geometric forms made him the most original American sculptor in the decades after World War II. His work greatly influenced the brightly coloured “primary structures” of Minimal art during the 1960s.

Smith was never trained as a sculptor, but he learned to work with metal in 1925, when he was briefly employed as a riveter at the Studebaker automobile plant in South Bend, Indiana. Dropping out of college after his first year, he moved to New York City and, while working variously as a taxi driver, salesman, and carpenter, studied painting under John Sloan and the Czech abstract painter Jan Matulka.

Smith’s sculpture grew out of his early abstract paintings of urban scenes, which were reminiscent of the work of his friend Stuart Davis. Experimenting with texture, he began to attach bits of wood, metal strips, and found objects to his paintings, until the canvases were reduced to virtual bases supporting sculptural superstructures. Long after he stopped painting, his sculpture continued to betray its pictorial origins: his overriding concern with the interplay of two-dimensional planes and the articulation of their surfaces led Smith to abrade or to paint his sculpture while often ignoring the traditional sculptural problems of developing forms in three-dimensional space.

Smith’s interest in freestanding sculpture dates from the early 1930s, when he first saw illustrations of the welded metal sculpture of Pablo Picasso and another Spanish sculptor, Julio González. Following their example, Smith became the first American artist to make welded metal sculpture. He found a creative freedom in this technique that, combined with the liberating influence of the Surrealist doctrine that art springs from the spontaneous expression of the unconscious mind, allowed him soon to produce a large body of abstract biomorphic forms remarkable for their erratic inventiveness, their stylistic diversity, and their high aesthetic quality.

In 1940 Smith moved to Bolton Landing, New York, where he made sculpture during World War II when not assembling locomotives and tanks in a defense plant. For a time after the war, he continued to work in a bewildering profusion of styles, but toward the end of the decade he disciplined his exuberant imagination by making pieces in stylistically unified series. Such series of sculptures were often continued over a period of years concurrently with other series of radically different styles. With the Albany series (begun in 1959) and the Zig series the following year, Smith’s work became more geometric and monumental. In Zigs, his most successful Cubist works, he used paint to emphasize the relationships of planes, but in his Cubi (begun in 1963), his last great series, Smith relied instead on the light of the sculptures’ outdoor surroundings to bring their burnished stainless-steel surfaces to life. These pieces abandon two-dimensional planes for cylinders and rectilinear solids that achieve a sense of massive volume. Smith joined these cubiform elements at odd and seemingly haphazard angles, in dynamically unstable arrangements that communicate an effect of weightlessness and freedom.

Encyclopædia Britannica
 

 



David Smith. Ancient Household. 1945
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden





David Smith. The Forest
1950





David Smith. Star Cage
1950





David Smith. Australia. 1951
Bolton Landing, New York





David Smith. Portait of a Young Girl
1954





David Smith. 25 planes

 
 

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