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Entries in Sculpture (10)

Monday
Jul152019

Giacometti: An Existentialist 

Alberto Giacometti - Three Men Walking - 1949 - Bronze - 30 1/8 x 13 x 12 3/4 in. (76.5 x 33 x 32.4 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkSwiss artist Alberto Giacometti  (1901-1966) had a remarkable career that traced the shifting enthusiasms of European art before and after the Second World War. As a Surrealist in the 1930s, he devised innovative sculptural forms, sometimes reminiscent of toys and games. As an Existentialist after the war, he led the way in creating a style that summed up the philosophy's interests in perception, alienation and anxiety.

In the late 1930s, Giacometti abandoned both abstraction and Surrealism, becoming more interested in how to represent the human figure in a convincing illusion of real space. He wanted to depict figures in such a way as to communicate a perceptual sense of spatial distance, so that viewers, might share in the artist's own sense of distance from his subject. The solution he arrived at involved whittling the figures down to the slenderest proportions.

Giacometti’s Surrealist works influenced such sculptors as Henry Moore (discussed elsewhere on What About Art?). His figurative work was instrumental in re-establishing the figure as a viable motif in the post-war period, at a time when abstract art dominated. 

“The rough, eroded, heavily worked surfaces of "Three Men Walking (II)" [featured here] typify his technique. Reduced, as they are, to their very core, these figures evoke lone trees in winter that have lost their foliage. Within this style, Giacometti would rarely deviate from the three themes that preoccupied him—the walking man; the standing, nude woman; and the bust—or all three, combined in various groupings.” (metmuseum.org)

Friday
Jul052019

Brâncuși: Elegance in Simplicity

Constantin Brâncuși - Bird in Space - 1923 - Marble - 56 3/4 x 6 1/2 in. - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkRomanian-French artist Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957) is often regarded as the most important sculptor of the 20th century. His visionary works of art often exemplify ideal and archetypal representations of their subject matter. Bearing laconic titles such as Fish, Princess X, and Bird in Space, his sculptures are deceptively simple, with their reduced forms aiming to reveal hidden truths.

Unlike the towering figure of Auguste Rodin, for whom Brâncuși briefly assisted early in his career, Brâncuși worked directly with his materials, pioneering the technique of direct carving, rather than working with intermediaries such as plaster or clay models.

“Explaining that ‘[t]he artist should know how to dig out the being that is within matter,’ Brancusi sought to create sculptures that conveyed the true essence of his subjects, be they animals, people, or objects by concentrating on highly simplified forms free from ornamentation. While many regarded his art as abstract, the artist disagreed; he insisted on the representational nature of his works, asserting that they disclosed a fundamental, often concealed, reality.” This is not far removed from Michelangelo’s claim that, “every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” (Several posts about Michelangelo appear on What About Art?)

Whether one regards Brâncuși’s work as abstract or not, there is no question that he was a “pioneering force in modern sculpture, paving the way for many generations of artists.

In the work featured here, the artist focused on the movement of the bird, rather than its physical attributes. And yet, the viewer does “see” a bird there, along with feeling its motion.

Monday
Jun242019

Edmonia Lewis: A Muti-faceted Heritage

Edmonia Lewis - Old Arrow Maker - modeled 1866, carved 1872 - Marble - 21 1/2 x 13 5/8 x 13 3/8 in. (54.5 x 34.5 x 34.0 cm.) - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, D.C.Artist Artist Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907) was an American sculptor whose Neoclassical works exploring religious and classical themes won contemporary praise and received renewed interest in the late 20th century. Born free in New York, she was the first woman of African-American and Native American heritage to achieve international fame and recognition as a sculptor in the fine arts world. After studying at Oberlin College she became a sculptor, working in Boston and Rome despite the social challenges posed by her race and gender. Her work is known for incorporating themes relating to black people and indigenous peoples of the Americas into Neoclassical-style sculpture.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha inspired Lewis to carve the Old Arrow Maker. Her evocative subjects often reflect her dual heritage; her father was African American and her mother Chippewa (Ojibwe). The cessation of hostilities between the Ojibwe and Dakota (after years of inter-tribal war that the poem and sculpture represent) might well refer to Lewis's hopes for reconciliation between the North and South after the Civil War. In the story, Hiawatha later marries Minnehaha with the wish that ". . . old feuds might be forgotten/ And old wounds be healed forever.”

Friday
Apr122019

Ghiberti: The Gates of Paradise

Lorenzo Ghiberti - Entry into Jerusalem - 1403-24 - Gilded bronze, 52 x 45 cm (inside molding) - Baptistry, Florence, Italy (click photo for larger image)Ghiberti - The Gates of ParadiseThe work featured here is one of the 20 scenes from the life of Christ depicted on the north doors of the Baptistry in Florence. Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) was one of the most important Early Renaissance sculptors; his work and writings formed the basis for much of the style and aims of the later High Renaissance.

Like many of his contemporaries, Ghiberti trained as a goldsmith. His sculpture embodies the lyrical grace and technical perfection associated with that craft, as well as a concern for classical clarity of weight and volume. In 1403, competing against such formidable rivals as Filippo Brunelleschi and Jacopo della Quercia, Ghiberti won his first major commission, the making of the second pair of bronze doors for the baptistery of the cathedral of Florence. He spent more than 20 years completing them, with the help of such students as Donatallo and Paolo Ucello. These artists, as well as Brunelleschi and della Quercia are discussed elsewhere on What About Art?

Michelangelo would later dub the door “The Gates of Paradise” and they have been referred to as such ever since then.

Friday
Apr052019

Duane Hansen: It’s Alive!

Duane Hanson - Woman Eating - 1971 - polyester resin and fiberglass with oil and acrylic paints and found accessories - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, DCAmerican figurative sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996) created lifelike figures made of cast fiberglass and polyester resin and dressed in everyday clothes. They often fooled the public into believing that they were viewing real people. Because of its faithfulness to reality, Hanson’s work is often categorized with that of the Photorealist painters of the same era, who based their paintings on photographic images.

Unlike the two-dimensional paintings, however, Hanson’s three-dimensional objects, life-size and realistic down to the hair on their arms, are uncanny in that they are simultaneously familiar in their lifelike appearance and yet strange as static works of art.

Hanson’s subjects of the late 1960s were political, including war, gang victims, and the homeless. Though he later tempered his political message, he continued to address the largely thankless roles of the working class—housewives, repairmen, office cleaners, dishwashers, museum guards, and janitors, whose bowed heads and vacant gazes reveal boredom and exhaustion.