Sunday, October 26, 2014

Smart Museum: What is Sculpture ?

George Minne, "Kneeling Youth"

What makes an object a sculpture ?

In an artworld where breaking boundaries is the rule, rather than the exception, we might better ask  "who makes an object a sculpture?"

Millions of Brillo boxes on supermarket shelves do not qualify -- but one of them may be called "sculpture" if put on display in an art museum.

But still, in this exhibition,  viewers are  encouraged to examine their own experiences to seek the answer, led, appropriately enough, by a group that calls itself  "500 Clown".

"We invite you to move from passive visitors in the galleries to active participants in co-creating the Museum." say the clowns -- but this "co-creation" is no more active than any other act of looking, which cannot help but be co-creative because that's how the human eye/mind works.

The Good, Bad, Ugly exhibit at the DePaul Museum a few years back was a more sincere invitation for participation, offering explanations for why some pieces were being considered for museum de-acquisition, and asking viewers to vote their response.

This post is my form of viewer participation - beginning with the sculpture shown above --- because it's one of my favorites in the Smart museum's collection, though it was not included in this show.

David Hare, 1955 .......... Marino Marini, 1956

Mainstream figure sculpture fled from any sense of social idealism in the 1950's -- and I'm not fond of it.

But the Smart can fill an entire small gallery with this genre -- and it's interesting to see these pieces side by side.

Eduardo Paolozzi., 1956 ........................ David Hare, 1955

Richard Hunt, 1961

This youthful Richard Hunt piece looked pretty good in the same room -- and it felt quite figurative - and jaunty.

Anthony Caro, 1984

Germaine Richier, 1955

Henry Moore

Moving over to something quite different - this case offers an interesting juxtaposition of Art  Deco neo-Egyptian  (made by an Armenian) --- with a piece made by an actual  contemporary Egyptian.

Mahmud Mukhtar, 1930

The stillness and power of ancient Egyptian sculpture is apparently being sought - but  not being achieved.

Hakop Gurdjian, 1930's


This piece is more pleasantly decorative -- but still feels 5,000 years removed from the Old Kingdom.

Fang peoples (Cameroon), Byeri (male ancestor figure)

The museum does not seem to have much African sculpture -- is this the only piece ?

As sculpture, it hardly compares with the Great Bieri at the Met.

Emil Armin, 1923

This local artist  is much better known as a painter - but this is  respectable venture into a very different medium.  And it has more in common with ancient Egyptian sculpture than the attempted imitations shown earlier in this post.

Hans Arp

These small pieces are much less impressive than the large-scale piece up in Evanston, just outside the Block Museum.  I'd rather just look at gourds.


Now if I were going to define "sculpture",
I would use this display case as an example.
The two Buddhas to the left  (Chinese and Tibetan) are just Buddhas.
But the small, green one to the right (Korean)
is also a sculpture.

Korea, Amita Buddha, 15th C.

John Chamberlin, 1963

Not that similar fragments could not be found in any junk yard -- but still, I like this one.

It does feel like it's been composed  as something of an ebullient ornamental riff - doing the same thing with fragments of colored metal that other ABX artists were doing with gobs of paint.


Charpentier, inkwell ("Starvation"), 1894