Isaac Witkin b. 1936
T01393 Vermont I 1965
Painted steel, 36½ x 101¿ x 67½ (93 x 258.5 x 171.5).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Exh: Junge Generation Grossbritannien, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, April–June 1968 (Witkin 2, repr.); The Alistair McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June-August 1971 (58, repr.).
Lit: Michael Compton, in catalogue of The Alistair Ale Alpine Gift, 1971, pp. 123-6.
‘Vermont I’ was first made in fibreglass and resin: the artist laid this material over a mould to form a layer which was then lifted oft” and worked up to the intended finish. He subsequently remade the work in sheet steel; the medium bends only in two dimensional curves. Witkin achieved the corrugated forms of the sculpture through applying rollers to the sheet. In conversation in January 1971 he said that he preferred the springy, resistant nature of this material to the inert resins of fibre-glass. Since ‘Vermont I’ he has always worked in steel. The work is painted red and green. ‘Vermont I’ was followed by ‘Vermont II’ ‘III’ and ‘IV’. In all four works surface and cross-section of the corrugated steel suggest volume. He wrote (catalogue, Bennington College, Vermont 1971, p.8): ‘The Vermont series are a group of four works done when I just arrived in America in 1965, and they are my first sculptures made in steel. Vermont was my first experience of living in the country, and I was much affected by the natural rhythms of the landscape and the violent changes of season. I think of these works as the “four seasons”. There is in these four works a gradual unfolding of form as from a fist to an open hand. Vermont I is an attempt to achieve mass by means that are not massive—to achieve volume by implication—using surfaces alone. In Vermont II “Summer” 1 tried to make the back of the piece register with equal importance as the front and to reveal the reality of the surface from all aspects to dispel any illusion that the work may be solid. Attempts to open up form further by making exterior and interior visible simultaneously was the purpose in Vermont III “Winter”. In Vermont IV “Spring” the elements have been fragmented from the previous pieces and reassembled in an open way liberating the idea from the single form concept that closes in on itself. The form now opens up to interact with space and reaches outwards.
‘I am not a serial-type sculptor in the sense of making endless variations on the same format. There is, however, an underlying, though not obvious, relationship between works. I have a spontaneous way of working, and do not pre-plan a piece. The form and concept becomes manifest to me as I work with my material.’
The artist added (3 April 1972): ‘The “Vermont” series was a turning point in my attitude towards shape-making. With the “Vermont” series, the configurations were determined more than ever by my desire to shape space rather than to shape form.
‘It is possible that the ambiguity of heaviness and lightness in my work may be the result of my impulse to express physicality by means that one would not literally associate these qualities with.’
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.