This Tate Modern study day brings together speakers to explore the various art practices that have been described as sculpture during the modern period, with particular reference to their avant-garde and aesthetic status.

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 1: Introduction

Intoduction to the Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day by Sophie Howarth

This study day explores the various art practices that have been described as sculpture during the modern period, with particular reference to their avant-garde and aesthetic status. The talks consider the way in which the category of sculpture has been reworked or challenged through concepts such as the ‘readymade’ as well as through performance and installation art and site-specific commissions.

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 2: Paul Wood

Session 1: Expanding Concepts of Sculpture from this Tate Modern event is with Paul Wood, Senior Lecturer at The Open University

For most of the twentieth century, sculpture seemed to be the poor relation of modernist art compared to painting. After the crisis of modernism in the late 1960s this changed, as painting lost its position at the centre of contemporary art to be replaced by a multiplicity of three-dimensional practices. Paul Wood starts the day with a brief overview of some aspects of the modernist theory of sculpture leading up to the challenge to it in the sixties.

Further Reading

Alex Potts, The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist, Yale, 2000.

Rosalind Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture, Viking, 1977 (reprint by MIT 1990).

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 3: Matthew Gale

Session 2: Brancusi: Carving out a Reputation from this Tate Modern event is with Matthew Gale, Tate Collections Curator and co-curator of Constantin Brancusi: The Essence of Things

Brancusi has a reputation as a skillful peasant camping in the milieu of Montparnasse modernism. Purity and innocence are habitually used to describe both the artist and his work. However, it is clear that this can be traced back to the complex myth that Brancusi constructed for himself. Matthew Gale, curator of Tate Modern’s exhibition Brancusi: The Essence of Things, considers some of the questions of validity that accumulated around Brancusi’s work, as it generated controversies around the world, and how the sculptor came to embody ideas of authenticity.

Further Reading

Constantin Brancusi: The Essence of Things, Tate 2004, especially Alexandra Parigoris, ‘The Road to Damascus’

Alex Potts, The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist, Yale 2000, especially ‘Sculpture as Object: Brancusi’

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 4: Dominic Willsdon

Session 3: To the Things Themselves! Phenomenology and Minimal Art from this Tate Modern event is with Dominic Willsdon, Curator, Public Events at Tate Modern, a tutor in aesthetics at the Royal College of Art, and a faculty member of the London Consortium

Phenomenology is a school of thought founded by the philosopher Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century. Between the 1920s and the 1960s, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others developed and expanded phenomenology to address art, literature, society and politics. The publication of Merleau-Ponty’s The Phenomenology of Perception (1945) in English in 1962 had an important influence on American artists and art theorists, such as Donald Judd and Michael Fried, on both sides of the debate about the value of Minimal Art. In this talk, Dominic Willsdon explains the essence of phenomenological thinking - its belief in the need to see past our ideas about things to describe and so let us experience the things themselves as they appear in the everyday world - and explores the meaning, from a phenomenological point of view, of Minimal art works such as those of Donald Judd.

Further Reading

M. Merleau-Ponty, ‘Cezanne’s Doubt’ (1945), The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, ed. G. A. Johnson, Northwestern UP, 1994

D. Moran & T. Mooney eds.,The Phenomenology Reader, Routledge, 2002

S. Connor, CP, or A Few Don’ts (And Dos) By A Cultural Phenomenologist, at www.bbk.ac.uk/english/skc/cp/

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 5: Discussion

This is discussion forms part of the study day that explores the various art practices that have been described as sculpture during the modern period, with particular reference to their avant-garde and aesthetic status. 

This is discussion forms part of the study day that explores the various art practices that have been described as sculpture during the modern period, with particular reference to their avant-garde and aesthetic status. 

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 6: Sophie Howarth

Session 4: To the Things Themselves! Phenomenology and Minimal Art from this Tate Modern event is with Sophie Howarth, Curator of Adult Learning, Tate Modern.

This talk explores ideas of the readymade in American and European art since the 1960s. Beginning with a discussion of the historical origins of ‘readymade’ sculpture in the 1910s, Sophie Howarth goes on to explore the renewal of interest in such practice in the late 1950s, and its appeal to generations of artists since. Among those whose work will be discussed are Jasper Johns, Robert Morris, Piero Manzoni, Bruce Nauman, Charles Ray, Sherrie Levine and Jeff Koons. She finishes by asking if the readymade has been over-privileged as an artistic strategy in the second half of the twentieth century, and at what cost.

Further Reading

Jason Gaiger, ‘Interpreting the Readymade: Marcel Duchamp’s Bottlerack’, in Frameworks for Modern Art,Yale University Press in association with The Open University, 2003

John Tancock ‘The Influence of Marcel Duchamp’ in the MOMA and Philadelphia exhibition catalogue edited by Anne D’Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine (1973)

Mignon Nixon and Martha Buskirk (eds), The Duchamp Effect, MIT Press, 1996

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 7: Gill Perry

Session 5: Sculpture and Performance in Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series from this Tate Modern event is with Gill Perry, Senior Lecturer, The Open University.

Studies of Mendieta’s work have frequently interpreted her earth/body art as both instilled with primitivist fantasies of a feminine primordial power, and an obsessive response to trauma and loss. In this talk, Gill Perry questions the relative importance of some of these claims, arguing that Mendieta’s work also directly addresses some compelling sculptural and material problems encountered by artists forging a difficult relationship between emerging theories of performance and earth art in the 1970s and 80s. In particular she considers the problem of how earthy, organic material which is transformed, or disappears, can qualify for an expanded concept of ‘sculpture’.

Further Reading

G.Perry ‘The expanding field: Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series’ in J. Gaiger, ed, Frameworks for Modern Art, Yale UP/OU, 2004

J.Blocker, Where is Ana Mendieta, Duke University Press, 1999

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 8: Claire Bishop

Session 6: Installation Art and the Post-Medium Condition from this Tate Modern event is with Claire Bishop is Tutor in Critical Theory Art at the Royal College of Art, and the University of Essex

Claire Bishop argues that installation art is exemplary of ‘post-medium specific art’, in other words, art whose medium is so expanded that it no longer has much to do with traditional art historical genres such as sculpture and painting. She considers how the ascendency of ‘post-medium art’ in the 1960s is accompanied by a new emphasis on the first-hand experience of the viewer - and why it is through consideration of this viewer that installation art must be addressed, rather than through notions of expanded sculpture or site-specificity.

Further Reading

Robert Morris, ‘Notes on Sculpture 2’, in Morris, Continuous Project Altered Daily, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1993, pp. 11-21

Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube, the ideology of the gallery space (University of California Press, 1999), pp. 35-86

Reiss, Julie, From Margin to Center: The Spaces of Installation Art (MIT, 1999)

Expanding Concepts of Sculpture Study Day – Part 9: Discussion

This second discussion forms part of the study day that explores the various art practices that have been described as sculpture during the modern period, with particular reference to their avant-garde and aesthetic status.