Copyright 2000 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights
Sculpture Since 1945
by Andrew Causey. Oxford
History of Art
1998, 256 p.
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Andrew Causey offers a look at Western Sculpture since
1945. He writes that "in previous centuries sculpture had certain
functions - votive, commemorative, didactic, decorative - which it has
gradually lost." After the early decades of 20th century,
"avant-garde sculptors abandoned the tradition of Rodin and reconstituted
their art from the examples of Cubist painting and relief [...] and lost touch
with the wider public."
"With the end of the Second World War, sculptors were
asking themselves what, in an age of abstraction, a commemorative art might
be." In contrast to the end of the First World War, "the prevailing
disillusion with an old order that had failed again to prevent war restricted
the possibilities for commemorative public art" and therefore paved the
way for the advance of modern sculpture. From 1945 to 1960, avant-garde
sculpture developed from an experimental art form with a tiny audience into a
widely recognized genre. A landmark was the introduction of an International
Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale that gave prestige to the practice.
Another important step was the Documenta exhibition instituted at Kassel in
West Germany in 1955. 1960 marked a threshold. Most of
the post-war sculptors of the years 1945 to 1960 are forgotten today: Eduard
Trier, Michel Seuphor, Robert Maillard, Herbert Read. The ones "whom we
still value most highly were largely well established before 1945.
Andrew Causey examines the relation of sculpture towards
history, memory, landscape, theatre, architecture, the museum, the art market,
the manufactured object. Chapter 3 for example deals with the introduction
into sculpture of everyday objects and "the blurring of the hitherto
tightly guarded boundary between art and life, which had been an essential
part of the post-war consensus." Henry Moore, Germaine Richier, Alberto
Giacometti, Joseph Beuys, Richard Long, Donald Judd, Modernism and Minimalism,
public spaces, natural materials, objects and figures: these are just a few
keywords of the wide range of artists, styles and subjects the author covers.
According to Andrew Causey, very little of the sculpture
discussed in Sculpture since 1945 is "abstract in the idealist
sense of being in flight from the material aspects of the world. Even the
resolutely non-figurative forms of 1960s Minimalism evoke in materials and
forms modern manufactured objects."
The absence of distance to the most recent developments in
sculpture is of course a limitation in the sense that nobody knows today who
among the younger artists will withstand the test of time. Will we remember
Stephan Balkenhol, Robert Gober or Kiki Smith, just to name some of the
artists of the 1980s and 1990s the author mentions? Time will tell. Andrew
Causey has tried to bring order into an art scene that is difficult to
overlook and with a genre, sculpture, that is less clearly defined than ever
and that overlaps with other forms of art.