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No. 6, May 2000
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Sculpture Since 1945
by Andrew Causey. Oxford History of Art

Paperback, June 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.
 
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www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 6, May 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  Advertise  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.