Intro to Art Sculpture

Posted on January 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

Ernesto Neto

Most art is too valuable, precious, or protected by glass or chains. The saying “You can look but can’t touch” fits artwork perfectly. I was really amazed that an artist would make something that the public can step into and experience from the inside out. Neto’s Navedenga art work was a new experience for me and made me think of how I would want my artwork to be observed by the viewers. The stocking structure was made of polyamide stretch fabric, sand, Styrofoam, cloves, cord, and ribbon. When I walked in and looked up, the Styrofoam above me looked like rain. I felt like a baby inside the structure that was soft, stable and fragile at the same time. Even though the audience could not touch the sculpture, it was a great occurrence to be a part, swallowed inside an art work.

William Kentridge

When I stepped into William Kentridge’s exhibit, I was overwhelmed with different sound and music that was intertwining. After watching all the shows I saw a repetition of images like the cat, man, telephone, and rhinoceros. I wondered if these had any special meanings to the artist; does he have a cat? Does the cat represent something negative? Is the rhino an indication of Africa or money? Another thing that struck me was the use of black and white mostly with charcoal. Charcoal alone is a dark and heavy substance and Kentridge probably used it because it was easy to manipulate and gives age to work. The artist also used one additional color in some of the videos such as blue for river/water and red for blood.

Most of the Kentridge videos had some sort of narrative-personal and historic. In one room there were a few videos playing at the same time, showing how the artist created his work. The first videos at the beginning of the Kentridge exhibit were more historic and showed the history of slavery, prejudice and lynching. The artist used real videos footages in Uba tells Truth with his own images to show the struggle and nature of his work. In the ‘theater room’ there were two stage sets that had collage, images, video, music and technology working together that trap and pull you to the stage. I was amazed at the technique and technology that was used, like the ‘man running’ a moving tube, playing music in the Preparing the Flute. The music was louder and faster tone when the robotic figure was running and dramatic when the other woman-like figure was walking and bending. Majority of Kentridge videos had a rhythm, sound, voice, African music in them that made them distinct from one another and have a connection as well. I really enjoyed Kentridge’s show and it inspired me to think outside the box, made me want to make things move.

Yin Xiuzhen

As I stepped into Xiuzhen’s room there was only one thing to see, a huge minivan covered in clothing. Project 92 was something very odd to see but makes a lot of sense because of the time we are in. The van could transport a lot of people and since China has a huge population it could be economical and efficient to use. The mini wan was placed in its own small room away from all the other galleries and noise. Inside the van there was music playing, which you would usually never hear in a museum if you are looking at artworks. I loved the idea that you could walk into something, sit and even relax and enjoy a new relaxed atmosphere. I also loved that the artist used garments that people have already worn and she said that the fabric gives “traces of human experience”. There is history and a story in every shirt that makes the viewer wonder with questions like who wore it, when, was there an occasion for it and so forth. I love to reuse things and even make my own frames from the leftover of my laminate floor. Today we have to salvage up scraps and make everything last because it can be used in many forms and ways and become a useful and artistic piece.

The Peak Experience of Adriana’s Sculpture

Posted on January 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

The peak experience induces the recognition that your own powers are far greater than you imagined them. ~Colin Wilson~

Every once in a while, I take a scenic drive along Oatka Trail. With the many twists, it is hard to absorb all its beauty in my effort to stay on the road. On my first drive, about halfway along the Trail, I noticed some statues peering out from the woods. The next time I drove by, they were still there. I never knew quite what to make of them until I read a newspaper story about Jack and Adriana Slutzky and their collection of outdoor sculptures. Intrigued, I promised myself to visit them. I never made it until last week. My only regret was that I didn’t go sooner.

Jack greeted Carol and me along with the museum group he had scheduled for a tour that day. He explained that his wife had created all the works we would visit. We could see a few through the trees and had no idea of the extensive collection which waited us.

We learned that Jack and Adriana are both artists and had both taught art. Now Adriana concentrates on sculpture and Jack writes books and paints when he is not excavating, pouring concrete and moving completed works on a scale which reminded me of Easter Island.

Most of Adriana’s works embody the experience, joy and challenges of being a woman. Some pieces remind me of Henri Moore and Pablo Picasso. All of them rise from her unique inspiration. She explores the world of relationships in her pieces, working from a feminine perspective, the one she knows best.

Jack morphed from tour guide into art professor, giving us glimpses into Adriana’s inspiration and symbolism. We first saw individual works. Further into the tour, installations consisted of more and more pieces. A waterfall, the woods Oatka Creek gave the sculptures a context in nature. During the tour, I found myself deepening from curiosity through meditation, to a sense of awe which stayed with me the rest of the day.

I recalled Abraham Maslow’s writings about peak experiences, “Transpersonal and ecstatic states, particularly ones tinged with euphoria, harmonization and interconnectedness.” This was definitely such an event for me, one I will always treasure. It helped me make sense of the world, and especially of the women who inhabit it along with us men. My visit left me with an understanding of the lives of those around me, defying expression in words. The images say it all.

The greatest joy I receive while working at an arts council is coming face to face with the creative spirit of the artists I meet. That day’s experience brought great joy by allowing me to touch Adriana’s spirit.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Do you recall any peak experiences in your life?
  • What did they mean to you?
  • How did they affect your view of yourself and others?
  • Are you ready for them to happen again?
  • In the presence of great art, let yourself feel it rather than just seeing or hearing it.


I Could Have Made That: Why I Don’t Get Minimal Art

Posted on January 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

As an artist, and graphic designer by trade I’ve studied lots of different art movements. I was always drawn to the more modern movements including impressionism, surrealism, and cubism, but enjoyed renaissance art as well. Despite my best efforts though, there was always certain pieces I just couldn’t wrap my brain around. Often either a room full of simple geometric shapes, a series of repeated cubes or a simple curving arc. These pieces would be intimidating to me; I simply didn’t get it. It was as if these pieces were too “deep” intellectually for me and I was drowning in them, (not literally, I’m just being dramatic).

Minimalism in art often mystified me as I’m sure it has mystified other casual art enthusiasts. When I finally had to take a class in modern art for my major, I was both interested in learning more about minimalism, and terrified that I still wouldn’t get it. When we finally reached the topic of minimalism, suddenly everything clicked and made sense, not a lot of sense, but enough that I could appreciate this unique art movement.

I hope that by discussing minimal art and how I see it from an artistic viewpoint, I hope to eliminate some of the intimidation of these pieces and help others become interested in this movement. I don’t claim to be an art historian or expert, this is just my interpretation and opinion.

Minimalism Defined

So what exactly is minimalism as it applied to art? Basically it is based around the concept of “Less is More.” This concept can be applied to anything from paintings to sculpture and allows the artist to use only the most basic elements that are required to create the desired effect. Geometric shapes are the staple of the minimalist artist as even the most complex figure can be reduced down to simple geometric shapes. Minimalism often overlaps with other art movements depending on the artist but some of my favorites include Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and Dan Flavin.

The Art Object and Concept of Artwork

When looking at minimalist artwork, it is important to remain open to new ideas about what qualifies as art, and what the “art object” is for a particular piece. When looking at more traditional art, seeing the art object is easy; it is whatever you’re viewing aka the painting or the sculpture. For minimalist art the object has become detached from the actual piece. For example, lets think about a work by Richard Serra called “Tilted Arc,” which was originally installed across the Federal Plaza in New York NY. This arc was a massive tilted arc of steel at 120 feet long and 12 feet high, slightly tilted. The piece took up most of Federal Plaza and was eventually dismantled due to public controversy (people didn’t like walking around it I guess).

Serra said this about the piece:

“The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes.” Richard Serra – Found in Wikipedia

For this piece, the art object has been removed from the piece itself, and redefined as the interaction between the viewer and the piece. The way that the piece changes uniquely as each viewer passes it actually IS the art. This concept of interaction is found in many minimalist sculptures as it is typically not the simply shapes that are the piece, but the way it makes the viewer feel, or what the viewer sees at they interact with it. Sure, simple cubes, arcs and other geometric shapes are boring if you just view them from one angle, but when you move around them, get up close to them and interact with them, the pieces become quite dynamic and powerful in the way they influence our movements, our eye, our perceptions, and our feelings of space.

Minimalist sculpture has to be experienced in person, because although an image may give you a good representation of what the piece looks like, what it is made of and what it consists of, one really cannot know what the piece IS until you are there experiencing it. In fact this effect can be so extreme that depending on the work, it can almost be forceful and overpowering, as if you could not stand up close to the piece without being affected by its presence.

Not all minimalist art has the same type of effect but generally they all involve some sort of removal of the art, from the object. Lets look at Dan Flavin as another example. His works consist of simple fluorescent tube set up in a particular way and then lit with different colors. With these pieces, the art is not the tubes themselves, but the interaction between the light given off by them when they are lit and how the viewer perceives that light. When combined with other simple shapes and multiple lighted elements, dramatic effects can be created very simply. Those effects and how the viewer perceives them has become the artwork, as opposed to the physical piece itself.

Why Minimalism can be Intimidating

Looking back at how I felt about minimalism before I understood more about it, I find it easy to understand why these pieces can be so intimidating. Its easier to look at a painting or a typical sculpture because I can appreciate the work without doing anything at all. No matter what you interpret from the picture and what the artist was trying to say, you do not have to consider yourself as part of the work. Along with that, even if you do not want to consider the artist’s motive and reasoning, you can still appreciate the work for its technical skill. With minimalist art, its just a cube… or a geometric shape… or a splash of paint. It was difficult for me to accept that without having pure technical skill to fall back on, I might not be able to understand the “greatness” of the artwork. I think the reason I shied away from minimalist art is because the shapes tend to be so simple that I don’t want to feel stupid because I “simply don’t get it.” Instead of think about these works and risk being wrong, I would denounce them as “not real art” like it’s my decision to decide what is art or not.

After learning more about the methods behind minimalist art, I believe I can overcome this fear as I know more what to look for artistically from these pieces. I can appreciate these works more now that I understand what they are; not deep on the surface, with only the barest essentials, but deep artistically. Often times I still don’t understand exactly what is going on artistically, but I’m less likely to say: “but it’s just a cube…” or “I could have made that…” I understand that there is more to these pieces than just their form.

Conclusions About Minimalist Art

It took me a long time to overcome my intimidation of minimalist art, but after studying and reading about it more, I feel that these pieces are very good pieces of art and can have more to do with people, than more typical works of art. I hope that by reading this, you’ll be inspired to look more into minimal and other kinds of art that are not as “typical.” We might not understand these pieces at first, but through more interest and with an open mind, we might be able to appreciate some truly unique, creative and great pieces of work.

If the piece of art is the interaction between this large cube and me, then I guess even my response of “I could have made that…” is validation that that big cube is fulfilling its artistic purpose. Art that fulfills its artistic purpose is successful art.

References Include: Wikipedia for quotes and artist information, as well as my own classes in modern art.

For more information look up the works of Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and Dan Flavin. Or just do a search on Google for minimalism in art.