Traditionally, when we think of sculpture, we think of a life-like figure made from marble or bronze. Sculptures may commemorate a significant event or the life of someone who led a distinguished life. You have probably seen examples of public sculptures which recognise the sacrifices of armed forces personnel who have died fighting in conflicts and wars around the world.
In Europe and North America, after the 1960s, the idea of what constituted sculpture expanded as artists began to incorporate film, photography, painting and performance. A breakdown of media-based disciplines followed and emphasis shifted to the ideas that framed art and the processes that produced it. Contemporary sculpture does not necessarily belong to one tradition or cultural story, and can encompass work from anywhere.
Throughout Art this semester, consider the following aspects of the works on display:
• installation techniques
• the use of found objects
• the use of ceremonial or ritual objects
• performance techniques
• the importance of photography and documentation
• the different perspectives and viewpoints suggested by some works.
Public art refers to art works which are installed in public places — parks, shopping centres or in the foyers or forecourts of commercial and government buildings. Public art is located where it can be seen by lots of people going about their daily routine.
Have you noticed some Public Art Sculptures in your area or places you have visited. Discuss with the person next to you?
Can you come up with a reason why artists create public works?
What are some of the risks or benefits of creating a public sculpture?
Some artists use found and recycled objects in their art works. They create art from existing objects which are re-used to give them new meaning, either by showing them in a different environment or context, or by combining them with recycled objects to make something completely new.
Minimalism in art involves the creation of objects where the form is sculptural. These art works are often produced as a series of objects and appear as if they have been made by machines, rather than by the artist’s hand.
Since casting her first sculptures in the late 1980s, Rachel Whiteread has employed a range of different materials including plaster, concrete and rubber in her art practice. In Twenty-five spaces 1995, the artist has cast the spaces underneath 25 school chairs in a transparent resin. The grid-like arrangement of the blocks refers to minimalist sculpture, but also reflects the layout of a school classroom. The spaces between the blocks invite viewers to move around them — audiences are able to experience the work from many different angles. This sculpture recalls what classrooms used to look like.
Can you imagine what a sculpture would look like using the chairs in your own classroom?
Look at this work and think about repetition and pattern. Why would an artist create a series of objects?
Why is the artist drawing our attention to a space we do not usually notice?
Alex Seton and Wendy Fairclough also use everyday items as the basis for their work.
What comparisons can you make between these works? Consider material and concept.
Describe this work using art terminology
What do you think Big Mother is made from?
What makes you say that?
Why do you think the artist has used this particular material?
What message do you think she is sending?
Compare Big Mother to Duane Hanson's Woman with Washing Basket. Coincidently, both works are owned by the Art Gallery of South Australia.
In 250 words compare the two works and consider the following:
What similarities/differences can you identify? (Eg. Expressions, posture, pose, materiality)
What do you think Duane Hanson was saying about women in the 1970s by creating this work?
How does this compare to Patricia Piccinini's concept?
Are both artists considering a notion of 'nurturing'? Explain your answer - why or why not?
Installation art relates to the space in which it is exhibited, and focuses attention on the viewer’s experience of the work in that space.
What materials do you notice have been used?
What do you notice about the suspended materials?
Do the materials remind you of anything?
Does the title give you any clues?
Knowing very little about this work and based purely on your observation, how do you think this work has bene created?
Imaging yourself in this room viewing the work. What are some of the other elements that contribute the atmosphere?
Ritual objects are objects that hold deep, and often spiritual, meaning for people.
How would your thinking about this work change if you described it as:
(a) firstly, a sacred object?
(b) secondly, a sculpture?
What is the difference? Is there a difference?
Explain your answer with consideration to the other artists you have been shown on this page.