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  #26  
Old 12-05-2004, 01:14 PM
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Just to get around to the original question....

Did anyone mention here the book by Richard McDermott Miller called "Figure Sculpture in Wax and Plaster"? Dover, ISBN 0-48r25354-6

Good descriptions of the process.

May be of help.

oddist
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  #27  
Old 12-05-2004, 01:18 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

oddist, I mentioned it in my original post, as it was where I read that it could be done (no armature wax). I finally managed to find through a firend who had access to different libraries a copy of it, and it is fairly helpful. I'm working on an armature right now with a mirror (hard to do your own torso this way!), but I'm looking forward to trying the methods of the aforementioned book next weekend when I have a model to work with.
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Old 12-05-2004, 03:08 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Well that was annoying, I typed a good amount about the problem of the city not being one of architecture or sculpture but of 4 billion people willing bad ends, and how no work of art can turn a will 'round, but I might as well leave it off, because I just said it in one sentence!

This is my point of view, at least...

I really appreciate you doing this tour, and it shows all the passion and sincerity I would hope for instantly through perception and through your description of your experiences.

Rather than trying to stress different universes than the one your speaking from, I'll switch into a structured view of yours as best I can. I would say, though, that what we're talking about is questionable as art. The argument could be made, that this is precisely what art is, or it coudl be made, that were confusing ethics with aesthetics, and that these things you're mentioning (some of them) are about good, not about beauty. And, of course, ethics is the real question of city planning, not aesthetics--and that hte love you feel for a medicore statue, used humanely, ist he same as the love you have for a law justly applied, and that we're talking then about a different thing than the love you have for a river stone or a hip under loose fabric. Not to say the loves aren't constantly admixed in actual experience, and we love the river stone also becuase of the justness of time, perhaps; or that woman's hip because of the sincerity of actions we have seen her perform.

But I'll take it to be perceptual and imaginative pleasure objectified in the scenes you've shown; that is, art.

The tour: Sculpture works along Commonwealth Ave.
I couldn't agree with you more on most of these. I think the concrete we've stumped across here is beautifully used, actually. The one that's being used under that statue. Which is a good response to the poster who thought perhaps that I was just repelled by concrete used in simple cubic forms instead of curves. I think this is one of the most beautiful uses of concrete, and it works well in the shade, matted against trees and, my guess, directly pressed against dirt [bright green grass up to the very edge of it would look bad, in my opinion--dirt, leaves and so forth would look better--I could come up with a logic to do this but I wont labor it right now]. How a work solves it all! It hink this statue would look quite bad if it were taken out of this spot, but right here it is perfectly in harmony with it's surroundings, and so right here I see it being part of a beauty that's bound to a single-place--just waht you were arguing for, and I grant you some rightness here.

I think this work here is almost under the category of 'folk art.' It does have beauty, but half of it is bound up with things external to it. It relies on a good set of shared experience on the part of those who hear or look at it (one set of external things) and it relies on what surrounds it and the nature of that place (another set). The greeks here are definitely whom we should look to, not the romans. The romans imposed independent of landscape, the greeks considered the sanctuary to be nature, and their temple was a god's house that was within that sanctuary. some of their sanctuary's were as simple as just a natural clearing in the woods.

The civic sense here makes me feel good too. I feel a part of something when I walk through a place like this, and I feel a certain sense of duty or endebtedness to the past efforts of otherse. But, at the same time, I feel this is half illusion, it's half self-love that makes these statues appeal to us. The idea that we are a great people persevering towards the good, and our admiration is almost a reciprocation for the self-congratulatory state these put us in. That "he was a great man" feeling when you look at the statue of Ghandi in Union Square [manhattan] I think makes it a /bad/ statue in some ways. Because it communicates nothing but these symbols of civic honorific memorial that often can be quite foreign to the knife jab of an effect they should have on us. If we look at the statue I know of Ghandi (which is very similar to these, so I think you can just translate it over--I have to relate it to a statue I've seen, you to one you've seen), and we feel this pat on the back admiration, we're missing the whole of Ghandi's greatness, we're missing what makes him great. So I'm torn, in one sense this is percisely waht we need--these sort of civic intimacies and admiration of Great Civilians, and in another this only makes us all the more self-satisfied and keeps us from understanding any of what true greatness stems from. It edges on romanticism, a generic feel-good sensation when we see the past rendered as something it was not. I'm not a fan of the grotesque, and I don't mean that we should see nothing but starving homeless people as sculptures--mainly because people would just show a gross manner of stylizing this, it could be a great sculpture if done well rather than grotesque shock value).

But, maybe let me go to Laocoon here and say that what makes that sculpture great (one of Lessing's many points), is that it depicts a pregnant moment. The most pregnant moment. And maybe that is the fault and the lack of anyhting more than a 'feel good' type thing that these statues give us. The pregnant moment of a defining experience, the moment just before or just after the great act that made this person a great man (not the moment of, which would be grotesque usually--which is lessing's point on Laocoon, that the scream would be ugly, but the moment just before the scream is both more powerful and more beautiful, and the moment just after a woman kills her children, when she gets the moment of reflection that is the real recognition of the deed, is also quite powerful]. These men are simply milling about. They are heros without seeing their causes.

This doesn't mean we need nothing but the dramatic heights of Dante's story of Ugolino [which is the Carpeaux sculpture I mentioned in a few posts back], it could be as simple as, if this man was a judge, the moment just before or just after he has made that profoundly important judgement.

Of course, the good portrait artist will tell me that he can do that all in a single expression. And I don't doubt it--and have experienced it. None the less, if it's about hte portrait perhaps the lounge chair and the body should be removed.

Now, from the formalist-ic perspective, this is moot. The pieces work well with their surroundings, and they become parts within a bigger whole. They are failures by themselves, but instead we perceive teh /park/ the /street/ or the /city/ as the object, as the whole. Ann we admire it. And to that degree they channel into a greater beauty. So they are not beautiful sculpture, but this is a beautiful city. [I'm just going on what you said, in that some are rather mediocre but that you still like them there, I ahven't seen them in the full enough to just say they're not beautiful--or how they are or are not in themselves beautiful].

Pulling this all back to the original questions of the place of public sculpture, and of ornament in so far as we may consider it ssculpture [which is what I know take the quesiton to be, really], I still think my argument holds: in so much as we are, in many of these, not admiring the sculpture but the beautific landscape that they are contributing to. And thus, I think these thoughts help us little as sculptors, unless we are given the opportunity to contribute to the planning of a park or public courtyard. In almost all of htese cases, any figure in any pose, in materials harmonious with the surroundings, would do. It doesn't matter waht the gargoyles look like, similarly, just that there are gargoyles. I think this shows that the sculpture is being used as a part no more significant than it's plint or placement. And I think this view of things, held by a sculptor, versus a planner of city parks, is dangerous. And, though sculptures would then proliferate, in a world like the one you describe, sculpture as an art, would decline. I don't mean that both can't be achieved, but they can't so long as the sculptor asks himself so many questions about where his sculpture might be placed exactly [in terms of surroundings of social circumstances or the culture of his 'audience']. It's a nice perk when the statues are conversant with eachother, but I'd rather have statues that may not have considered EACHOTHER but have considered THEMSELVES. I feel the two are poles, and I hesitate to put both demands on the sculptor. I think these days we consider the 'context', the things outside the thing we're making, far more than we consider the thing itself. And by 'context' i mean the social one as well. And I think this is why, when they dig it all up, that they will find no masterpieces in our time, though some excellent museums and nice parks. And this is why I find so many sculptors turning to installation art so repulsive, sometimes. Or especially repulsive when they think that the two are the same art, which shows they had never really sculpted.


I think the Japanese scholar's rocks would be instructive here. They are not art, in so far as they are not human productsions, but they are beautiful. And they are used beautifully. I'd rather see this than so-called art. But I understand that the scholar's rocks may seem to you lacking in that they are not figures [though some of them are fairly anthropomorphic]. And I think it's not the place of a sculptor, either, to go out and sculpt a scholar's rock, what makes one beutiful is that it's a rock and that it's shapes are made by nature. The same thing made by a person will not, necessarily, have that beauty.

As Etien Gilson said about the many futurist paintings of machines "only a machine can have the beauty of a machine [and a painting the beauty of a painting." Not to say don't paint machines here, but don't expect the thing painted to have the beauty. This is what the bits of beauty in these mediocre figures come from: the human form is beautiful, in whatever arrangement. They have the beauty of humans, not the beauty of sculptures. The hip of The Bronze Age does not suffer this, and it's not because it's accurately [though this is important for other reasons] modelled, it's because it's modelled with it in mind as a sculpture, and with passion and a a clay-like handling of the surface, and the other things that fill it's substance up with more than a representation of something beautiful.

The tour: Architecture

I'm going to back off the Architecture argument and try to keep to sculpture. I think my point about it not mattering what the gargoyles look like, just that they are sufficiently gargoyle-esque, shuold be well reflected upon.

I think most of these buildings fail as anything mroe than facades or massing models. And I think you're looking at them as facades and massing models. You're missing what would make them architecture, and making them into a sort of sculpture [and a weak form of recess sculpture at that]. I think, if we want to admire greece, we can see that they did both. They made them a strong form of sculpture, that related more to architecture, in that it had to do with the establishment of distinct three dimensionality that is penetrable, if only visually. They also left the non-sctructural elements, those stones that do not bear load, to be used for recess sculpture. The moderns would remove these stones all together, of course. And I can understand your complaint here in certain cases.

The problem is, we aren't making temples. The architect is making banks and office places and condos, primarily. It would be wrong of him to treat the bank in the language of a temple--quite wrong. And that's what the classicism that's spread in the united states at various times has done. So it's devalued the whole power of that past form, socially speaking, and associated it with ends not proper to it. Civic buildings are different--but how many civic buildings can we make? The major portion of our cities are buidlings for commerce and residence. How do we establish an appropriate architecture to those? Do we falsely glorify our cravings for crap by putting heroic figures in our malls? How does one built an appropriate architecture for an alltogether inappropriate human activity. And this is why architecture to me, in the city, is a fairly trivial practice. Residential architecture, I think, has more potential to be done both ethically and beautifully. The practice is so muddled, because, unlike sculpture, it cannot be done for it's own sake, it must be done to serve a purpose. And this has been the black heart of architecture. Either we embrace bad ends or we lie to ourselves, and make dishonest and insincere works with rationales about why this mall is different than other malls.


I think, overall, the biggest problem perhaps in the city, is that buildings are predominantly vertical, and that may be why you associate the figure, sometimes with them, and focus on facades. It's near impossibel to do something /architectural/ that is predominantly vertical. It tends to turn into straight floor slabs ascending up over and over with a thin wall on the outside. There are not many other options, adn it's hard for it to be perceived as anything other than a mass. Certainly it can't begin to interpenetrate it's surroundings (the bottom of hte Citigroup being perhaps an exmaple of how the only accomplishments can be made in the first 4 stories).

I have many thoughts on Architecture, and many on city planning, and many on society. The nice thing about Sculpture is that it needn't get into these menutia of these impossible endeavors. Sculpture is possible, fortunately, right in our living rooms. And a 2 foot or six inch figure can sit in my anonymous apartment and I can appreciate it, and be moved by it's beauty, and perhaps even meaning, for lifetimes, while the world outside changes one way or the next, and pushes the same dumb, tall, boxes, or dead, partitioned, egg-crates of people around and runs highways through hills, and lusts after itself, and all that the world is likely to do that we do not, as sculptors, have it in our ability, or in our nature, to try to change through our art. But I can look at a two foot figure, and ten people after me can, and it may only exist in one place [and this may be its very power!], and seem to humbly affect no one, but it may be the most humane thing one could imagine, and it may be the most profound manifestation of what it is to be human, and the most profound manifestation of our legacy as humans and the culmination of thousands of years of the pain or joy of being human. And it may change a life or two, if it is good enough, but it will only do so by being it's self and being it's self for it's self. In the same way as we can on small occasions, change other's lives, by living our own as best we can, with no consideration of being an example. We can teach by example by turning inward, as can a sculpture. Seeing a few beautiful things in my life, for example, has allowed me to see a whole world of beauty I had missed before, and has forever changed me. But I doubt, if Rembrandt had set out to change me, he would have accomplished anything other than making me the worse. After all, I'm quite sure that Rembrandt would say his ends were only his paintings, and to manifest the humanity in front of his eyes into them. Yet he has changed people for the better, while Andy Warhol, whose intention was very much to change people for the better, by sensitizing us to the innanities of our consumerism, has only done the EXACT OPPOSITE [and this is a pattern]--he desensitized us all the more and made us lust all the more after the wrong ends.



I think we need more Rembrandts and less Warhols. And I just worry that though these aren't Warhols your showing me, or talking about, they aren't sculpture either, and like Warhol's, your view looks outward too much, and inward too little. I forgot it was that said that the best art is "the soul revealing itself to itself, and us catching a glimpse."




[Side note: I know I mentioned those other books before, but reading what you say now, I think I know of a book that would might clarify some ideas your working with, or place them together in a relationship. It is nothing like the other one's I mentioned, and it is not formalistic in the slight. Dewey's "Art as Experience." It's argument is to re-integrate art as part of normal human experience. And I believe he'd approve of just the sort of things you're admiring here, and give some very, very good reasons for doing so. Dewey's one of those people whose against compartmentalization, and argues for integration, but under very, very well established values, not as an assumed good. If you want to think about interaction with the environment, and integration of compartmentalized art fields, take a look there. He's a pragmatist and a naturalist, and just about the only distinctly american philosopher worth his salt, and a good writer too--not all good philosophers are.]


(and the inset neoclassical columns are a great detail, but for formal reasons--I find these one of the most satisfying ways to treat a facade that you can't break through more fully, because it gives a great deal of space falling into the building, only when the inset behind them is sufficient. If it is not it flattens out like a cookie cutter... It's rarely done right, but when it is, it packs quite a punch and breaks out of being viewed as a mass).

Last edited by hpatenaude : 12-05-2004 at 03:44 PM.
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  #29  
Old 12-05-2004, 03:35 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Dear god there were a lot of typos in there. And quite a few things under-developed... Hopefully you can bear with me here, but let me know if any parts are just simply too muddled to sort out what's the typo and what's the right word. The worst was typing "cravings" as "carvings" -- that'll really getcha when reading it (fixed now). I try not to spend much time on these things and for that reason type and think extremely fast and error prone. Hopefully you get my gist.
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Old 12-05-2004, 09:06 PM
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Thank you, this is the best thread ever. I feel like I’ve had some demons exorcised and now I can go back to my studio where it's nice and quiet and just work.
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Old 12-05-2004, 09:18 PM
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Re: direct modeling; defining sculpture

Hanee - I’ve just read your post of earlier today, and it leads me to ask a question. (I have to read these posts offline because my connection is dialup, so there is a bit of delay.) I’m prepared to hear quite a bit, but that is fine.

How do you define sculpture? (And by that I mean good sculpture, but I take it you consider that only good sculpture is true, so the qualification is redundant.)

To justify the question in part, I personally take issue with your citation of both Ugolino and Laocoon as good sculpture, if I understand your assessment of them correctly. I view both of these, like Carpeaux’ La Danse mentioned earlier, as visual narrative or theater, and not sculpture, and I hold all three in fairly low esteem.

I take sculpture to be a single or compound form with esthetic as its primary purpose. Note that I didn’t say I define sculpture this way, because this is not a considered, logical definition in the way you might yourself formulate.

Following this inclination, I find many minimalist works of the 1950's or 1960's to be among my favorite sculptures. I include many figurative works, especially most of Michelangelo’s, the better Greek works (typically originals or as close as possible and not Roman copies). I also find great value in early Cycladic pieces, and I think many of Rodin’s works are fine, though many also are erratic even if heartfelt. To give more examples, I like much but not all of Noguchi, and I find Richard Serra among the best sculptors working today, both for his massive steel pieces and for his landforms.

Last edited by fritchie : 12-05-2004 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 12-05-2004, 11:40 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling; defining sculpture

Well I'm new to sculpture so I can't say who I like as much. I've seen in person very little--nothing beyond what new york city museums offer. In all honesty, I don't think there's a single masterwork available, in the domain of figurative sculpture [plenty in paintings], at the Met. I'm hoping to get out to europe this summer, if I can pull together the money, and see the architecture and sculpture that I have a hunch are fully consummate masterpieces--of which I doubt there are more than two dozen of in the world. But god would it be an amazing thing to find a work that there was no critique of. I felt that way when I first, many many months ago, looked [not closely enough] at Ugolino and quite nearly lost control of my legs. I figure if I actually ever see a consummate materpiece in sculpture I'll simply shrivel up and die right there, as what such works approach is the feeling of absolute closure. And from a point of absolute closure there is nothing to do but stop breathing. I sound out-there, I know, as I just said the highest aesthetic experience would be, now that I think of it, the stopping of the necessity of will, and thus instant death. Excellent, I'm ready for a treatise on art after all, it would be worth it just to have the summation of it be "and thus, the goal of the artist is to kill the audience and himself, in so far as he is also the audience."



I think, overall, your reading the sculpture's I have mentioned for their 'content' and not their 'form' (a silly division, I know, but it works right here). And your excluding them from your definition because of what I believe to be a false assumption that their form is perhaps subordinate to their supposed narrative content. I dont' think this is the case.



I can say quickly {ed. what was I thinking?} that I think your definition is actually right minus two extremely important things.

(1) Unless your meaning of the word Form already implied this, the form must be one in three dimensional space--that is, to be picky and precise, one in which the forms are perceived differently [not just in location, but in relations to eachother] when we close one eye or another [this wont happen with painting besides if the paint daubs are extremely far off the surface, or if one goes underneath another. I would go further, because I think we're being too broad if we use binocular fluctuations as our only criteria--but I think the binocular aspect is highly important, and is the first-impression that tells us, without moving our position in space, that we are looking at three dimensional--that is, existent, not illusionistic, form. I think we would then have to assert something, to cover the thick paint daubs, about being able to see through or at least around and behind the form. This would allow for recess sculpture with undercuts, but would exclude recess sculpture without undercuts as well as, finally, Van Gogh's thick brushwork.

Really this is insufficient, but I think you get the gist at what I'm pointing to--it's a form that's existent in space and that's mode of being has to do with actually existing in our world in the full, not producing an illusion of another world that doesn't have the subtle binocular fluxuations within it's primary forms [here the Van Gogh again gets excluded well because it's primary form is not the brush stroke--it's the line made with teh brush stroke; I would argue the same with any painting, and as soon as it becomes about the debth of the stroke, more than the color or points/lines and planes and so forth it creates in illusionistic or two dimensional space, then we're really dealing with a painter whose trying to do additive, non-representational recess sculpture--and he or she would do well to stop using color/tone changes at that point. And maybe stop using paint, too...].

See, three dimensionality sounds easy to just say, but god is it hard to define sufficiently, in a way that properly excludes all the things we know are NOT essentially three dimensional.

(2) The other thing that I feel makes your definition problematic is the idea of a "primary purpose." With your definition, only the artist can tell us whether or not he made a sculpture. Forms don't speak of their purposes, we only have our chance associations as to what the intentions of the artist were. We couldn't, then say, whether the primary purpose of laocoon was beautiful forms in space [which I assure you, it was, but this is only on a resolut conviction--and we'd have to do battle all the time, not arguing our OWN perceptions but arguing the purpose of someone long since past and dead; this is problematic.]. I think we must eliminate 'purpose' and instead base it on perception. And here my expansion and limitation of your definition amounts to something like this:

Sculpture is a single or compound three dimensional, that is producing fluctuations in binocular vision, form that is perceived as aesthetically valuable, that is beautiful.

It doesn't end here, of course. Because we've got a few problems. First, this idea of "single or compound." Second is the lack of distinguishing between art and nature. Which is a tricky one.

Without arguing it, I will simply assert that it must always be a single, though perhaps complex, form. By this I mean to assert that it is a unity. Regardless of how it's forms (as we can break any single form into parts or regions to some degree, we can talk about it in terms of planes, where Serra's work, no matter how much it seems "one piece of something" becomes more than one plane because of planar shifts, even if there's only one planar shift we end up with two planes, but really we have an infinite number of planes as we approach a curve, and it depends on oru proximity in how we perceive such things.

So, I assert, a form perceived as one form, as a single unity. Whether it is a single unity of something with as many parts as Wright's falling water, or not. A property of a single unity, though, when it is a consummate form of unity, is the inability to be subdivided and still be perceived as a unity. Falling water, if we remove the roof, might very well fall apart as as a unity. Similarly, a figure without an arm, might fail the test of being perceived as a unity--and since it is such a familiar form it is very difficult to see such a figure and see it as anything other than "a whole missing a part."

Now, before I deal with the distinction between art and nature, I have a methodological point to make here. Really, our only critical problems were (1) above. Everything that has followed, would be important to define for any other art too. So, I'll simply say that, at this point, and this would have been the preferred method, we could simply make a formalistic distinction of essential natures within the overall category of art.

That is to say:

Sculpture, most broadly defined to include recess sculpture, is a form of art that essentially works within the medium of binocular vision.

Then, we simply [hah!] have to define art. And here we have a very very very big problem. And I will say quite directly that I have read many theories of art, and believe synthesizing them would be the greatest evil imaginable. As would truncating any of them. To divulge my own philosophical upbringing, I consider myself to be a pluralist, in the proper sense of the word. This means that I believe there are many systems, all completely and properly true on their own terms [the most absolute sort of truth possible], and that the trick is to be able to fully enter the mind of the system most appropriate to problem at hand. That is, you inhabit one mind at a time [which is different from eclecticism]. So, say I have a problem that to me seems to call for a formalistic approach. I then choose what I feel to be the most appropriate formalistic philosophy to the nature of the problem in front of me, and fully think in those terms. That is, if, for example, Santayana's philosophical universe seems the right one for an occasion I have, I become Santayana. Not in terms of repeating things he said, but being able to think about new things as he would. The more ways of thinking you have, the better. The basic idea is to never think determinate thoughts or consider yourself to have a self, but instead to become the self appropriate to the problem at hand in any given situation.

If I feel that no one has constructed a universe to handle the reality that I experience, I would then construct my own universe. So, I would write my own theory of art only on the occasion that I found all existing theories of art inadequate to the understanding of art that I had come to know in my experience of it.

Right now, I don't really have that situation, or at least, I might but it would take 6 months to articulate even the roughest outline of my own theory of aesthetics--if it were to be anyhting more than moving about from one system to another arguing against what I know is /not art/ on different grounds.



Now, swinging back to where we were: it's hard to define art because I don't have a problem at hand, other than what I feel to be your inadequate view of art. So I guess I will simply say a few things I feel to be particularly true and that is that.

Art CAN be about expression, but form always underlies. Art is perfectly valid as simply being form.

Art is the act of making for the ends of beauty. Beauty is a thing directly perceived, though it may be admixed with the beauty that our knowledge adds to our perception.

The arts are seperated based on formal charateristics that for the most part should not and do not overlap. There are, in short, the arts of time, which consist of an arrangement of elements one after another, and the arts of space, which consist of an arrangement of elements side by side. It's beyond our scope to get into the subdivisions of the first of these--the arts of time--but we may subdivide the arts of space into those in which the elements are arranged side-by-side as an illusion of a reality beyond the physical reality of the object in question--that is, painting, drawing and the likes--and those that in perception are part of physical reality.

Art has much to do with ends, just liek you suppose. But, this only helps us in defining art for the artist, not for the audience. The ends are very important when we tell an artist--you make for the purpose of beauty and beauty alone, in so far as you do this you are a true artist and your work is true art, in so far as you admix in things such as usefulness you no longer bear the title of artist nor your works the title of art, but perhaps, in this particular case, 'design.' This is very, very important. But, in terms of the audience, it's irrelevant. The ends of the artist cannot be perceived, only assumed. So our definition of art from the audience's perspective cannot be grounded in ends. This is where the pluralism comes in--the nature of the definition of art to the person who must make it requires an entirely different approach than the nature of a definition of art to the person who simply views it.

Expression is not essential to art, but when it occurs, it must be sincere. That is, it must be expression to one's self. By expression here, we do not mean 'discharging strong emotion' but coming to an understanding of one's emotion or one's self as a whole. This may certainly be present in a work of art, and to deny it woudl be to throw out much of what makes a Rembrandt beautiful. In so far as our selves are trivial little things, and what we come to know is in part our selves and in part ALL selves, in so far as our self is just the same self as everyone else with different experiences and a stronger emphasis here or there [the BIG BIG BIG difference being what we will in life, whether the good, or the beautiful, or evil, or self-satisfaction, or violence, or what have you]. To this extent it may be said that the artist may express not only himself but all of humanity. And these are the most generic, in a good sense, works, and what I was talking about in that bust of the figure from La Danse. Or, a less contentious example: almost any Rembrandt portrait. This is where my terminology of distinguishing how "humane" certain works were. The handling of the face in Cellini's crucifixion I imagine, though I haven't seen, to be a pretty consummate form of this.

So, we've said than that (1) art has form, which should be a unity, as it's prerequisite, an that we can make both broad and narrow formal distinctions, down to drawing a line between figurative sculpture and [?] sculpture, if we so desired (which I will have occasion to do eventually, I am sure; when I get around to trying to write a treatise on Sculpture for a few decades), based purely on differences of essential [formal] natures.

(2) This form must be beautiful. This I resolutely will battle to the teeth to defend; without beauty we have obliterated humanity and the contemporary mantras of "beauty's a trap" or "beauty's easy" or "beauty is just all subjective, ugliness is just as valid" reveal that humanity is rapidly dying. I will add that (b) this beauty may be admixed with the beauty of Truth or Good, but these beauties will always be secondary. That is to say, the beauty of a scientific formula may stem from it's truth--this is not the beauty of art nor beauty proper, but beauty as perhaps a coutesy term for what is really just love [which never differentiates itself]? Tricky, but we must understand that what we sometimes call beauty, whether we want to say it's just not beauty proper, or the beauty of beauty, stems from our love of truth or of good. In other words, we call an ethical act "beautiful" but by that use of the term beautiful here we mean a different thing than when we call a Cezanne beautiful.

***NOTE*** There exists the philosophical possibility that we come to the conclusion that beauty, truth and good are essentially different words for the same thing, that is, they only emphasize different aspects of the same value, and a consummate form of any of them is all three; that is, the highest beauty must necessarily be true and good, and the highest truth must necessarily be beautiful and good, and so forth. None the less I will continue to use the word beauty because I mean to emphasize that aspect of a valuation, understanding that we may very well seem at times that all there is is one unity of a Value-ing of something. ***END NOTE***

(3) We have said that art can be a form of expression, where expression is coming to an understanding of something; in the case of ar tthis is an undrestanding of an emotion OR an understanding of one's self, from which that emotion arose and is colored with--and consequently, to a varying degree, an understanding of what it is to be human; let me add that this understanding is come to THROUGH the act of making, not done beforehand and then spat out in materials. I will go further and say that no undrestanding can be come to without being worked through a material, though doesn't mean that me working through and trying to express my understanding of Sculpture right now is art--because my ends here is not beauty, but truth.




Now, returning to my perhaps unexpected examples of Laocoon and Ugolino. Both pass the test of form, they are three dimensional forms, whether Laocoon is AS in the round as it should be, it's still in the round in so far as the figure's backs are worked (to my knowledge). So it is sculpture. Further, it has expression of what I would call humanity--particularly in the face of the main figure, but also just in the simple beauty of the working of the chest and the composition of the imprisoning of the figures by the snake. The work also expresses a specific emotion which I cannot give a word for, because it took the sculptor here an entire mass of three figures to express it. My word would be a generalized description of the entirely specific and irreducable emotion expressed by the sculpture. Where it came to a possession of this emotion may have been from reading a poem, but the emotion it expresses has been changed, because it is individualized through the act of expressing it in this different medium. In any event, it doesn't achieve the expression through the use of concepts, unless we have read the poem first and look at it only as something that reminds us of it's words which are conceptual tokens--I wont get into a theory of poetry but suffice to say it's the only art that can be conceptual proper, the rest of formal meaning, but not conceptual meaning, because the nature of their mediums are not those of discrete conceptual tokens arranged one after another. I certainly do not think that Laocoon is just referrential, it changes the scene entirely to one that is not about narrative, but about a relation of figures in space. If you dont' believe me on this, read Lessing's hundreds of pages arguing this exact point on this exact sculpture.

Now, Ugolino. Where Laocoon's biggest fault is perhaps it's weak 'spatiality,' Ugolino's is the main figure. Honestly I just want to crack a hammer into it when I see it. The rest is beautiful beyond belief to me, btu the main figure is grotesque, and it's because he's not expressing a god damned thing but trying to make a cartoon symbol of a generic emotion. On the other hand, all the other figures to me are wonderful, and I think though the expression in the face is not much there, not much the operative thing here though it is rendered with intention, the expression of his work is in the handling of the bodies. The young children with their ribs pressed into their hips and necks tipped one side, the reaching gesture of the oldest son, the specific forms of the curves and surface texture of any one of the feet: of the simultaneous tension and complete slipping out of that tension--that is, the feeling of a form that is holding itself together but on the edge of giving up. Finally, a huge amount of the expression is just in the handling of the surface and the marks in it. though I have not verified absolutely that this was absolutely carved by Carpeaux and not any assistant, I would stand by my assumption that it was, and if it was revealed otherwise, it would show me that there was the most loving sculptor as one of Carpeaux's assistants, who poured every bit of that love into his work and was moved so fully by the beauty of the forms as he fought to cause them to emerge sufficiently.

In a formalistic sense, the two examples I gave are not debatable as form that is beautiful--besides in that we all may debate beauty, as I debate the beauty of the primary figure in Ugolino. And I don't see how either COULD be narrative, as narration requires time. Unless one is not looking at the work but looking at the work and bringing their knowledge of the elsewhere rendered narrative emotions they are expressing. This is why I think the real look at a thing must be in active fighting of associating iconic symbols or known mythology, and so forth. The work doesn't have any of that in it, we have it in ourselves.




I hope that satisfies for now. It's the best I can offer right now, as I am not in a position to be writing a treatise on sculpture (though I'm always happy to hack away at a few highly provisional notes towards such a thing, to be battled with through actual experience of making sculpture--since if I think the only useful treatise on sculpture would be one written by a sculptors to himself).
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Old 12-05-2004, 11:56 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Note that I know of no thorough treatise on sculpture, or really solid differentiation of it within a good philosopher's theory of art. Binocularness is something I have found in my own experience as the quickest differentia. I know that a lot of people have thrown out binocularness as an important means of us perceiving space, but it is the only thing that as far as I can tell, is able to distinguish illusions of space from actual space, and it's the thing that gives the experience of that sort of "life"--or infinitely subtle fluctuations in precise relations of parts within our field of vision--which we get a sense of when we look at something materially extant rather than something that 'tricks' us.

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this idea of binocular fluctuations being the major differentia between extant 3 dimensional space and (1) imagined/illusionistic/so-forth 3 dimensional space or (2) simply two dimensionally developed materially extant things, like a 'sculpture' that is simply a tin cut out viewed frontally.

I think I'm on my way here to defining "in the round" (a try would be: when every possible point experiences significant binocular fluctuations; that is to say when from every possible point about an object one experiences significant differences in relations of parts within a field of vision when one views exclusively from one eye and then the other. [this corresponds of course to viewing from one eye and then stepping 1.5" inches to the left or right--but the binocular vision makes a good argument for why we innately are predisposed to regard this effect as differentiating 'reality' from 'illusion' versus 'moving' from 'static')...

Thoughts, ye who have heightened senses of the three-dimensional world?

[the one critique I can think of is that it arguably is oriented about the idea of an object, more than say an architectural interior. if your in a box, the lines will shift SO SO subtly, but they will... but, everything will be quite dramatic if you just place one object in a corner, and watch the line behnd it move back and forth. But this just reveals the lines that already were moving but that you could not distinguish as such as you had no point of reference... so I take back my critique, it's fine for being inside a cube with all white walls].
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Old 12-06-2004, 12:02 AM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

ExNihiloStudio,

*jealous*

I have two weeks of rather intense work before my final architecture crit--where the end of my life as a student of architecture marks the beginning of my life as a student of sculpture.



I hope I was appropriately respectful to your posts, and I apologize if on the subject of "the figure in architecture" I became accusatory and/or frustrated rather than working towards an understanding. This was a mistake on my part, and I should have spent more time in crafting a response beyond the point of reaction.
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Old 12-06-2004, 06:58 PM
shlomo shlomo is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

"This has been a VERY exciting thread and I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm delighted by the thoughtful responses. It has definitely stimulated my mind which is why I participate here."
Originally Posted by ExNihiloStudio
I REALLY DO. TOO.

Last edited by shlomo : 12-06-2004 at 07:12 PM.
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Old 12-06-2004, 11:58 PM
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Re: direct modeling without; More on defining sculpture

Hanee - I’ve just read your two pieces in response to my question about defining sculpture. It’s very provoking, in the sense of stimulating, and I thank you for taking the time to do this.

Here are some random reactions, in no particular order of significance, and I may have left out other issues equally significant.

(1) Your use of binocularity as a necessary part. That seems to suppose an observer, and one with two functioning eyes. (Of course, you suggest that one eye will suffice, with the option of displacement.) An objection is that even fully planar objects such as paintings will appear subtly different at different angles.

One interesting property of the typical human mind, with experience in binocular vision: Someone demonstrated convincingly at a science conference I attended many years ago, that a truly flat, two-dimensional form which varies in time can be perceived as three-dimensional. In that case, the presenter had used a computer to generate a succession of 2D images of a very complex 3D object - a small protein molecule, represented as a long piece of regularly bent or crumpled wire. Watching the projection of these images generated a perception of a rotating, 3D object, the wire or protein as it would appear in 3D space. The mind is quite experienced in translating 2D views into 3D concepts.

(2) You require “form” to be in 3D space which, it is true, I assumed. However, you also exclude any variation in time (the 4th dimension conceptually) and thus appear to exclude kinetic sculpture.

(3) Challenging the idea of “primary purpose” is excellent because, it is correct, we mustn’t need to read the sculptor’s mind to decide whether a work succeeds as sculpture. However, basing the distinction on perception allows something to be sculpture for one person and not for another. Maybe this is OK.

(4) Your questioning of my term “single or compound”, which it seems you replace with single, though possibly complex, emphasizing unity. The emphasis on unity is critical, but I meant the word compound essentially to be synonymous with your complex. (And by compound, I intended to include works with two or more physically distinct parts, such as, in a very simple example, Serra’s groups of bent metal sheets. It’s not clear to me you give complex the same meaning.)

(5) I also dispute your requirement that art be beautiful. I have trouble defining beauty, in fact. I’m perfectly content saying that art must force one’s attention to the state of existence, to the perception of being and the reaction to that perception. In that sense, beauty is not required, unless anything with that effect is de facto beautiful.

(6) I’ve worried most about your examples of Ugolino and Laocoon as indisputably beautiful, and works of (good or excellent) sculpture. I simply don’t see them that way, but I’m prepared to admit a deficiency on my part, an inability to see beyond a certain level of complexity.

Generally speaking, I find Hellenistic art, with Laocoon as example, overly theatrical or over-wrought emotionally, in comparison with Classical Greek art, from which it derives historically. That may reflect an inability to perceive its complexity as unity. I appreciate the individual figures in Laocoon, though not as especially good examples, but I fail to see value in the assemblage, beyond the typically known narrative.

To elaborate on this point a bit: Michelangelo’s David or Moses, or even his two Medici portraits or the four allegorical figures in the Medici chapel, individually are engaged in movement of some sort, but the motivation need not be known to appreciate the sculpture. The more exaggerated movement or postures in Laocoon, and especially the three together, virtually demand explanation, a snapshot of narrative. By “visual narrative or theater” earlier, I intended to describe exactly this characteristic of the piece. I find it unsatisfying in and of itself, despite respecting the individual figures to a degree. In effect, I find it lacks unity because it demands something it doesn’t contain - the justification for the postures and emotions.

In fact, I see now that also is my objection to Ugolino.

Last edited by fritchie : 12-07-2004 at 12:06 AM.
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Old 12-07-2004, 01:13 AM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without; More on defining sculpture

really quick run-down response...

1.) I think you may be missing the benefit of differentiating based on binocular vision. I know it may seem dated, and there's certainly ability to perceive space, analytically, through the understanding of atmospheric persective, laws of diminishing contrast, and perspectival systems. But these are analytically understood, in my opinion. It is something our brain learns through experience--albeit it early experience. And it's something that can be done two dimensionally as an illusion perfectly adequately.

I'm fine supposing an observer, and I'm fine grounding it in perception. Beauty is subjective, but the underlying laws and principles of it [such as unity] are not. It is not immune to an understanding simply because our tastes vary. If we cannot ground it in perception, then we aren't talking about art, as far as I'm concerned--as perception is the faculty through which we must experience an artwork proper. Once it has entered our mind through that faculty, we can very well talk about the idea of imagination, assocation and so forth. But perception is the primary faculty through which we experience art--and we directly perceive, for example, the relations of parts, it is not an abstract reasoning going on but something immediate.

Back to biocular vision: I would argue that anything that is done illusionistically lacks that "flux" that binocular vision has. Nothing can substitute for the fact that your two eyes are perceiving a different relation of parts, that when you hold your finger in front of you and look at a corner of a room, though it appears a certain way, and though you would paint it a certain way, it's position is not so static as we suppose. It is the merging of two images, one of our finger being to the left of the line in the corner, another of our finger being to the right of that line. This is all the difference and no simulation, besides one that projects different images into different eyes, can achieve the same sense of '3 dimensionality' or 'physical reality.' Tricks like the one you mention in the conference just show how little we've taken the time to learn to be sensitive to our own eyes.

And this is what, I will argue, strikes you so hard when walk out of the imax theatre and into the forest, and feel your materiality relciamed. Only physically existent objects can have this phenomenon, those objects or spatial conditions represented on a flat plane directly parallel to us, cannot. Sure, if we take a painting and put it at a 80 degree to us, we see some interesting effects. But that's not the painting that's doing it, it's the frame it's within which is a three dimensional object.

2.) I have no opinions on Kinetic sculpture. It's a mixed art, and so requires a very different analysis, as Cinema does from painting and poetry. I don't mean it's a lesser art, though this is often the case with mixed arts. Consummate forms of them are quite good, but the mediocre mixed-art is worse than the mediocre pure art, because we get tricked into thinking it's not so bad because it satisfies in quantity to hide it's poor quality.

3.) I think it is OK. As I said, it's difficult: i think you need to frame almost an entirely different theory if you're going to put it in terms of aesthetic experience [a viewer] or in terms of the making of art [an artist, who also must be functioning as a viewer during the entirey of his process], as two different things. The viewer part can't help but say "if your missing an eye, you may be fooled into calling something sculpture that is not sculpture." And, "if you have a more developed understanding of form, you may call something a unity that another person does not see the pattern in."

4.) I do give it the same meaning--the roof of Falling Water is a seperate form with a joint attaching it. Furniture design and japanese joinery are other good examples. A desk and chair that "look good together" are two seperate things, int aht we consider them complete without the other just fine. they aren't a unity, and we don't perceive them as a single thing, like we do Falling Water as "a house."

5.) Of course you have trouble defining beauty, try defining truth or good! The fact that all three of these words are extremely difficult, without great care, to define, versus give examples or admirations of, indicates that they are primary values we operate with, and that we have operated with since for as long as we've been conscious beings. The negligence of beauty by art is like cutting off one of three legs that qualifies us as living, conscious beings.

Now, whether what you said is de-facto beautiful, and maybe that's the problem kind of thing: I personally feel that you're loving truth and not beautyl; science and not art. But, I can switch into a mode where what you're saying has some truth in it. From a metaphysical standpoint we can reduce beauty to just existence. The more something exists the more it is beautiful, where existence requires something to be a unity of clear relations and inevitable form. I can see this argument, and I've heard it before. It often results in a system where beauty, truth and good are all the same thing, and there is only one value [in this case, existence]. Note that when this is argued systematically it doesn't result in the sort of contemporary case of a turd on a pedastel being a valid form of art. It's much more sophisticated than that, and still may well exclude a great deal of things.

Now, mind you, I think though that's true, beauty is something much more base than we might take it to be. Lessing make's the argument that a mouth opened widely is simply ugly formally in terms of the lines it forms. I'd agree. This is what makes Ugolino such a bad sculpture, too. The main figure is grotesque, though some of the children are beautiful. I also think some of the 5th century greek sculpture is ugly in the sharpness of it's lines [there being many beautiful ones too, I don't know how people manage to take that whole period as being homogenized, it's rather diverse--there are probably about 6 roman copies of greek torsos at the Met that I've looked at, 2 of which I think are magnificent, and the remaining 4 might as well be in a 16 year old's ink sketchbook of superheros, they're innappropriate to marble and a complete molestation of the human form--but then again, I'm a bones guy, I think good figurative sculpture must understand the bones, more so than the muscles, and that muscles should be subordinate to bones--it's the points where the bones effect the form that make the body most appropriate for sculpture, the long shaft of teh thigh can get quite grating compared to the are of the neck and shoulders, or the edge of the hip... it's those subtle convexities and concavities that make the human form so worthy of rendering in stone, and those who think it's just about the massing of the figure aren't about the figure at all, they're about blobs arranged anthropomorphically... the figure has more than just fat and skin, and the fat and skin are the least significant parts of our being humans].

6.) with regards to my examples, i've kept to figurative sculpture. I would stress michelangelo as much as the next person, but I haven't seen any michelangelos. The reason I've brought up Laocoon is because of Lessing's essay/book [entitled "Laocoon"]. And I'm not sure why your criticizing Laocoon exactly--at least how your criticism relates to whether it's an example of sculpture or not. I think the composition is intrinsically beautiful, you may not argue, but if you don't, you need to tell me formally how it is not. I think your reacting too much to the facial expressions and the associations of the gestures, instead of the form, independent of what it represents. Formally, I can't see how someone wouldn't find the winding around of a linear element around the legs of these figures, for example, to be quite aesthetically satisfying. Do you feel the snake is too thick in relation to the legs, for example? Do the two small figures distract because their proportions are not harmonious with the larger somehow? Do you feel the surface handling lacks (I can't speak for this I haven't seen it besides that I've thought hte chest was done well in one of the photos that hilighted that that I've seen--other photos made the chest look much worse).

Lessing argues, by the way, that it is an earlier period piece than people suspect it to be.

Now, I take your point entirely on 'assemblage' though to me I thought this term was reserved exclusively for intentionally ad-hoc compositions of 'found objects' not for all cases of compositions of more than one figure as well. I think it's wrong to discount multiple figures in composition, but, I can see a preference for the single figure. I think this preference is more a bias, though, one built around there being so few well done groups of figures, in comparison, where they become a unity rather than this figure and that figure and that figure.

And, see here, we're onto a real principle of beauty: we're arguing whether either work can be said to constitute a unity. We're also questioning sincerity--I think what you say as "over-wrought emotionally" is what I'd say as "stating rather than expresing an emotion" or "representing generalized emotions through symbol systems"--and the critique here is that the emotion is general, in my opinion, more than that it is 'too strong' [though you said Over-wrought, and what I take that to mean I guess is over-worked, which means 'worked' as far as I'm concerned--that is, modified to achieve a certain effect on the audience rather than developed for one's own understanding of one's own emotion].

I'd agree. I can knock out both of the works for this reason. I can also criticise the heads on ALL the Ugolino figures pretty much, in terms of beauty because of very poor handling on some of them. But I think Ugolino is a hidden masterpiece admixed with some real blunders. Have you seen the marble in person for any good amount of time? Sometimes what happens is when we have limited resources we look closer at something that we might otherwise pass by... in the hall Ugolino is in at the Met, it's the only work that has a high sensitivity to the subtle concavities and convexities of the human form and the surface handling of the skin. And that's what I say makes it beautiful, as well as the composition of the figures, both individual and en masse. Meanwhile, the heads, and the entire main figure are not good. They're insincere and insensitive generalizations for the purpose of achieving a generalized emotional state in an audience that the maker does not feel himself. But, I think in the legs of some of the figures, the /real/ expression of the piece is hiding.

But, if I critique it only on form, not on expression, I just can't see how anyone would say it was a failure formally, versus lacking in a fludiity of viewpoints and having a grotesquely rendered main figure, no bones in the children's faces, so forth.

In any event, they are works of sculpture, be them good or bad. Indisputably beautiful--I think in CERTAIN ASPECTS ONLY. I think if you were in front of one of the children in Ugolino you'd agree that /certain aspects/ of that were pretty hard to imagine anyone saying 'unbeautiful'...

They fail on unity, sure.


AND your damned well right about your final point: "it demands something it doesn't contain." It is not a unity not only because of the failures of composition, but also because in terms of the nature of the charachatured, generalizations of emotions.

And this would then be the whole argument of a work of art turning inward not outward. Which I couldn't agree more with.

Of course, I think if this is not taken carefully, it could be misread or misunderstood. I think any emotion is expressable in a work, so long as it is individualized [not generalized like "fear" "anger" so forth, but somethng we can't give a word to]. there is no "over the top" in terms of it being "too much emotion" there is only "not expressing an individualized emotion" as far as I'm concerned. Now, often, the only right way to express a very strong emotion is very subtly. And there's a vast difference between "discharging" an emotion into your work, and expressing it in your work. The end judgement is our own perception of it--I think it's certainly possible to compose a figure in any way whatsoever with no gravitational or other reason for that pose, so long as it works towards a unity of form and a sincere and specific expression of coming to an understanding of an emotion.


I would suggest reading Lessing's Laocoon if you ever get a chance, if only to hear someone, who greatly respects Greek art, argue quite well that the choices it made were the right ones [in terms of the nature of the poses, specifically].




[Hopefully this is the last time I have to qualify why I picked those examples... When I said how much I was moved by Ugolino the first time I saw it, I was staring at this void in it, where you can see right through the center of the sculpture, and where a shoulder meets the underside of a leg, I was not stepping 20 feet back from the main view and seeing the very mannered illustration of a Dante scene. I still maintain tha the sculpture has some very high points of beauty, but they aren't the front and center things, and you can't get them from a photograph--well not with the photographs that people tend to take of it at least.

And I do think Carpeaux was sincere, though misled as to what he was supposed to do and worried about satisfying a comission. I still think if he had sculpted longer he'd have been a real master--I think he was in an early-formative stage but I see, especially ins ome of his studies for things, a sincere and rare passion that fills some portions of some of the work.]

[I've been wandering around for a long time in new york trying to find a decent figurative sculpture, too... I still haven't seen one.].
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Old 12-07-2004, 01:40 AM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

i've really done a bad job defending beauty in that last post... but i'm very very sleepy... i think if you reflect on the idea of something being undefinable indicating that it's a primary value that has no further basis, you'll get somewhere with it. that's the key. and the antidote to our tendency to give up on beauty because we have trouble puting it into a reasoned understanding.

but, i'm also not sure whether your saying you aren't sure whether beauty's a part of art, or you're not sure whether beauty's an important value or a real value. i get the sense that you would only allow it's exclusion from art if you didn't appreciate the profound significance of it. but in either case, i feel that the problem is in a distrust of the concept of beauty, more than anything else... and i think it's distrusted because either you've been cluttered by concepts and think art is about thoughts and beauty is the word we use to describe warm colors, OR [what is more likely as you seem a sensitive {i always use this word as sense-itive, by the way} individual], you recognize the difficulty of an agreed-upon beauty, and the difficulty of articulating in words a beauty we feel, besides by pointing out things we know to be true, like relations of parts--and in all this difficulty, find the whole term problematic and avoid it's use.

i think this is a huge thing going on in our culture, and it stems from a predominant philosophy of pure subjectivity. we think everything is subjective and therefore undifferentiated in value. perhaps the few of us who try to assert values on the basis of objective things avoid speaking or thinking in terms of beauty, because they feel it's subjective, unlike the relations of parts they're discussing.


the subjectivity theory is plainly false: people think, simply because two opposite things are equally true, that everything is equally untrue or undifferentiated in terms of truth. what they fail to see is that the only truth, and the highest truth, is something being TRUE ON IT'S OWN TERMS. this is why I argue for inevitability in a work of art so much, and for a unity, and an inward-turnedness. It's possible to establish something that is true on it's own terms through a rigorous understanding of it. it's like the laws of physics: a building that stands up is true, a building that falls is false. we have things like this all the time that are objective bases of valuation. self-complete and self-sufficient things have defined their own system of physics and have kept within it. they are objectively true. it is only through the evils of synthesis or truncation that their truth is compromised.
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Old 12-07-2004, 10:31 PM
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Hanee - Thanks for this most recent reply, and I do appreciate the fact that you are involved in other, very pressing activities. Probably we should let this go for now, except as you wish (or anyone else wishes) to take it further. These exchanges remind me why I avoided philosophy in college, and went with math instead, to exercise my instinct for logic. Mathematical language and logic are quite precise (if sometimes to a degree incompletely fathomable), but natural language (i.e., word-based language) is almost unavoidably vague.

One thing I realized last night just as I posted my most recent reply, is that my statement about Laocoon and Ugolino failing the test of unity actually was poorly worded. It is possibly not unity where they fail, in my view, but completeness, as they refer unavoidably to essential material which is not present. I don’t want to continue with minutiae that may go nowhere, but completeness could be taken as an essential aspect of unity.

This idea of completeness might be taken to criticize use of the fragment in sculpture, though clearly I think the fragment often enhances the esthetic properties of a form; I use the fragment frequently. I don’t see that a truncated human form is incomplete in the same way as these two compositions, which derive from literature.

To broaden the discussion a bit, I need to say that we have so far avoided kinetic sculpture and what often is called virtual sculpture, sculpture which exists only within a computer or other machine of some sort. As you said, this is work for a lifetime.

And, I see from the dictionary that esthetic as a word derives from the Greek for beauty. You are right that I prefer the former to avoid difficulty with the latter.

Last edited by fritchie : 12-07-2004 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 12-07-2004, 11:00 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Yes I think the conversation is pretty finito at this point... and the last couple posts of mine were definitely in decline (both in terms of precision and in terms of focus). Which means philosophy has probably taken as far as it needed to and we're left back in the world of human actions where perhaps it's influence may be felt and better understood... I think the most interesting think that came out of it, for me, is the attempt to try to find a precise differentiation of actual three dimensional experience versus illusionistic three dimensional experience. Whether or not my Binocular vision theory is worth it's salt, the idea of trying to find a clear differentia is a good one for us sculptors, else we loose hold of what makes our art distinct.

Completeness is an interesting concept as an aspect of unity. I think unity is the heavy hitter here, but these little sub-concepts like completeness are important. I think self-complete and self-sufficient might be a better term, but as you said, minutiae.

(1) The biggest crituqe I've heard of incomplete [indeterminate might be more specific in this case] forms is that our love of them is not the form itself but the imaginative flights in our own head that occur as we try to complete the form. So it's bad art, because it is vague and ambiguous and achieves no unity, but audiences come to take this vagueness for profundity. When we leave things out, in other words, people can imagine more than is in the work. This is the critique especially of, say, free-verse poetry and paintings that create an amorphous world of spatially unclear tonal relationships. In sculpture, the missing arms and heads or under developed lower portions, as well as perhaps Rodin's sloppier works, fail the test too.

This critique would come from a theory where, to some degree, the art is the object.

(2) The biggest compliment I've heard are from those theories that place a heavy emphasis on the imaginative function of the viewer, where leaving something out allows the viewer to complete the form in their head, which gives a sense of satisfaction.

In general, aesthetic theories fall into three categories:
Imitation theories, Imagination theories, and Expression theories. The first has to do with the art object, the second has sto do with the audience, and the third has to do with the artist. A lot of rebellions in the art world have to do with shiftings of focus from one to another. These days the imitation theories are pretty well ignored completely, and Imagination theories are the vogue, because our focus tends to be on the audience, more than on the artist or the work itself. All three are valid of course, but they're difficult to mix. And from the point of view of one of them, the other always sounds resolutely false.


[Esthetic technically has to do with the /pereption of beauty/ or if you prefer /beauty as experienced/. The term is often misused, as it is by me in this very post, to mean "anything that has to do with art." The theories I mentioned above aren't all aesthetic theories, necessarily, some are theories of making art, some are theories of perceiving/experiencing art, and thus theories of aesthetics. Some are both [certian Expression theories, mainly]].



On a final note: language doesn't have to be vague, but it simply takes a great deal more effort. It's not the sort of thing that works well besides when crafted with as much precision as Dante or Shakespear. Or Santayana, or Kierkegegaard if we want to talk philosophy proper, versus art that has every bit as much of a rigorous philosophical universe established but whose primary mode is to be art. Certainly, words lack the /inherent/ definiteness of three dimensional form. That definiteness I think is a lot of what attracts me to sculpture. I've worked in the abstract quite a bit (especially as a software developer--where the work is with languages). With painting, even, a form can be ambiguous. With sculpture, it can never be truly ambiguous because it exists, it can just not be the form you want it to be or be anatomically ambiguous or what have you. So we do, as sculptors sort of have half our jobs done for us already with making forms that aren't vague.


[Wow do I write better when I've slept!]
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Old 12-09-2004, 10:07 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Re: direct modeling without ... ; Shifted Location

Please Note! I have continued this discussion in a new thread, “Rationales or justifications for sculpture” in “Sculpture Focus Topics”, a better location for the current, much subject that grew from Hanee’s original post.
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Old 12-20-2004, 08:41 AM
dwright dwright is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

This has been an interesting thread. You have lured me, a longtime lurker, into the discussion.
A couple of things, based on the original post by hpatenaude.
It is not a problem to create small waxes without an armature, but longterm storage is out. Even kept in cool temperatures, they will begin to 'slump' under the contant tug of gravity. Longterm exposure to moisture, such as tanks, or refrigeration (condensation) will lead to mold problems.
However, small waxes can usually be cast directly in bronze, as an inexpensive alternative. Then they will last forever.
Then, on hpatenaude's love of stone sculpture but inability to properly pursue that due to logistical circumstances......get creative.
A metalworking friend of mine had exactly the same problem.....incessant hammering much too loud for the neighborhood, no money for a studio. He checked with all the local wrought iron manufacturers. One not only had a space, the space was filled with hand metalworking tools rendered obsolete by modern mass produced approaches. The owner was happy to let my friend bang away at all hours, and after seeing the output, began to market his handwrought ironwork to his existing customers.
Eventually my friend left there, but with a body of work, and some very large completed commissions under his belt.
The creative mind doesn't only apply to your work, but to your entire life. You know what you want to do.....find a way. It's a lifestyle.
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Old 12-20-2004, 09:09 AM
dwright dwright is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

On wax as a permanent art form.
Are you nuts? All the sculptors I know approach wax, or clay, as a means to an end only, one step in a process, that leads ultimately to...bronze.
(okay, there is that one guy, who is the single exception that proves the rule.)
All the effort goes to capture in wax, briefly, that clear vision, then transmute that moment into something permanent. When I get a wax to the final stages, I can't wait to get it to the foundry. It's not a finished sculpture until it's in metal.
As far as the idea that bronze is 'dead' unless it's a vital part of the process....
There is some merit to that, not much, but some. It is a good practice to make a first proof casting, marked A.P.(artist's proof), and if the bronze clearly violates some of the sculptor's original vision, then a second wax can be poured and reworked. To some collectors artist proofs are very desirable, but you can also give them to your mother. Great Christmas gifts, and if someone wants to see an old piece, you can borrow it.
After that, you may establish a numbered edition. The following castings should be as similar as possible.
If interested in bronze, a beginning sculptor should visit all the nearby foundries, and hang out as much as they will let you. Establish a good rapport with the people responsible for bringing your vision to fruition.
I have used the same foundry for over 20 years.
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Old 12-20-2004, 10:50 AM
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

DWRIGHT's words are well spoken.

I had to go from life-size work to floor and table-top size due to lack of work space. I found a whole new avenue of expression this way.

And I'm selling more!

Amen to creativity.
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"Important artists are innovators whose work changes the practices of their successors; important works of art are those that embody these innovations."
Galenson, David W. Old Masters and young geniuses, Princeton University Press, 2006
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Old 12-20-2004, 04:05 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Thanks... I'd be a bit active about trying to find a place to cave stone [though NYC is tough], but I'm actually going to have studio space soon, as I'm going from an architecture program (at the over-rated elite institution of cooper union) to a sculpture program (at pratt)--starting in February... not sure if that came across in one of my posts somewhere. Meanwhile, I'm heading down to florida for the next three weeks and am buying some stones and will be carving.

I'm not terribly worried about structuring my life around carving--it's just no matter what, living in the city has its limitations. You can't, at a moment's inspiration, go out into some garage and start hacking away at something...



w/r/t wax. I've been working with it now for a little while, and I'm very happy with it. It's a wonderful material, and though the proces is slowed by th ened to warm or cool it, the possibilities are so much greater than using an armature, and the work seems to have much more life in it when you don't start out with a bent stick figure, and when you can very nicely swith between additive and subtractive when necessary. I could go on and on... I really would only use wax if it worked for all poses and allowed rapid study of the figure--true studies as nothing but studies and with economy of method being the most important thing, so you /don't/ get caught up in details of material worries [like wax hardening or not sticking together, or earth clays driyng out or having to tweak their consistencies]...


w/r/t wax once more: I imagine hot summer days are a problem for some poses (though not all), but, from what I've been working with I don't see why a permanent piece (in so far as, say, a charcoal drawing is permanent--obviously it wont last like an oil paining will) couldn't be created if I worked with harder waxes (I'm using Victory Brown microcrystaline right now)... Maybe not as permanent as stone, but that can be accomodated for in the nature of the work. I do think there's possibility for wax in the fine arts... though maybe storage and display conditions may need more attention.
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Old 12-20-2004, 06:52 PM
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Talking Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

whoa, interesting, voluminous thread. Not sure, maybe someone covered this already:

If
- you are eventually going to cast the piece in bronze
- dont want the wax to slump while modelling or being handled in the foundry
- do want some ability to reshape, tweak the work as you go
- and have some up-front idea of the shape of the work (e.g a human figure, long tall thing, etc)

Then try making a copper wire "skeleton" armature that is completely internal to the modelled wax. It provides some rigidity, can be bent/formed as you go. During the foundry process it mixes with the molten bronze (which is mostly copper anyway).

-- RB

PS I've never done this personally, but am told it works
http://www.richardbecker.com

Last edited by rickb : 12-20-2004 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 12-20-2004, 09:43 PM
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickb
whoa, interesting, voluminous thread. Not sure, maybe someone covered this already:

If
- you are eventually going to cast the piece in bronze
- dont want the wax to slump while modelling or being handled in the foundry
- do want some ability to reshape, tweak the work as you go
- and have some up-front idea of the shape of the work (e.g a human figure, long tall thing, etc)

Then try making a copper wire "skeleton" armature that is completely internal to the modelled wax. It provides some rigidity, can be bent/formed as you go. During the foundry process it mixes with the molten bronze (which is mostly copper anyway).

-- RB

PS I've never done this personally, but am told it works
http://www.richardbecker.com
Rick - I think this probably would work, based on things my long-term founder has told me. Thin pieces of wood within the wax, such as popsicle sticks, thin barbeque rods, and so on, will burn out with the wax and present no problem. He and/or other people I know, have cast pine cones, crab shells, bits of plastic or fabric, and other things with low combustion requirements.

[And, let me remind people, that while this is good place to continue posting on the subject of wax-casting and similar subjects, the thread on philosophy and sculpture has moved, and posts on that subject should continue there. (With thanks.)

Last edited by fritchie : 12-20-2004 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 05-02-2005, 04:01 PM
Jamo Jamo is offline
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Re: direct modeling without an armature: can i do it with wax?

I have recently been converted from sculpting clay on top of large bulky steel armatures. I am totally convinced that if you are just as comfortable with sculpting wax as clay then you can make a sculpture easier in wax. I have found that using a styro core carved to a very basic shape then adding a layer of wax to be modelled on top is superior. There are no issues with keeping the clay moist. The end product is infinitely lighter than clay or plasticene. the material is very resistant to accideental dammage in this intermediate stage. The biggest plus is the fact that a foundry can take the model without making any secondary molds and cast it direct. This is a big savings in money if you only want to make one monumental sculpture. The styro is easily changed if you do not like the form. However it is rigid and you do have to spend some time reattaching pieces if you make major adjustments. the styro acts as a great support as well. it allows you to extend sculptural projections further than if it was simply sculpted in solid wax. here is a sculpture I just recently completed using this method. http://photobucket.com/albums/y94/p93mbm/
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