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JHoughton 03-06-2003 09:53 AM

Is figurative Sculpture Conceptually dead?
Just curious what people thought about this question. I believe I have seen soooo many examples of poorly executed and unreasoned figurative works that I am curious to see what people think about it as a whole. Who if anyone shines above the crowd? Is it dead like many shortsighted individuals feel about the painting field?

fritchie 03-06-2003 08:42 PM

Conceptual figurative art
Jarrod - I have to say "yes and no" - of course! I agree with you that there is a lot of poor or thoughtless or simply commercial figurative sculpture around. Heaven forbid I should criticize “Western” or “wildlife” art, but most of that is mainly commercial.

Certainly quality is high in general, and one really shouldn’t criticize what others do just because it isn’t what the criticizer does. However, these pieces and these artists in effect reject the whole notion of art criticism and the world of art museums. Hope I don’t set off a firestorm, but replies will be interesting. I, for one, am openminded about generally all art, and I do like Western pieces, but the whole field and the way of thinking is very different.

I do hope my work is conceptual and thoughtful. About quality, I have to leave that to others.

redrajah 03-07-2003 06:08 AM

figurative art dead? absolutely not. check out the works of paolo borghi, or ron mueck, or marc quinn, or antony gormley, or janet mullarney ... it is in fact a very exciting time to be a figurative sculptor.

JHoughton 03-07-2003 10:28 AM

Very happy about replies!
So far this is hopeful. Personaly I think their is much irony to be exploited in the "western" works. I have thought about that a lot in my bronze work.

kittykat 03-12-2003 12:51 AM

figurative sculpture
im actually like a little kitten who has no elite input into
figurative sculpture but those shortsighted about painting
could be shortsighted about figurative sculpture, i saw
some nice stuff as you say, on the web by someone called
dora natella, bronze sculptures, maybe you would not
call it nice stuff, why do you feel downhearted about the
lack of interesting figurative sculpture, sorry to sound
psycho crap but are you really let down by the figurative
sculpture or is it something else, maybe something really
trivial as those smilies really get to me sometimes,

i do have an 'idea' for my course im undertaking in a
beginners workshop of sculpture, and im entitling it
"im a little teacup", but i wont go more into it, so you may
be opened for enlightenment.

signing off la di da da

Randy 03-12-2003 04:34 PM

Figures at new Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Got a chance to visit the new Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth this past weekend. The Richard Serra is stunning out front -- about 70 feet tall, six or eight three inch thick steel plates, maybe 20 tons each. It had a bad case of exzema, however. The steel got eaten up by sea-salt on the trip over. Isn't that somewhat figurative?

Also, works indoors by Michelangelo Pistoletto and someone who made a miniature old woman, sitting on a chair. Both were strong technically and conceptually. (Didn't care much for the old lady, myself, but she was getting good scrutiny by the crowds.) What about Charles Ray? Kiki Smith?


fritchie 03-13-2003 08:47 PM

Randy - Pistoletto is not in their index byartist's name, and figurative as a search term came up completely negative. Is that bias?

Randy 03-13-2003 09:35 PM

missing Pistoletto
You are too fast for me. I have emailed the Museum director about the Pistoletto when I couldn't find it online either.

I will report in as soon as I hear from him.

Randy 03-13-2003 10:02 PM

found Pistoletto in Italy!!
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Here is a semi-dubious image of the piece I saw in Fort Worth, from somewhere in Italy.

This is cool with the architectural interior, but it was very cool in Ft Worth, too with the reflecting pool in the reflection of the mirror.

Randy 03-14-2003 02:46 PM

Ft Worth Reply
Dear Mr. Jewart:

We're in the process of adding all of the new acquisitions to our website. Please keep checking. The Pistoletto should be there soon.

Susan Colegrove
Administrative Assistant
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
3200 Darnell Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
817-738-9215 x116

JHoughton 03-18-2003 10:44 AM

Re: figurative sculpture
[quote]Originally posted by kittykat
[b]im actually like a little kitten who has no elite input into
figurative sculpture but those shortsighted about painting
could be shortsighted about figurative sculpture, i saw
some nice stuff as you say, on the web by someone called
dora natella, bronze sculptures, maybe you would not
call it nice stuff, why do you feel downhearted about the
lack of interesting figurative sculpture.

Honestly I think nice stuff if said with a tinge of sarcasm would be appropriate. This is stuff Natella has done on her site is really nicely exicuted, but you have to admit doesn't do anything to expand the boundry of figurative sculpture as we know it. Unfortunately I have seen so many beginning classes make this stuff that it just plain bores the crap out me. It is what it is and shows well learned techinques but where does it go to get out of the rut? I get downhearted in seeing anything that is complacent to be mediocre. Thanks for your post!

fritchie 03-19-2003 11:00 PM

Jarrod - Part of me says I probably should wait overnight before replying to this, but part says I am too busy and the message probably wouldn’t improve a great deal, so here goes. I think what we are looking at here is one of the central dilemmas of American society today - Is diversity or distinction a better choice? Alternatively: Is there a universal scale of quality in a field, or is any viewpoint simply a reflection of bias?

I must say that, in general I come down on the side of distinction and a universal scale of quality, but my eyes have opened by experience to the alternative view, so I don’t oppose it as strongly as I would have earlier.

To get this discussion directly into sculpture, I looked at both the figurative work you say leaves you unmoved, and at the first reference googol gave me to you, your ISC page. I could say that the work you have posted there leaves me unmoved also, but where would that get us? (Actually, I see some interesting elements in it, but the 2-D imagery fails to convey very much.)

In effect, you are working in an infinite design space of preconfigured elements, and figurative sculptors are working in a limited design space of nearly infinite form. Neither is easy and both can be rewarding. It’s sort of like whether a musical composer chooses color like Bach or structure like Beethoven. (And may any real musicians pardon my ignorance of nuance. I simply mean to say that the world is richer for both, and that’s what counts in the end.)

redrajah 03-20-2003 05:58 AM

as a figurative sculptor i can say that jarrod's frustrations are much like my own. it is never enough to simply make a well crafted representation of the human form, no matter our love for it. our gift is one of communication and there is always so much to say, consciously or otherwise. great work, whether it is figurative or not speaks for it's time and place, it lends new insights into old mysteries, captures a time's collective conscience and opens the doors of discovery. the greeks did love the human form they said it so well in the sculpture they made. the renaissance man fancied himself as the absolute epicenter of the universe and michelangelo said it succinctly in his david, there stands man in all his beauty, in all his ugliness. the agony of human pathos was never better expressed than by rodin and it is painfully obvious in every thumbstroke. good craft, anatomy and techniques can never be more than points of departure. from there we have to give of ourselves and of what we think and of how we feel, we have to take risks, to push further than we think possible and to fail mightily, but to be so turned on and so open to what drives us that it doesn't matter.

JHoughton 03-20-2003 08:59 AM

I also should think more about what I am about to write, but as my work sometimes shows If I wait it will not get done;)
Fritchie, you have made a great point about bais. I'm not sure what to do with mine? I like to think I am an open and free minded artist person, but anytime I see such heavily used and abused artworks not to metion historically loaded (bronze figures included) up comes old mister bias! It is almost always a matter of did the artist consider any of the modes of thinking from the 1960 on, or are they happy to forever make Giacomette's or Rodan's?
As far as my work goes I am sure many, many people could easily live without it and would be happy doing so. Yet, when that one person takes the time to figure out what have I done and why, this is when the lines of communication are opened. Dicsussion and questions make an artist grow so fast its amazing. As with the beginning thread this was always my intention to make those who want to grow to have the opertunity. Thanks for your reply!

JHoughton 03-20-2003 09:03 AM

Thank you Redraja
Always a persistant problem with me when technique and craftsmanship gets in the way or becomes a refuge from the initial concept. I often have to run from the machines and tools to remind myself what my work was to communicate.

fritchie 03-21-2003 09:33 PM

Two new related threads
I’m starting two new threads in response to the comments posted in this thread yesterday by redrajah and Jarrod, in order to keep the original thread from growing too long, and to provide branches for others who may choose one or another of their points for further comment.:p

Toby 03-26-2003 05:32 PM

Art = mode?
Figurative sculpture conceptually dead?
No, I believe that figurative sculpture is unfashionable. One reason for this may be the fact that it is so "accessible". Anyone can look at the David and think wow, that looks just like a person, and then some. If aforementioned layman looks at another figurative sculpture created by someone with less skill or technique he may think hmm, that looks a bit like a person. To launch into a format which holds one's work up to comparison with the work of masters over the centuries requires some serious grit, maybe talent too.
I think that figurative sculpture is a format, not a concept: a vehicle of expression. In many ways I feel that the way is clear for a neo-renaissance, and that the capacity of figurative, even representational sculpture as a whole has never been plumbed to its depths.
In figurative sculpture lies the history of the golem, the totem, the fetish, the Frankensteins monster, the protective figurehead, the miraculous virgins. The imbuing of persona and personality into an inanimate object. Pass me the laudanum Igor.

Small pond redraj

Randy 03-27-2003 01:19 PM

Figurative Sculpture Issue
Just a reminder: The new April issue of Sculpture Magazine is devoted to the Figure. Work by Elizabeth Catlett, Magdelena Abakanowicz, Mimmo Paladino, Antony Gormley and more. Art in America features articles and ads for many artists using the figure including Manuel Neri and others.

What about the cross-over from sculpture to performance and video which uses "real" figural presentation? This area is surely not considered out-moded, and grows out of the classical figurative tradition.

<> for images and articles from Sculpture, and to subscribe on-line so you're not missing out!

fritchie 03-27-2003 10:05 PM

No Way!
Randy - I have to say I don't think video and performance art count as figurative sculpture. It's interesting that essentially any new art form which people can’t classify gets put into “sculpture”.

I kind of like that, as it says in a way that sculpture is the most open of all visual art fields, but to say these two art forms are part of figurative sculpture comes close to saying that photography of the figure also is a form of figurative sculpture. OK, so photography commonly is two dimensional, but so is video. Performance probably is closer to theater, ballet, mime, and other theatrical arts. The emphasis typically is on movement and possibly sound, and not specifically on form, as with sculpture.

OK, again, I’m getting myself into trouble if you add mobiles in sculpture as Calder did. I guess any three D work which includes the figure can be considered an extension of figurative sculpture, but art which includes motion asa main factor is to sculpture as a solo music piece is to a symphony. The focus is much larger but not so sharp.

redrajah 04-08-2003 05:59 PM

cheers toby, small pond indeed. delighted with your words.

Randy 04-09-2003 11:05 AM

Magdelena Abakanowicz
Not sure how it can be explored readily, but Magdelena showed a video at her keynote address during the Pittsburgh ISC conference that indicates an amazingly tight connection between her sculptural practice and the dance performance she choreographed with Japanese noh dancers. I am sure there are additional examples.

Have you checked out April's Art in America? An article about Marina Abramovic features her recent performance in NY. A very "sculptural" presentation.

The line here seems an "objectification" of the body--not similar to theater at all.


fritchie 04-10-2003 12:38 AM

Randy - I’m going to pick up on your comment, “The line here seems an "objectification" of the body--not similar to theater at all”, and ramble on a bit in a conversation with myself as I did in response to your earlier suggestion comparing performance, etc., with figurative sculpture.

I have to admit I am mystified by the term “objectification of the body” in opposition to what is present in theater. Most commonly, objectification might be taken as sexual in nature, but it also might mean objectification as power, subjugation, humor, ridicule, or any number of other concepts. Certainly, the figure in theater often is used in these ways.

I have to admit that in most of my earliest works, including all five of the ones in Portfolio, I conceived them as demonstrations that the human form could express abstract concepts such as rhythm, pace, spatial organizational and so on just as well as nonrepresentational sculpture. To me, they primarily were abstract compositions clothed in human form.

In fact, I strove to isolate each figure from social context exactly to reduce the “humanity” of each one, to emphasize the factors above. In my thought process over this time, I found it almost impossible to remove the figure from its everyday context, to prevent viewers, so to speak, from questioning just what the figure was about as a person. It didn’t take long to realize (in my view) that I was overcomposing each piece in terms of rhythm, pace, and so on - that I was choosing somewhat artificial poses for the figures, and that real persons would be more casual in movement. I relaxed the compositional constraints and deliberately chose slightly more awkward moments.

I won’t go on more about my personal odyssey here, but hope these thoughts will give you a framework to say more about just where you are coming from in this line of reasoning.:rolleyes:

Victoria 04-11-2003 12:40 PM

Figurative sculpture
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Enjoyed reading everyone's comments on figurative sculpture and is it dead?
I attended a drawing class recently. Some submission requests call for drawings of the proposed sculpture. I don't draw very well so I took the class. The teacher just happened to be a figurative artist (painter) and very good.
Based on this teacher's repetitive theme of advice. "Gesture is everything!" I don't think most Greek sculpture was very exciting. It appears stiff and dead to me. In that case speaking literally, figurative sculpture was truly dead.
I am concentrating these days on trying to capture gesture with a more conscious effort than before. I think my teacher is correct. Provided gesture is captured, figurative sculpture will never be dead.

redrajah 04-13-2003 12:33 PM

hello victoria,
perhaps with a bit of time and practice you will come to discover that there is gesture everywhere, even in the "stiff and dead"...

meanwhile i've posted a few photos of greek sculpture that are more obviously gestural, here . good luck with the drawing.

fritchie 04-13-2003 03:50 PM

Gesture in Greek Art
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Victoria -

I, too, heard the term ?gesture?in all my introductory sculpture classes. Used this way, ?gesture? means the overall sculptural concept or design, with its essential lines of flow and points of focus. Beginning figurative students often get lost in detail and forget the overall meaning of the piece, and this emphasis reminds them to keep the overall purpose in mind.

When you say about Greek work, ?I don't think most Greek sculpture was very exciting. It appears stiff and dead to me?, I suspect you either are thinking of very early, Archaic Greek art, or you are referring to the simplicity or economy of design of Classical Greek art.

Contemporary sculptors Osamu Noguchi and Richard Serra have used minimalist design somewhat similar to that of Classical Greek art today, but in nonrepresentational sculpture. I post figures below of two Greek bronzes, Zeus/Poseidon and Aphrodite, approximately from the Classical Period, and also a Roman copy of a Classical Greek marble, Doryphoros.

The male with outstretched arms is considered to have held a lightning bolt in his right hand if he is Zeus, or a trident if he is Poseidon. Aphrodite originally probably held a ribbon or garland of flowers in her hands, passing behind her head, preparing to tie the object in her hair. Doryphoros, ?spearbearer?, is thought to have held a spear in his left hand, loosely resting on the ground and on his shoulder. All of these figures show clean, well-conceived gestures. One other thing that may confuse you about Greek sculpture is that marbles often are incomplete, having lost limbs and even the head through accident over the ages. This would confuse the gesture.

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