Comments on: William Tucker in conversation Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Robert Persey Wed, 08 Feb 2012 14:37:04 +0000 Where to begin? So many points have been raised here with so many threads but I will start with “the idea of objectness”. I must confess to being a bit perplexed to what this is all about. I feel this is an interpretation after the fact. I certainly do not remember it being central to much discussion in the mid to late seventies. Certainly some sculptors talked about the object or objectness and certainly one could mistake the contraction in look of much sculpture of that decade as being indicative of a desire, possibly sub -conscious, to give sculpture a bounded feel that set it apart from pictorial composition. But contraction of itself is no less spatial than spread. It is the quality of the relationships that create space.

If I have read it correctly, Bill in his chapter on “The object” in “The language of sculpture” describes the appropriation of objectness in early modern sculpture as really a substitute for subject matter, of sculpture searching around to acquire and imitate the aesthetic qualities of functional objects to give credence to its existence. I think that perhaps everyone has an inbuilt sense of aesthetically pleasing order, (we like a certain neatness even when it comes to putting plates and cutlery on the table) some call it a gestalt, which is at the centre of design but this is to do with beauty rather than powerful visual expression.

Incidentally, Herbert Read (Concise History of Modern Sculpture) politely criticises the egg and ovoid sculptures of Brancusi as imitations of the principles of organic growth rather than a sculptural reinvention of those principles, which is another kind of appropriation.

In my experience the concerns and endeavour of the seventies centred on discovering what was proper to sculpture, there was a desire to escape the trap of pictorial organisation (which is not solely a phenomena of twentieth century sculpture by the way), to isolate and distinguish what was sculptural space from theatrical and literal space, even from the illustration of space, to borrow Bill’s description of the work of Gabo, Pevsner et al (Space Illusion Sculpture 1974). All these concerns were played out within the context of unquestioned abstraction. It brought about the confrontation with mass and volume and a realisation that these are spatial functions as well.

So I cannot see where “the constraints of the idea of objectness came in”? I know intentions are one thing and results another but deliberate appropriation, I am not sure?
Which brings me to “Leonide”, we often overlook why we make sculpture in the first place. We become so bound up in the talking and writing about sculpture; with the important need to get our heads round it that we may give the impression that it is all a clinical exercise or a “fixed concept”. Far from it, it has been stated elsewhere and it tends to be ignored, because we live in a climate where explanation and interpretation are supposed to replace the direct experience of art but I do not think it gets emphasised enough. Sculpture should be an intense experience; it should move you and go on moving you with each encounter. That was the overriding ambition throughout the seventies and it remains so now. For many people “Leonide” upset the applecart, it was supposed to, it was a colossal risk, but I am glad it has stood the test of time. If it is as good as Rodin and Matisse and I am inclined to agree, then that is a cause for celebration. (It is publicly owned, why is it kept in a storeroom where the public cannot see it?) The point that was missed thirty years ago was that this sculpture came out of an imagination steeped in abstract construction, the sculpture is a construction and from that it derives much of its power and demands much of us making sculpture today. Any way I think “Leonide” adds something and I am reminded of TS Eliot’s definition of what “new” really means. That a work arrives that encompasses the whole of art (sculpture) but changes it, just a little. (Tradition and the Individual Talent)

One final and very separate, random thought on Bill’s point that figuration is forbidden by two of the world’s major religions. These cultures have survived for hundreds of years with this prohibition but curiously, as far as I know; abstract sculpture did not emerge from them.