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Morris Robert Notes on Sculpture in Minimal Art a Critical Anthology

Morris Robert Notes on Sculpture in Minimal Art a Critical Anthology

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NOTESONSCULPTURE'"byRobertMorris
.dbartistsandcriticstobeoneoftheRobertMorrisisconsl~ere.
Y
rna,;Minimalstyle.Hisworksandideasleadingsculptors~orkmg
III
t~lene
f
roblemsinherentinMinimalsculp-havehelpedtodelineateava~I€ty
0
P
t
Morrisdiscussessomeoftheseture.
In
thefollowingnotes,
1~
twopart~'
ipationsize
scalesurface,andproblems,includingthoseofviewerpar
lei,.,,'
ofgestalt.
Part1
t
gl'co(lteinordertoappear.""WlIatcomesintoappearance
mus
see".,
--{:OJ,TlmTherehasbeenlittledefinitivewritingonpresent-da
b
ysCdul~turoe.
f
11
d·tosupportaroaICon-Whitisdiscusseditis
0
tencae
In.
en
1,.
f
view-afterthesupportmgex-graphicorl~o~olo~cal~o~:te~hausted.Kublerhasraisedtheob-amplesofpawtmgavee:.htericncesso.tionthaticonologicalassertiOf.Spresuppose
t
aex~h
JCC
d.tomehowbemtercange-differentasthoseofspaceantimemuss
b
aRoschasre-bl
1
It
isperhapsmoreaccuratetosay,asBar
ar..
tha
e..
,'fi
elementsarcheldincommonamong
e
centlywntten,thatspeCI.chithrthananiconological
.t
t
d
y
anioonograp
lC
raeva~lOusfar.s°T~edistinctionishelpful,fortheiconographerwhopomt
0
vlewd·ltdthemeshasadiHerentambitionthanlocatesshareeemensan
A/
Fbuary1966'PartIIisoPartIofthisarticleisreprintedfromrt
orum,
er,,reprintedfrom
Art/arum,
October,1966.htheetsandartistsofone
1
"Thus
Strukturforschung
presupposestat1~tofsensibilityfrom.the]tntbearersofacentrapaemplaceandtimearee
101
lk
dialexpressions.Thispositionagreeswhichtheirvariouseffortsallflowl.lIetradartseemapproximatelyinter-I.
t'
thomiteraUTean'7withtheIconoogrss,
0
w/
s/
f
T'mt?
Yah'!University,1962,p.2.I'lc.,....eorgeKubler
T
W.Ulpl'0
I",,
C
langean.."",
NotesonSculpture223theiconologist,who,accordingtoPanofsky,locatesacommonmeaning.Theremayindeedbeageneralsensibilityintheartsatthistime.Yetthehistoriesandproblemsofeach,aswellastheexperiencesofferedbyeachart,indicateinvolvementinverysepa-rateconcerns.
At
most,theassertionsofcommonsensibilitiesaregeneralizationsthatminimizedifferences.TheclimacticincidentisabsentintheworkofJohnCageandBarnettNewman.YetitisalsotruethatCagehasconsistentlysupportedamethodologyofcollagethatisnotpresentinNewman.
A
questiontobeaskedofcommonsensibilitiesistowhatdegreetheygiveoneapurchaseontheexperi-enceofthevariousartsfromwhichtheyaredrawn.Ofcoursethisisanirrelevantquestionforonewhoapproachestheartsinordertofindidentitiesofelementsormeanings.Intheinterestofdifferencesitseemstimethatsomeofthedis-tinctionssculpturehasmanagedforitselfbearticulated.Tobegininthebroadestpossibleway
it
shouldbestatedthattheconcernsofsculpturehavebeenforsometimenotonlydistinctfrombuthostiletothoscofpainting.Theclearerthenatureofthevaluesofsculp-turebecomethestrongertheoppositionappears.Certainlythecou-tinuingrealizationofitsnaturehashadnothingtodowithanydia-lecticalevolutionthatpaintinghasenunciatedforitself,Theprimaryproblematicconcernswithwhichadvancedpaintinghasbeenoccupiedforabouthalfacenturyhavebeenstructural.Thestruc-turalelementhasbeengraduallyrevealedtobelocatedwithinthenatureoftheliteralqualitiesofthesupport."
It
hasheenalongdialoguewithalimit.Sculpture,ontheotherhand,neverhavinghceninvolvedwithillusionismcouldnotpossiblyhavebasedtheeffortsoffiftyyearsupontheratherpious,ifsomewhatcontradic-tory,actofgivingupthisillusionismandapproachingtheobject.Saveforreplication,whichisnottobeconfusedwithillusionism,thesculpturalfactsofspace,light,andmaterialshavealwaysfunctionedconcretelyandliterally.Itsallusionsorreferenceshavenotbeencommensuratewiththeindicatingsensibilitiesofpainting.
If
paintinghassoughttoapproachtheobject,ithassoughtequally
2
BothClementGreenbergandMichaelFriedhavedealtwiththisevolution.Fried'sdiscussionof"deductivestructure"inhiscatalogue,"ThreeAmericanPainters,"dealsexplicitlywiththeroleofthesupportinpainting.
 
RobertMorris
224
hardtodematerializeitselfontheway.Clearerdistinctionsbetweensculpture'sessentiallytactilenatureandtheopticalsensibilitiesin-volvedInpaintingneedtobemade.Tatlinwasperhapsthefirsttofreesculpturefromrepresentationandestablishitasanautonomousformbothbythekindofimage,orrathernon-image,heemployedandbyhisliteraluseofmaterials.HeRodchenkoandotherConstructivistsrefutedAppollinaire'sob-ser~ationthat,,~structurebecomesarchitecture,andnotsculpture,whenitselementsnolongerhavetheirjustificationinnature."AtleasttheearlierworksofTatlinandotherConstructivistsmadereferencestoneitherthefigurenorarchitecture.InsubsequentyearsCaboandtoalesserextentPevsnerandVantongerloo,perpetuatedtheConstructivistidealofanon-imagisticsculpturethat'wasinde-pendentofarchitecture.ThisautonomywasnotsustainedintheworkofthegreatestAmericansculptor,thelateDavidSmith.Todaythereisareassertionofthenon-imagisticasanessentialcondition.Although,inpassing,itshouldbenotedthatthisconditionhasbeenweakenedbyavarietyofworksthat,whilemaintainingthenon-imagistic,focusthemselvesintermsofthehighlydecorative,theprecious,orthegigantic.Thereisnothinginherentlywrongwiththesequalities;eachoffersaconcreteexperience.Buttheyhappennottoberelevantexperiencesforsculpture,fortheyunbalancecomplexplasticrelationshipsjusttothatdegreethatonefocusesonthesequalitiesinotherwisenon-imagisticworks.Thereliefhasalwaysbeenacceptedasaviablemode.However,itcannotbeacceptedtodayaslegitimate.Theautonomousandliteralnatureofsculpturedemandsthatithaveitsown,equallyliteralspace-notasurfacesharedwithpainting.Furthermore,anobjecthungonthewalldoesnotconfrontgravity;ittimidlyresistsit.Oneoftheconditionsofknowinganobjectissuppliedbythesensingofthegravitationalforceactinguponitinactualspace.Thatis,spacewiththreenottwocoordinates.Thegroundplane,notthewall,isthenecessarysupportforthemaximumawarenessoftheobject.Onemoreobjectiontothereliefisthelimitationofthenumberofpossibleviewsthewallimposes,togetherwiththeconstantofup,down,right,left.NotesonSculpture
225
Coloras
it
hasbeenestablishedinpainting,notablybyOlitskiandLouis,isaqualitynotatallboundtostableforms.MichaelFriedhaspointedoutthatoneoftheirmajoreffortshasbeen,infact,tofreecolorofdrawnshape.Theyhavedonethisbyeitherenervatingdrawing(Louis)oreliminatingittotally(recentOlitski),therebyestablishinganautonomyforcolorthatwasonlyindicatedbyPol-lock.Thistranscendenceofcolorovershapeinpaintingiscitedherebecause
it
demonstratesthatitisthemostopticalelementinanopticalmedium.
It
isthisessentiallyoptical,immaterial,non-con-tainable,non-tactilenatureofcolorthatisinconsistentwiththephysicalnatureofsculpture.Thequalitiesofscale,proportion,shape,mass,arephysical.Eachofthesequalitiesismadevisiblebytheadjustmentofanobdurate,literalmass.Colordoesnothavethischaracteristic.Itisadditive.Obviouslythingsexistascolored.Theobjectionisraisedagainsttheuseofcolorthatemphasizestheopti-calandinsodoingsubvertsthephysical.Themoreneutralhues,whichdonotcallattentiontothemselves,allowforthemaximumfocusonthoseessentialphysicaldecisionsthatinformsculpturalworks.Ultimatelytheconsiderationofthenatureofsculpturalsur-facesistheconsiderationoflight,theleastphysicalelement,butonethatisasactualasthespaceitself.Forunlikepaintings,whicharealwayslitinanoptimumway,sculptureundergoeschangesbytheincidenceoflight.DavidSmithinthe"Cubi"workshasbeenoneofthefewtoconfrontsculpturalsurfacesintermsoflight.Mondrianwentsofarastoclaimthat"Sensationsarenottransmissible,orrather,theirpurelyqualitativepropertiesarenottransmissible.Thesame,however,doesnotapplyto
relations
betweensensations....Consequentlyonly
relations
betweensensationscanhaveanobjec-tivevalue..:'Thismayheambiguousintermsofperceptualfactsbutintermsoflookingatartitisdescriptiveoftheconditionthatobtains.
It
obtainsbecauseartobjectshaveclearlydivisiblepartsthatsetuptherelationships.Suchaconditionsuggeststhealternativequestion:Couldaworkexistthathasonlyoneproperty?Obviouslynot,sincenothingexiststhathasonlyoneproperty.Asingle,puresensationcannotbetransmissiblepreciselybecauseoneperceivessimultaneouslymorethanonepropertyaspartsinanygivensituation:
if
color,thenalsodimension;ifflatness,thentex-ture,etc.However,certainformsdoexistthat,iftheydonotnegate
 
Rober!Morris226
thenumerousrelativesensationsofcolortotexture,scaletomass,etc.,donotpresentclearlyseparatedpartsforthesekindsofrela-tionstobeestablishedintermsofshapes.Sucharcthesimplerformsthatcreatestronggestaltsensations.Theirpartsarcboundtogetherinsuchawaythattheyofferamaximumresistancetoperceptualseparation.Intermsofsolids,orformsapplicabletosculpture,thesegestaltsare
theximplcr
polyhedrons.lt
is
necessary
to
consider
fora
momentthe
natureofthrc-e-dimeus
ionalucstults
as
theyoccurintheapprehensionofthevarioustypesofpolyhedrons.Inthesimplerregularpolyhedrons,suchascubesandpyramids',oneneednotmovearoundtheobjectforthesenseofthewhole,thegestalt,to
OCCUL
Oneseesandimmediately"believes"thatthepat-ternwithinaile'snundcorrespondstotheexistentialfactof
the
object.Beliefinthissenseishath
a
kindoffaithinspatialextensionand
avisualizat
ion
of
that
otension.In
otherwords,
itisthose
aspectsofapprt-housionthatarcnotcoexistentwiththevisual
field
hutrathertheresult
of
the:
experienceof
the
visual
field.
The
morespecificnatureofthisbeliefandhowitisformedinvolveperceptualtheoriesof"constancyofshape,""tendenciestowardsimplicity,"kinestheticclues,memorytraces,andphysiologicalfac-
tors
regardingthenature
of
binocularparallax
vision
andthestruc-tureoftheretinaandbrain.Neitherthetheoriesnortheexperiencesofgestalteffectsrelatingtothree-dimensionalbodiesareassimpleandclearastheyarefortwo-dimensions.Butexperienceofsolidsestablishesthefnctthat,asinflatforms,sotlleconflgllratiol1Saredominatedbywholeness,otherstendtoseparateintoparts.Thisbecomes
clear
if
the
other
I1'P('s
of
polyhedrons
arcconsidered.Inthecomplex
regulartypethere
isaweakeningofvisualizationasthenumberofsidesincreases.Asixty-four-silledfigureisdifficulttovisualize,yetbecauseofitsregularityonesensesthewhole,evenifseenfromasingleviewpoint.Simpleirregularpolyhedrons,suchas
br-ams,
inclinedplanes,truncutc-dpyramids,arcrelativelymoreeasytovisualizeandsenseaswholes.Thefactthatsomearelessfamiliarthantheregulargeometricformsdoesnotaffecttheformationofagestalt.Rather,theirregularitybecomesaparticularizingquality.Complexirregularpolyhedrons(for
cxarnplr-.
crystal
formations)
if
theyarecomplexandirregularenoughcanfrustratevisualizationalmostcompu-tcly,inwhichcase
it
isdifficulttomaintainoneis
RobertMorri~:Untitled.1965.Fiberglass.3'x3'x2'.InthecollectionoftheDwanGollery.Photogroph-cour
t
esvofLeoCa,tell",Gallery,NewYork.RobertMorris:Untitled.1967.Steel.31"x109"x109".Inthecolle
cii
or.oftheDwanGallery,NewYork.PhotographcourtesyofLeoCastelliGallery,NewYork.

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