Topics in American Art since 1945

By Lawrence Alloway | Go to book overview
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SERIAL FORMS

The technique of sculpture lends itself to serial production, as the proliferation of casts by, say, Arp, Lipchitz and Moore makes clear. However, serial, in the context of this exhibition, means a great deal more than meeting a market bigger than the supply of unique works of art. Construction as a technique, the use of standard iron or wood elements, is one application. Unlike Russian Constructivism, which validated the declared use of additive structure, but retained ideals of visual differentiation, recent American sculpture has proposed an aesthetic radically unlike garrulously inventive Constructivism.

Bars, slats, boxes, are used in ways that oppose previous expectations of sculpture. Basically the medium has been regarded as the extension of uniquely invented form into three dimensions. Thus the sculptors have felt obliged to invent all-round entertainment for the prowling viewer and this is as true of David Smith as it is of Gabo and earlier sculptors. The use of standard units, in disciplined open arrays, shifts the emphasis away from incident, so that the work becomes a form visibly and continuously structured up and out from the basic unit. Modular-based sculptures, such as LeWitt's or forms in tension, like Snelson's, have this kind of structure in which the unit remains distinct within the aggregate. It should be pointed out, perhaps, that serial imagery in sculpture has nothing to do with a Purist-type homage to industrial production. The line on the wall or the procession on the floor of Judd's boxes have no more semantic cargo than they do formal nuance. They are firm examples of quantitatively rigorous structure.

Serial, then, can be used to refer to the internal parts of a work when they are seen in uninterrupted succession. This is stated almost as principle by Hamrol, whose sculptures consist of jointed identical bars, combinable in various permutations. Instead of creating a rigid structure, he maintains control by anticipating, and limiting, future movement of the parts; however the bars may be shifted they are still

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SOURCE: From American Sculpture of the 60s, the catalogue of an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum (Los Angeles, 1967), pp. 14-15.

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