Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956

By Rudi Blesh | Go to book overview

18. The Present

And this leaves us with the sculptors. In all modern art chronicles, they are the ones left over. Sculpture's great day-- recently speaking--was the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, when Canova and Thorwaldsen, Barye, Carpeaux and Rodin, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Gutzon Borglum and Daniel Chester French loomed large in all the collections, public and private.

But in our time the heavy emphasis has gone to painting. After city traffic had forbidden cluttering up the streets with statues, the bareness of the new architecture began wiping out the sculptor's last refuge. It almost seems as though sculptors survive only because of some vague feeling that, after all, there should be some statues, or where would we all be?

Extreme plasticity has entered painting to a degree virtually unknown since Tiepolo and the other giants of the baroque. Augmented by the forces of distortion, it functions with a more compressed violence in the shallow, almost depthless space of the modern canvas than it ever did in the old deep perspective. It pushes against the confines of picture space like Samson against the pillars, growing in fury, immediacy, and even agony.

It has quite taken the play away from sculpture. Transferring these trapped tensions into our real, three-dimensional space, the sculptor is likely to find the gestures remaining but the agony either gone or else cheapened into a banal melodrama. Our own space--however sublimated in the physicists' dreams--is sooty with the mundane.

Some sculptors, true, found the strategies to avoid the dilemma. Hans Arp stayed within the painters' space, gluing his witty, band-sawn, punning forms on a flat surface. "Bah!-

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Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • 1. the World Stirs in Its Sleep 3
  • 2. Home Life on the Other Side of the Moon 9
  • 3. Plot in an Attic 23
  • 4. Rebellion in an Amory 41
  • 5. Aftermath 57
  • 6. Independents' Day 68
  • 7. Dada and Despair 85
  • 8. Modern Art's First Museum 103
  • 9. Art in a Skyscraper 114
  • 10. the Artist is the Man Next Door 131
  • Ii. Passage to Permanence 145
  • 12. Termite, Time Capsule, and Pedestal 162
  • 13. Isms and Wasms 185
  • 15. Go West, Young Art, Go West 222
  • 16. Arriving 241
  • 17. Presences 262
  • 18. the Present 282
  • Index i
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