American Art of Our Century

By Lloyd Goodrich; John I. H. Baur | Go to book overview

23 free-form abstraction: sculpture

As long as sculpture remained tied to its traditional techniques of carving and modeling, it was bound by their limitations--by the shape and weight of the block or the structural possibilities of an armature. Although it made a virtue of these necessities and developed a "sculptural" aesthetic out of the nature of its methods and materials, it was never so free as painting, even when, in its great periods, it was stronger. The revolution which ruptured the traditional concepts of sculpture originated abroad with the constructivists (see Chapter 25) and wrought a change that went far beyond their own aims, which were principally formal. Nevertheless, it was they who demonstrated that sculpture could be built directly out of unconventional materials such as metal, plastics, and wire by modern technical methods such as welding, soldering, and brazing. It remained for a younger generation of artists to turn this discovery in a more romantic direction, which has carried sculpture still further from its traditions and has brought it closer to painting in its freedom and variety of effects.

In America, David Smith and Ibram Lassaw were both pioneers in this development from early in the 1930's. It was not until the middle forties, however, when Ferber, Hare, Lipton, and Roszak all joined the trend, that it began to take on the aspects of a movement. It is almost precisely contemporary, therefore, with the development of abstract expressionism in painting--to which, indeed, it is closely related. For purely practical reasons, automatism is less applicable to sculpture than to painting, yet the works of these men seem to have been formed, to some extent, by unpremeditated impulses released in the process of creating. Accidental effects in the drip of molten metal or the color patterns made by the heat of the torch are not unlike those of poured or splattered paint. Moreover, the calligraphy of the painters has its counterpart in the free linear patterns which much of this sculpture describes in space, while the use of amorphous and mysteriously evocative shapes is common to both. Nevertheless, sculpture has its own unique problems and character--even when freed from traditional methods.

-230-

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American Art of Our Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Part One - 1900-1939 7
  • 1 - American Art in 1900 9
  • 2 - The Whitney Museum of American Art 12
  • 3 - The Eight and Other City Realists 20
  • 4 - Primitives 29
  • 5 - Pioneers of Modernism: Post-Impressionism and Expressionism 32
  • 6 - Pioneers of Modernism: Abstraction 42
  • 7 - Precisionists 50
  • 8 - Sculpture, 1910-1939 58
  • 9 - Representational Painting 67
  • 10 - The American Scene 84
  • 11 - The Social School 98
  • 12 - Fantasy 104
  • 13 - The Trend toward Abstraction 109
  • Part Two - 1940-1960 119
  • 14 - Romantic Realism 121
  • 15 - Traditional Sculpture 133
  • 16 - Precise Realism 138
  • 17 - Fantasy and Surrealism 148
  • 18 - Social Comment 157
  • 19 - Expressionism: Painting 169
  • 20 - Expressionism: Sculpture 190
  • 21 - Semi-Abstraction 197
  • 22 - Free-Form Abstraction: Painting 208
  • 23 - Free-Form Abstraction: Sculpture 230
  • 24 - Formal Abstraction: Painting 239
  • 25 - Formal Abstraction: Sculpture 252
  • Whitney Museum of American Art 265
  • Whitney Museum of American Art 266
  • Catalogue of the Collection 267
  • Index by Mediums 298
  • Exhibitions, 1914-1960 301
  • Books Published by the Whitney Museum of American Art 306
  • Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1956-1960 307
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