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.