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Sculpture Should Have Objectivity Brought Back To It

What began in the early 20th Century, of abstract sculptors wishing to get away from the literal representation that prevailed for centuries, has developed into conceptual sculpture of the 90’s and into the 21st century.

Assembling found objects like the metal filing cabinet topped with antique telephone accompanied by sounds of crickets is akin to the playwright asking his audience to imagine the entire play unfolding on an empty stage. Looking through the window of a locked door at the back of a woman systematically burning the words on book pages is like listening to a cat walk up and down the piano keyboard at the symphony hall. Rotting meat hanging from a dressmaker’s mannequin is like the Hollywood director asking her audience to create the movie in their minds as they sit in front of a black screen. The creators of conceptual art thrive on sensationalism, relying on shock value alone to create a buzz. Artists such as Damien Hurst, Ann Hamilton and Jana Sterbak add a long written description on the gallery wall beside their work which is essential to explain the meaning of the piece. The literary work is the art, not the visual part. I am an artist and even I am left feeling annoyed, and wondering why I came to see the work.

While there has clearly been a place for conceptual art in the past, it is merely temporal and will not exist as a discrete object in the future. How will it be exhibited for future generations to see?

Visual art is not just cerebral. There is limited celebration of hands-on creative talent and craftsmanship. I feel that objective substance needs to be celebrated once again. There is a need to appreciate we artists who work diligently to master the tools of our trade – hammer and chisel, angle grinder and saw which we use to work the medium of stone, changing it into a discrete sculpture with shape and line. Evidence of the artist’s hand should be tangible in the sculpture, the artist’s soulful emotive presence should connect directly with the viewer visually through the sculpture. This objective substance is what the viewing audience craves – to be able to relate to an object, not an ephemeral conceptual thought.

I believe that a good visual artwork should relate immediately to the viewer, hitting them in the head, the heart or the groin in the same way we relate as humans to each other. Should an artwork really require a lengthy literary dissertation on the gallery wall to justify its purpose to the viewer?

Comments: 2

  • Terry Peters

    January 12, 2012

    Thanks Michael for putting in words what many of us believe. Shock value alone doesn’t make art. It is creative but its a flash in the pan, all show and no staying power.

  • Michael Binkley

    January 13, 2012

    Thanks Terry for verifying my beliefs. I know there are many more in the world who want to see more objective substance in all visual art.

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