Friday, July 6, 2012


War memorial, Dorrigo, NSW

Our era seems to have lost any essential relationship between architecture and scupture as it struggles to make scultpure into architecture. What is this doing to sculpture - to architecture? What is the nexus here? John Berger gives the following overview of the relationship between these two subjects in Art and Revolution:

 ‘Sculpture is essentially an art for crowds.’ Because we are surrounded by thousands of discredited public monuments – mostly hypocritical war memorials – and because the whole bias of our culture is towards the fragmentary and private, we tend to underestimate the civic, social nature of sculpture.

For centuries this was borne out by the special relationship which existed between architecture and sculpture. On an Indian temple or in a Gothic or Romanesque church, sculpture served as the imaginative particularization of the architecture: it is what rendered the general meaning of the building specific to each person. Painting was already different: it was one activity among others which took place within the building or on that site. Painting took advantage of the building being there. Sculpture was part of its being there. Such sculpture gathered, contained and dispensed the contributions of the particular which together constituted the general social act of building the building or of using it.

It is true that architecture, sculpture and societies have all changed profoundly since then. Yet, although they are no longer likely to be part of the same physical structure, there is still a special relationship between architecture and sculpture. Le Corbusier remarked that when you find the acoustic centre of a building or a piazza, the point at which all sounds within the given space can be heard, you have also found the point at which a piece of sculpture should be placed. All architecture worthy of the name pleads to be condensed in this way. And it can only be condensed by another three-dimensional but this time non-functional and purely metaphorical structure – by sculpture.

The special civil and social nature of free-standing sculpture can, however, be deduced without any reference to architecture at all. Why are sculptures monuments? Why did the city of Rhodes commission its colossus?
 John Berger, Art and Revolution, Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative, London, 1969, p. 70-71.

Ernst Neizvestny  Mask of Grief

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