Overall I have to say that I very much enjoyed this course on sculpture, sculptors, public art, the public’s perception of it, and the recent and distant history of sculpture. Coming from the perspective of an artist who makes sculpture, it was a nice shift in focus to look at these topics with a class comprised of mostly art history students. I especially enjoyed the attention given to how the public views such works. So often in the art world, at least among artists, it seems like we talk about the art and appreciate it or validate it only in the context of other artfully informed people (namely other artists, collectors, historians etc). It bothers me that this seems to seclude the general public, who yes is poorly learned about art history and current art trends, but I think they still have a valid voice about the artwork. People who know nothing about a sculpture in a park, say the works on The High Line, Akihiro Ito’s wooden forms, or Louise Nevelson’s large metal pieces sometimes seem to be the people who most appreciate and enjoy the art because they don’t have any basis by which to judge, critique, or discredit the work or the artist. For me, sometimes all of those pre-understandings just feel like baggage brought to the experience of the art. I guess rather than seeing sculptors and sculpture differently, I see the work itself in the public realm differently. I am more aware now how the public place, and mostly outdoor public places, really changes the work and informs it greatly. Often, the viewers in these places are on the go, and are not present for the purpose of viewing art, which means the work will speak differently to them, either as a nuisance in some way or added pleasure to their day.
Studying sculpture’s history shed new light to me about sculpture. I find it fascinating that it is not really a new method for sculptors to have others make their work. Sculptors back in the 19th century weren’t the ones whose hands carved each statue. Skillful labor did that. It was also interesting to look at Picasso as a sculptor and not as a painter, which he is always categorized as. His guitars in paper and shoddy materials seem so contemporary as many artists today use “trash” as art material but this in no way devalues the art in today’s context as much high art is made from everything from cheap to highly expensive materials. I also enjoyed looking at memorials in the context of sculpture. I never thought of them this way, but now in my mind, I would definitely put memorials as a type of sculpture. Though it serves a different purpose than most sculpture in museums and galleries, it is still a very fluid thing that it serves. It is a memorial, which is a physical entity but more importantly serves to aid the memory of something. Somehow memorials are all about the experience one can have in its presence or space that might help to coup with loss, understand tragic events, bring people together, or to show honor and respect. Like art, they don’t exist for truly “practical” or “necessary” reasons, but as humans, we create them because we have these yearnings or needs to remember and to feel.
It is hard to say what could enhance the learning in this course about sculpture and its relationship with the public. Perhaps looking more at the actual public and truly finding out what they feel about certain works. This could even be just a small investigation of how people working in downtown Manhattan feel toward the works we looked at such as the two Noguchi pieces, Louise Nevelson’s sculptures, or the Jeff Koons. I’m not sure how this could be done, but I would be interested in casually talking with other bystanders or onlookers about their thoughts. Even the gentleman who let us go into the Chase building to see the Noguchi said he isn’t much of an art person, which I find interesting since he works in the same building where the art is on view.
I probably won’t keep my sculpture blog up and running. I honestly feel like it is not as great as it could be and if I am going to share a blog, I would want it to truly be better and given more attention. I have done very little blogging in the past, so I think I would consider this to be good practice for if and when I want to keep a blog for a longer period of time. The few months before this class began, I considered starting a blog on art, faith, and life for me in New York City, but I didn’t know quite when or how to start. Though this blog was a bit of a different focus, the consistent blogging I did this semester has given me a good cue into how I can do that. So I think a consistent blog will be a bit on hold for now. If I do start one up again, I would definitely include sculpture and images of works I go and see or am drawn to. I have all my posts so I may include some of them as well.