The Lure of Sculpture as Dynamic Space

For centuries artists have been lured to sculpture because it occupies three dimensional space.  As such, sculpture may be viewed as a more dynamic medium that is capable of closing the distance between the artist as communicator and the museum or gallery visitor as viewer.  Regardless of the materials used by  the artist, sculpture is able to effectively touch the spectator in ways that painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and other forms of 2D design are prevented from accomplishing.  One of America’s most prominent contemporary artist/sculptor was Donald Judd (1928-1994).  Judd had a strong affinity for sculpture because:  “Three dimensions are real space.  That gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space, space in and around marks and colors—which is riddance of one of the most salient and most objectionable relics of European art.  The several limits of painting are no longer present.  A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be.  Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.”  What are your thoughts on sculpture as a medium of artistic communication and do you agree/disagree with Donald Judd’s assertion quoted above?

Donald Judd, Untitled (installation at Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas)

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18 thoughts on “The Lure of Sculpture as Dynamic Space

  1. I’m not sure I can quite agree with this statement. A work of art can never be objectively deemed better than another work of art based on medium or format because the reception of art is never immutable, but rather it is always changing and shifting, like the tides of an ocean. Nor are all works intended for the same purpose. How does an artist ascertain whether one work of art, medium or format is better than the other? Is there a rubric or set of guidelines that the work must fulfill? If that were the case then most works would fail at meeting the criteria if upheld to some lofty standard of artistic caliber (i.e., three-dimensionality), similar to the French Academy of the eighteenth century that stratified works based on genre. That cannot be right because some works that were never intended to convincingly convey three-dimensional space (take modern expressionism for example) are deemed some of the most valuable pieces on the planet. So what makes those pieces any better than other works, mediums and formats that convey ‘one of the most salient and most objectionable relics of European art’? I do not think it is fair to judge a work based on a criteria because that criteria does not encompass all forms, mediums and formats of art. It is illogical to say that the sculpture is better than the painting simply because the painting was intended to be a painting and the sculpture, a sculpture. They both have their own strengths in different modes of expression.

    It is not necessarily how a work is executed nor how well it conforms to realistic proportions, but how well the execution of the work alters the collective behavior and emotion of the viewers. But even this cannot be right because everyone is different. Perhaps if we were all assembly-line robotic life forms that judged art based on stringent criteria or rubric in a rational, computational state of mind (sans emotionality), we could have a better hope in stratifying, judging and determining their worth/merit in contrast to the next. We are not robots or beings of sheer computational analysis and computer algorithms; we are not Turing machines with strict input and output commands. We are more complex than that. There are a number of factors that influence our emotions or state of mind, our behaviors, from past experiences, to present stimuli, to future ambitions. If we can not determine the worth or value of a work of art based on criteria or public reception, then I find it suitable to conclude that no art is objectively better than the other, since there is no other reasonable method or template by which we can accurately stratify works. Not even a child’s scribbles contrasted to Mona Lisa. Sure, the Mona Lisa is of much higher value and conforms better to realistic proportions, but that still does not objectively make it better than the child’s scribbles.

  2. I do not necessarily agree with the statement above, although yes sculptures are 3D and they do attract more attention, they are not better nor worse then paintings on a “flat surface.” Art comes in all shapes and sizes. I think it takes just as much skill and patience to make a sculpture as it does to paint or draw on a canvas. Sculpture does grab peoples attention because it is in their face they are able to touch and feel the work of art. However paintings leave it open for the mind to explore and interpret what the artist was trying to accomplish. Either way my thoughts are that both show extreme skill and culture, they give us something special to look at.

  3. I do not agree with the quote stated above simply because all art in my eyes is equal. Like i have previously said it all has to do with the way the viewer perceives it. Sculpting is a cool way of art and isn’t easy at all therefore i do give props to those who can do it. Sculpting is my favorite next to painting. In my opinion sculpting a great way of communicating through art.

  4. I also don’t agree with Donald Judd’s statement. Art is art and the dimensions don’t matter. I don’t think that a work of art needs to fill up a certain amount of space for viewers to have an affinity for it. I have literally walked past paintings and drawings that have stopped me in my tracks. If the art speaks to your tastes then you are going to enjoy it and everyone has their personal preferences. For myself, personally I prefer architecture like old churches and engineering marvels. I have seen many sculptures that are breathtaking, but to call one medium more dominate than another is a personal choice. So the only reason Donald Judd made that statement was because he personally enjoyed sculptures over the other forms of mediums.

  5. I sort of agree with Donal Judd. I get what he is saying. Sculpture is actually there in 3D, it’s actually in your presence physically. 2 D art I can most definitely appreciate, and I do, but with sculpture you can walk around it and take it all in. (I’m obviously very horrible at explaining what I mean). Donald is taking a stand for what he believes in and his art medium, which is what all artist should do, think their art is the best way to express, because why else would they be doing it?

  6. I respect Mr. Judd’s opinion but I do not totally agree with him. I love sculpture and think it is a perfect medium for artistic expression. One of the most powerful group of sculptures I was able to see depicted “The Rape of the Sabine Women” in Florence, Italy. I am not sure a series of paintings would have stayed as fresh in my mind over the past fifteen years as these sculptures have but I can also name many paintings that have equally moved me. Maybe it was because these sculptures were outside and partially covered due to a restoration project underway that made them seem so brutal and so alive. I can not say for sure, but it felt like just the fact they are three dimensional was only part of which led them to have such an impact on me.

  7. I really can’t agree with him 100%. Illusionism is an important part of art. With the paintion “The Raft” I can fantasize about where I would be on the raft, what would I look like, would I have survived? With Judd’s “Untitled” I’m left with the feeling of “What was the purpose”? Oh yes he has taken up space and fullfilled his discription of sculpture but for what purpose? O.K. sculpture and painting are two different forms of art, but his statement” Sculpture is more powerful that painting” is as minimalist as he was. It was paint that brought his boxes and shelves alive.

  8. I agree with him to an extent. I believe that sculpture does get rid of the illusion but it shouldn’t completely wipe out the art of painting for example. I believe that certain expressions can come out of paintings that a sculpture just can’t provide. If Denny Dent did sculpting instead of painting then he wouldn’t get his emotions into it as he does with his paintings. We all saw how he gets in that video and I don’t think that sculpting can compare to that type of art.

  9. Both mediums are strong. The sculpture gives me the opportunity to live it to 360 degrees, but the painting too can take me to see a picture so deeply to live it. But it’s true, painting do not have physically the third dimension. Sometimes when I’m in front of a sculpture I wonder how it must be seen. The sculpture can make sense of majesty because have no size in limits. Some sculptures should be interactive and others are just pieces of amorphous material leaving the liberal interpretation to the viewer.

  10. I think that sculpture is a great medium in regards to communication and .presence. I suppose I do agree with Judd. Like others have said, it isn’t just a two-dimensional work, its actually in the room with you. I think that this in particular is the key that makes sculpture as personal and moving as it inherently is. It actually shares space with you. It has a shape that can convey the emotions that natural body-language does.

  11. I can not totally agree with his. I don’t think sculpture can replace all art. Sculpture is a good way to relect our life. Paint can relfect more things on the paint,but the sculpture need a very big place to put it. nowadys, more people like use vadio to record art, it also a good, because it can see active people in the vaido. Sculpture has more boundedness of space, color and content.

  12. i do agree with the quote but you cant compare sculpting and painting they are completely 2 different things, its like comparing poetry to architecture.

  13. I don’t quite agree with the quote. Though, sculpture is an excellent means to express ones creativity, I don’t believe that one form of art is superior to another, in this case, that sculpture is superior to other forms of art expressed in the second dimension.

  14. I agree in some aspects because, a sculpture is there in plain site you don’t have to imagine it. It is more real because it is something that you can actually feel and touch. With paintings, yes some of them are textured to where you can get a sense of touch from it for the painting to become more realistic but it isn’t 3D you just have a head on photo. You cannot look to the side of it or the back of it. With sculptures you get a whole 360 view of an object and its reality, you don’t have to question what it is like on the other side.

  15. I tend to more or less agree with the quote because sculpture is palpable. Though they are two different beasts all together, sculpture can be more powerful simply because you are able to appreciate the work from all angles.

  16. I don’t necessarily agree with the quote. Though it makes sense that three dimension sculptures presents the item more realistically. However, an art piece is not only about the fact and how it is as reality. An art piece should be the school of thought of the artist that represents his thoughts on the subject that doesn’t necessarily be the subject itself. Illusions may just bring more to the table than the sculptures that shows all it’s sides.

  17. I think Judd is a contemporary dolt. I completely do not agree with his quote for I believe that art can be used as a medium to express artistic communication and I there were never any limits of painting to begin with. If I were to draw a 2-D picture of the “bird” people will know what that is and either a) get offended b) laugh c) try to draw something better. Using this example alone, that is why i don’t agree with Judd.

  18. The statement by Donald Judd has some salience but I think he is being way too biased in his judgements of sculptures compared to 2D forms of art. I appreciate all forms of art. There are some 2D pieces that I like better than some sculptures and there are some sculptures that I like better than some 2D pieces. I do agree that 3 dimensional art can speak more to a onlooker, as they can see the depth and the size of the piece more vividly, but some sculptures are very simplistic which does not speak to some. Overall, I think that one can not place one form of art higher than another form of art.

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