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SpatialStudies 7c: Lecture 3 Strategies of the Avant-Garde (from R. Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture). 1) Cubism, 2) Futurism, 3) Constructivism, comparison of Gabo + Tatlin, 4) Dada, 5) Surrealism, 6) Abstract Concretion A comparison: Brancusi + Duchamp (Rosalind Krauss)

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SpatialStudies 7c:

Lecture 3 Strategies of the Avant-Garde

(from R. Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture)

1) Cubism, 2) Futurism, 3) Constructivism, comparison of Gabo + Tatlin, 4) Dada, 5) Surrealism, 6) Abstract Concretion

A comparison: Brancusi + Duchamp (Rosalind Krauss)

An avant-garde legacy- video The Way Things Go

D. Finish ‘Creativity: BBC, The Creative Brain, How Insight Works’

Jonathan Schooler, Dr. Simon Ritter, John Kounos

Pouring plaster for current project

Extra credit offering – play with food and photograph

(1pt. on exam, could depict scenario based on real life)


Feb. 4 during lecture

30 True/False questions, T/F = 60pts.

13 Multiple Choice = 26pts.

2 essay questions = 20pts.

(I subtract the three questions that most people missed).


Sergei Eisenstein, who filmed ‘October,’ thinks sculpture lacks inherent ideology.

Gotthold Lessing asserts that sculpture is about portraying bodies in space and that sculpture is distinct from poetry and music in that it is static and nonsequential.

  • R. Krauss challenges the myth of originality in the Avant-garde – starts with Rodin – moves to Modernism in Passages in Modern Sculpture

  • Your reading:

  • Naum Gabo’s writings on Constructivism: (new norms for sculpture: Mass, Space, and Time 1937)

  • Space as medium

  • Material – expressive qualities – determine limits

  • Any material is o.k.

  • Problem of time – sees it as necessitating kinetics

  • Arthur Danto: Playthings and

  • Boris Groys: The Speed of Art

  • Fischli and Weiss, legacy to avant-garde

  • This lecture (from R. Krauss, Passages…) Avant-garde – starts with Rodin – moves to Modernism in :

  • Avant-garde:

  • new and unusual or experimental ideas, esp. in the arts, or the people introducing them."works by artists of the Russian avant-garde”

  • synonyms: innovative, original, experimental, left-field, inventive, ahead of the times, cutting/leading/bleeding edge, new, modern, innovatory, advanced, forward-looking, state-of-the-art, trend-setting, pioneering, progressive, Bohemian, groundbreaking, trailblazing, revolutionary;

  • Cultural conditions for the Avant-Garde:

  • Industrial Revolution

  • Movement from an agrarian-based society to urban

  • Two world wars

20th century ideological experimentation and conflicts re: role of art

objectivity vs. subjectivity

orthodoxy (convention) vs. absurd

autonomy vs. applied/utilitarian

real time and space vs. transcendent t & s

End of the 19th Century A. role of art

Advent of photography. Industrial Revolution:

the Machine Age - a new plasticity, mechanization of material and form

Into the 20th Century

1900 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis

1914 World War I Begins

1917 Russian Revolution

New social orders and shifting realities embodied in ideology and aesthetics

Cubism: (Central Europe) Picasso, Braque

Futurism: (Central Europe) Marinetti, Boccioni

Constructivism: (Russia) Tatlin, Gabo, Pevsner

Dada: (Zurich, Cabaret Voltaire) Tristan Tzara, Duchamp, Arp

Surrealism: Giacometti, Ray, Dali,

Oppenheim, Duchamp

Abstract-Concretion: Arp, Moore, Hepworth

Nude Descending a Staircase, Marcel Duchamp, 1912

A.1) role of artCubism: (Central Europe) Picasso

early 1900s

many young artists hear about and travel to see his painting, collage, and sculpture

Nude Descending a Staircase, Marcel Duchamp, 1912

Head of a Woman, Picasso

A.1) role of artCubism: (Central Europe) Picasso

Planar break-down

eliminates traditional perspectival space - not illusionistic, autonomous object

accepts photography as recording tool

A.2) Italian Futurism: Marinetti (manifesto 1909), Boccioni

“Oh, maternal ditch, half full of muddy water! A factory gutter! I savored a mouthful of strengthening muck which recalled the black teat of my Sudanese nurse!

As I raised my body, mud-spattered and smelly, I felt the red hot poker of joy deliciously pierce my heart. A crowd of fishermen and gouty naturalists crowded terrified around this marvel. With patient and tentative care they raised high enormous grappling irons to fish up my car, like a vast shark that had run aground. It rose slowly leaving in the ditch, like scales, its heavy coachwork of good sense and its upholstery of comfort.”Marinetti, 1909

Umberto Boccioni, The Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913

A.2) Italian Futurism: Marinetti (manifesto 1909), Umberto Boccioni

  • grows out of Cubism

  • added implied motion to the shifting planes and multiple observation points of Cubists

  • celebrated natural as well as mechanical motion and speed

  • glorified danger, war, and the machine age (in keeping with the martial spirit developing in Italy at the time)

  • “Marinetti, thrown from his automobile one evening in 1909 into a factory ditch filled with water, emerges as if from amniotic fluid to be born - without ancestors - a futurist. This parable of absolute self-creation that begins the first Futurist Manifesto functions as a model for what is meant by originality among early 20thC avant-garde.” RK

Umberto Boccioni, The Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913

A.2) Italian Futurism: Marinetti, Boccioni

  • Italian Futurism: Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) Development of a Bottle in Space, 1912. Drawing and Bronze, 15" x 24”

  • a kind of synthetic vision (x-ray vision)

  • introducing movement to planar study

  • remains within traditional materials/means

A.2) Italian Futurism

Greek, 3rdC b.c.

“… We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.”

A.3) Constructivism: comparing Naum Gabo, Vladimir Tatlin


Vladimir Tatlin, Counter-Relief, 1915

Naum Gabo, Model for Constructed Torso, 1917

A.3) Constructivism: Naum Gabo


Naum Gabo, volumetric cube I, stereometric cube II

A.3) Constructivism: Naum Gabo

Stereometric figure sculpture from flat cardboard and plywood shapes (1915-17).

An “interlacing of shapes in 3 dimensions through the interior, or structural core, of the normally closed volume.…”

rt. Jacques Lipchitz

1916, bronze

A.3) Constructivism: Naum Gabo

Light Space Modulator, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Naum Gabo, left, Construction in Space 1938-40, right, Linear Construction no. 2, 1970

  • All materials can be used for sculpture

  • Sculptural space has become a malleable material element (Not dematerializing sculpture)

  • Space perception as new concept

  • Non-narrative ideal forms

  • Context for Tatlin ’s career:

  • 1910:Martinetti’s Futurist Manifesto translated into Russian.

  • 1913:at age 28, goes to Europe to meet Picasso.

  • 1915:Begins work on corner reliefs in the spirit of “Productivism”.

  • radical perceptual shift:

  • sculptures bring attention to the specific situation they inhabit

  • real time and real space

  • 1917: Russian Revolution

A.3) Constructivism: Vladimir Tatlin



Corner Counter Relief, Vladimir Tatlin, 1914-15

A.3) Vladimir Tatlin

Corner Relief, 1915, iron, aluminum, primer, 31”x60”x30” (original destroyed. Reconstruction 1966-70 by Martyn Chalk from photographs).

A.3) Tatlin ’s corner reliefs:

radical because they reject transcendent (imagined) space in two ways:

Anti-illusionism of situation in space. Real time and space (meeting of two real architectural walls).

Attitude manifested toward the materials of which they are made. Real materials (truth to materials + their inherent characteristics)

A.3) Tatlin ’s


Plans for real monument:

Taller than Eiffel Tower

Meant to be center of

Proletariat* communications

and activities

Each section rotates

*proletariat – industrial wage earners – not bourgeoisie

A.3) Tatlin ’s monument:

Scaled-down London version

Plans for real monument:

Taller than Eiffel Tower

Meant to be center of

Proletariat* communications

and activities

Each section rotates

*proletariat – industrial wage earners – not bourgeoisie

A.3) Gabo ’s column:

Idealizing tower – like structure

Never meant to be built

Transcendent space and time


Naum Gabo - ideology of art as autonomous: Column, 1923, plastic wood and metal: structural/material essense of object – transcendent time + space. A summary of vantage points. Toward an immediate legible geometry, transparency. (Pevsner, Gabo, Malevitch, Kandinsky, El Lissitzky)

Vladimir Tatlin - ideology of art as “of and for the people:”Monument to the Third International, 1919-20. Factual Reality. Steel Girders, 1/3 higher than Eiffel Tower. An aesthetic technology in real time, real space, real materials. Technology placed in service of revolutionary ideology. (Rodchenko, Tatlin)

A.4) Dada : Tristan Tzara, André Breton, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray

(gives rise to Surrealism 1924)

Surrealism: Giacometti, Man Ray, Dali,

Oppenheim, Duchamp

Born out of the horror of WWI

“Dada: abolition of logic, the dance of the impotents of creation; Dada: abolition of all the social hierarchies and equations set up by our valets to preserve values; …

Dada: abolition of archaeology; Dada: abolition of the prophets; Dada: abolition of the future; Dada: absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the product of spontaneity.” TT

DADA: nihilistic, absurdist, shocking, unorthodox, decries bourgeois rationalism

involved poetry, music, sound, performance, painting, photography, sculpture

Hausmann, Mechanical

Head Spirit of Our Time, Duchamp,

1919 Bottle Rack, 1914


found object, readymade, altered readymade

Degas, Little Dancer, 1881

Degas, late 1800s

A.5) Marcel Duchamp, above, Bicycle Wheel, 1913, right, Fountain

A.5) Surrealism: Andre Breton, Giacometti, Man Ray, Dali, Oppenheim, Duchamp 1924

Meret Oppenheim, Luncheon in Fur, 1936

  • a means of joining dream and fantasy to everyday reality to form “an absolute reality, a surreality.”

  • influenced by Sigmund Freud, the unconscious was the wellspring of the imagination.

  • “beautiful as the chance encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table.” Lautreamont

Man Ray, Indestructible Object, 1923

Degas, Little Dancer, 1881


Jean Arp:

“Abstract Concretions”

converts inert matter to living form….

Art belongs to a species of natural form

Head with Annoying Objects, Jean Arp, 1930

A.6) Abstract-Concretion: Arp, Moore, Hepworth

Henry Moore, Reclining Figures

B. Case study of two contemporaries:

Duchamp/Brancusi (RK)

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968):

un-worked, anti-representational, cerebral…

Princess X, Brancusi, 1916

Constantin Brancusi: (1876-1957) representational, raw material labored + polished to perfect reflectivity.

Like Duchamp, his polished surfaces “impenetrable” to analysis (narrative) - no relationships between parts exist.

In Advance of the Broken Arm, Duchamp, 1915

B. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968):

The Beginning of the World, 1924

Constantin Brancusi: (1876-1957)

Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel

  • B. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) Rrose Selavy ( Eros, c’est la vie):

  • Selected serial objects that did not bear the stamp of an act of creation from personally held ideas or emotions

  • Readymades beg the question: What is a work of art? Why do we think of art as statements that must convey or embody a certain content?

  • Not intended to hold the object up for examination, but to scrutinize the act of aesthetic transformation itself. RK

  • Odd similarity btwn. Duchamp and Brancusi - both end up with works that appear machine made

  • Both men stand out from movements

Constantin Brancusi: (1876-1957) “There is a purpose in all things. To get to it one must go beyond oneself.” CB

Arduous and patient labor, reducing to refined elegant craft

Glossy surface deflects surface interpretations - courting the finish of machine-made objects

C. Der Lauf der Dinge, (The Way Things Go ), Fischli and Weiss:

Cause and effect - celebrating the banal

Element of play (opposite of Freud), politics of childhood - calculated to annoy

The thingness of the thing (non-rep.) + things at hand - Heidegger, Tatlin, Duchamp

Found object inversion since Duch.:

Trompe l’oeil

Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, 1964

Jasper Johns, Ale Cans, 1960

Arthur C. Danto –

“…as The Way Things Go makes manifestly clear, ordinary objects have their dark side, and the bland peaceful world of orderly routine which facilitates the conduct of ordinary life, is achingly fragile.”

C. Fischli and Weiss:

Plötzlich diese Übersicht

(Suddenly This Overview), 1981-2012

Unfired clay

above, Small and Large

rt. Freeway

C. Fischli and Weiss:

Plötzlich diese Übersicht

(Suddenly This Overview), 1981-2012

C. Fischli and Weiss:

Plötzlich diese Übersicht

(Suddenly This Overview),


above, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones Going Home Satisfied after Composing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”

rt. Mr. and Mrs. Einstein Shortly After Conceiving Their Genius Son Albert

D . BBC video:

Horizon: The Creative Brain, How Insight Works

Jonathan Schooler, Simone Ritter

Divergent Thinking