Friday, May 24, 2013

Art reader's digest

From "Thinking Through Craft," by Glenn Adamson:

The Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi casts a long, sheltering shadow over the crafts. ... He provides a stable and reassuring point of reference for functionless, formal, abstract sculpture in organic materials -- a description that covers the majority of works sold in the upper stratum of the crafts marketplace....

Constantin Brancusi, Bird in Space

From a certain perspective, one might say that this is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs.  Who doesn't love Brancusi?  He invented abstract sculpture.  His works have tremendous presence.  He was a master craftsman, and his works show ample evidence of his skill in their carefully shaped volumes and beautifully modulated surfaces.  Perhaps we should be grateful that the flame he lit is still burning in one corner of the art world.  And yet, seem from another perspective, the crafts' adherence to Brancusi seems distinctly reactionary.  His groundbreaking abstract works are now nearly a century old, and have not been "contemporary" since well before the Second World War. ... So what should we make of the craft world's collective homage to Brancusi?  We might simply conclude that the crafts have become a preserve for outmoded models of art.  The crafts, we could argue, are an arena in which those who don't care to pay attention to contemporary art play at being involved in an art historical lineage.  For them Brancusi is not only a source of aesthetic power, but also a convenient rhetorical device.  His precedent authorizes craftspeople to ignore the art discourse of the present day, and permits collectors to pile up objets d'art without worrying about the modern and postmodern avant garde. ....

Brancusi, The Newborn


  1. At first I thought Brancusi was going to be the Duchamp of the craft world, but reading on, this is not the case ... Duchamp seems to be causing people to reflect anew on art, and if this article is to be believed, Brancusi is stopping people thinking about craft. Hmm, interesting!

    1. in fairness, I took this quote somewhat out of context -- he goes on (and on) to a more forgiving viewpoint -- but this part is certainly thought-provoking!