Graduate Seminar: SCULPTURE!
“Why sculpture is boring” wrote Charles Baudelaire in his Salon of 1846. The phrase has lived on partly because many concur. After all, much sculpture appears so formulaic that we hardly see it at all. Yet sculpture as painting’s other has always challenged our thinking about the very boundaries of art. Sculpture was, of course, the necessary pre-condition for installation art, performance art, and art history’s turn to the material object, embodiment, and a wider array of things. Appreciate, for example, the generative implications of the many criticisms leveled against sculpture: Sculpture is too dangerously close to mere objecthood; too much the decorative/ ornamental handmaiden to architecture; too perfunctory as markers in public spaces; too simplistic in its analysis of politics; too often on the wrong side of history by merely bolstering regimes in power; too conservative; too plodding and bulky and monolithic relative to the elegant complexity of painting.
This graduate seminar tackles the strangeness of sculpture as a medium, primarily, but not exclusively, in Europe and the Americas from the early modern period to the present (of course, antique sculpture will continually matter). Each participant will choose a sculptor/ sculpture, loosely defined, and will write up meditations on each week’s readings and the questions they pose for the chosen artwork/s. Our hope is that by the seminar’s end, students will have the thick knowledge and sustained thoughtfulness to enrich their final papers. Students from all fields are welcome and can write final papers on sculpture in their areas of study (so many of our faculty address sculpture in their work).
Among possible topics to be considered: Relics, amulets, and objecthood; sculpture and the sacred; materials and mediums; scale; sculpture and touch; sculpture and time; mobility and site-specificity; subtractive and additive techniques; the difference between the three-dimensional and the two-dimensional for makers and viewers; sculpture and color; molds and masks; singles and multiples; inside and outside; public monuments and commemoration; the long history of iconoclasm; sculpture and photography/film/video; hand-making and industrial fabrication; the value of skill; mechanical reproduction; appropriation; High (art) and Low (craft); Avant-garde and kitsch; performance. Throughout we will need to address the erotics of sculpture and the embodiment of viewers from feminist, queer, rand aced perspectives.
U.C. Berkeley has had a wonderful history of thinking and writing about European and American sculpture. Andrew Stewart, Jacques De Caso, Michael Baxandall and Anne Wagner all made the medium an enormously productive and fascinating inquiry, inspiring numerous stellar Ph.D.s such as Erika Naginski Julia Bryan-Wilson, Huey Copeland, Sarah Hamill, and Elisa Archias, among others. This seminar hopes to honor, resurrect, and examine that scholarship. Join us!