Page 14 - Studio International - December1996
P. 14

Structures / Objects /Assemblages

      Comment by Jasia Reichardt

      What are 'Structures' as an art idiom?                                             to a three-dimensional work by Tinguely.
       Neither dictionaries, nor the exhibition                                           Even, however, within the categories and
      under this title, provide a ready answer.                                          range put forward by the structures
      The catalogue introduction suggests that the                                       exhibition there are a number of works
      exhibits belong somewhere in that uneasy                                           which evade these stylistic criteria and
      category between painting and sculpture,                                           which nevertheless play an important role
      and this idea is stressed by the fact that a                                       in the show. These particular works
      number of artists who had hitherto                                                 represent the cross currents between
      concentrated on the use of paint and canvas,                                       structures and other three-dimensional
      turned to constructing, welding and                                                manifestations like assemblages and objects—
      moulding when the exhibition was                                                   e.g. the plexiglass box by Allen Jones with
      announced by the Welsh Committee of the                                            overtones of figurative whimsy and the
      Arts Council and the National Museum of                                            movable wall construction by Victor
      Wales. The exhibition was held in Cardiff                                          Newsome which carries definite surrealist
      last summer, and after touring Swansea and                                         associations.
      Bangor arrived in a modified form at the                                            If 'Structures' is a misnomer, it has on the
      ARTS COUNCIL GALLERIES in London in                                                positive side opened such vast territory for
      October. 81 exhibits were chosen from the                                          the exploration of the use of three dimen-
      original 600 entries, of which 30 of the                                           sions in art, that it has provoked some
      more readily transportable works were                                              strange if tentative encounters between
      shown in London.                                                                   half-baked ideas. This ultimately might be
       The fact that the general standard was                                            more important than an exposition of very
      uninspiring, to say the least, is perhaps                                          fine works in a certain idiom, with a
      irrelevant to the enquiry about the exact                                          beginning, a middle, and an end, each
      criteria which one can arrive at on the                                            built in with an explicit message.
      basis of this show. Nor is it possible to draw                                      It is difficult to make realistic distinctions
      clear distinctions between sculpture and                                           between structures, objects, and assemblages—
      structure (despite the predominance of the   that the element of radicalism that could   three disciplines or anti-disciplines, which
      formal or geometric element) ; and the    possibly launch 'structures' as a seminal   fall between the various hitherto clearly-
      significance of this particular idiom as a   movement was lacking. Generally the works   defined categories. Roughly speaking,
      phenomenon of the 1960's (despite the fact   gathered under this umbrella show the   objects associate themselves with surrealism,
      that all the works are very recent). The   predominance of certain qualities which   assemblages with Dada, and structures with
      reason for the latter has something to do   could be described as follows: systematic   constructivism.
      with the fact that an idiom which becomes   organization of formal elements, precision,   In the category of objects which are either
      mainstream at any particular moment in    use of mixed media and chromatic colour.   assisted, as in the case of Man Ray,
      history is involved with a retrospective   Essentially, structures belong to the   unassisted—Duchamp, or recreated—
      rather than a current comment. The        constructivist tradition as opposed to   Warhol, the intentions motivating their
      essential style of any period derives from   another, better 'known, idiom which' also   creation are as different as those underlying
      experimental pioneering rather than       falls between a number of categories—the   any oddly assorted art movement. Man Ray,
      mainstream art, as well as the design of   more literary, intuitive, and expressionist,   whose best known work of this type is his
      utilitarian articles, fashion, furniture and   idiom of assemblage. Thus when referring   ironic Cadeau (1921) —an iron with a row of
      other equipment and very little in between.   to structures one would more readily think   nails attached to the base which would
      This does not mean to imply that the      of a relief by Tomasello rather than a   render its utilitarian function completely
      element of experimentation was absent     sculpture by Schwitters, or a plexiglass   unrealistic—has throughout his life produced
      from the structures exhibition, but simply   construction by Bruno Munari as opposed    imaginary objects which look as if they

      Contributors to this issue                Miriam and Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Ben   Patrick Heron had his first London one-man show in
                                                Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, and Herbert Read,   1947. Since then he has had seven one-man shows at
       Jasia Reichardt assistant director of the Institute   were friends of Mondrian and lived near him in   the Redfern Gallery, and five at the Waddington
       of Contemporary Arts, Edward Lucie-Smith, poet and   Hampstead.                   Gallery. In 1965 he shared the British pavilion at the
       critic, and Charles S. Spencer, who writes on art in                              Sao Paulo Bienal with Victor Pasmore. He is to have a
       Britain for the New York Times, are regular contribu-  David Sylvester has been working on a monograph   retrospective at the Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh,
      tors to Studio International.             and a film on Giacometti. He is visiting lecturer at   next July, and a major show at the Kunstnernef Haus,
                                                Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Royal   Oslo, in the autumn.
       Charles Harrison is researching on British painting   College of Art, and art advisor to The Sunday Times
       and sculpture between the wars. He has assisted with   Magazine.                  Andrew Forge, head of Goldsmiths' College of Art
      the editing of the features on Mondrian in this issue.                             department of painting, contributes to The Listener
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