press release

What one sees on view at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at any given time is only a fraction of its actual collection-- a vast resource with untold surprises. Carved, Modeled, Assembled, Welded, Drawn provides an opportunity to revisit the Gallery's sculpture collection through selected works produced between 1944 and the present. Like other projects organized during the past year at the Anderson Gallery while the Albright-Knox has undergone renovations, this one resurrects a particular aspect of the collection so it can be seen, once again, with fresh eyes.

Sculptures and sculptors' drawings make up an impressive part of the permanent collection. While certain works, consistently on view, are like old friends to frequent visitors, others, tucked away in storage, remain obscure. Monumental pieces by Reuben Nakian, Isamu Noguchi, George Rickey, and David Smith installed in the Sculpture Garden, stand out as gems in a sculpture collection whose postwar holdings exceed 300 objects. Seymour Knox's vision for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery included twentieth-century sculpture, and in the years following World War II, his donations to the Gallery traversed a broad spectrum of nationalities, materials, and styles. Today, some of the sculptors he collected are less known. Considered from this perspective, the present project tells us as much about the unpredictable nature of the art world as it does about postwar sculptural developments in the international arena.

During the 1940s and 1950s sculptors had their own agenda, even if some of their central themes corresponded with those of painters. Most refused to see abstraction and representation as diametrically opposed, even when such a stance, particularly when it involved figuration, was dismissed as academic and retrograde. The figure, often conceived as a totemic or heroic entity, was to sculptors what the loaded brushstroke was to painters: a fundamental symbol, a medium through which basic questions about the self and humankind could be expressed. The 1950s may have been a glorious decade for abstraction, but it was also a watershed for a new kind of figuration. The challenge was to find ways of using abstraction to reconfigure anatomy in order to make it modern. For Robert Adams, Lynn Chadwick, Richard Hunt, and Seymour Lipton, the figure, conceived through welding, casting, or carving, was both a touchstone and point of departure.

History had a profound resonance for sculptors working after the war. Many saw their work within a grand continuum that extended backward and forward-- a tradition enriched by figurative and mythical associations, atavistic themes of death and destruction. Even the welding of steel with an oxyacetylene torch (a radical departure from time-honored techniques of carving and modeling) to reconfigure the human form was entirely compatible with an ethos that embraced the commingling of innovation and tradition. The émigré sculptor Jacques Lipchitz envisioned the history of sculpture as a "Great Stream," which is how he described it to the critic James Johnson Sweeney during an interview in 1945. Within this "Great Stream," the work of Jean Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Julio Gonzalez, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin constituted a kind of sculptural pantheon, a repository of ideas and attitudes that many sculptors, including Ahron Ben-Shmuel and David Hare, drew from and responded to.

Any analysis of postwar sculpture must also take into account the dynamics of space. Not only was space inseparable from an object's conception, but philosophically it had vast consequences. Space became the metaphorical matrix for the projection of ideas, and its permutations, often investigated through drawing, set the tenor for new sculptural possibilities. Space was conceived as an active rather than passive envelope that animated the object, an arena in which sculpture and spectator confronted each other. For many sculptors, space signified an expanded field without dimensions, a new frontier for the projection of imagination and myth.

By the early 1960s transition was imminent, as a younger generation of sculptors, questioning the existential mindset of their predecessors, began to experiment with nontraditional materials and a new approach to object making. Instead of welding, carving, or modeling, they created sculpture through a patchwork process of assemblage. The results, described by contemporary critics as an extension of Cubist collage, Dada antics, and Surrealist Readymades, rejected histrionic heroics for idiosyncratic, often humorous configurations. In 1961, curator William Seitz organized a landmark exhibition, "The Art of Assemblage," at the Museum of Modern Art to highlight a pan-international aesthetic. Seitz's installation, sprawling in its historical breadth, showcased seminal works by Joseph Cornell, Marcel Duchamp, Marisol, Louise Nevelson, Lucas Samaras, and Richard Stankiewicz, all of whom are represented in the exhibition, but overlooked equally compelling work being done at the same time by Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg. A disposition toward composite construction and recycled materials, still prevalent among contemporary sculptors-- Judy Pfaff, Jessica Stockholder, Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, all on view here-- has kept sculpture in a healthy state of flux.

To better understand the way sculptors think, one should look at their drawings whenever possible. Drawings offer an inside perspective as revealing as handwriting and often tell us more about the creative process than the finished work, for they record the way in which ideas are conceived and developed. In the creation of sculpture, drawing has always been an invaluable tool; it enables sculptors to generate and stockpile ideas without having to worry about their material construction. It is a way to dream on paper. Works on paper by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, David Smith, and Jean Tinguely, installed in the exhibition to complement three-dimensional objects, suggest some of the many ways in which sculptors use drawing to initiate, refine, and, ultimately, extend their repertoire of ideas.

Douglas Dreishpoon, Curator

Carved, Modeled, Assembled, Welded, Drawn
Sculptors' Works in the Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

mit Robert Adams, Hans Arp, Lynn Chadwick, Joseph Cornell, Jim Dine, Marcel Duchamp, Kate Ericson, Alberto Giacometti, Julio Gonzalez, David Hare, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Hunt, Jacques Lipchitz, Seymour Lipton, Marisol , Henry Moore, Reuben Nakian, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, George Rickey, Auguste Rodin, Lucas Samaras, David Smith, Richard Stankiewicz, Jessica Stockholder, Jean Tinguely, Mel Ziegler ...