PRINT November 1962


Eduard Trier's Form and Space

Eduard Trier, Form and Space, (New York: Praeger) 1962. 291 pages, 213 illustrations.

SCULPTORS REST HELPLESSLY at the mercy of photographers, for, creating objects meant to be seen from a great many viewpoints, they work at complete cross-purposes from the camera, with its single, static view. And, should the camera choose an unflattering view, the other views are not available to redeem the piece. Another danger derives from the drama of shadows and highlights which the photographer can manipulate at will, so that often enough the true work, seen after a photograph of the same object, is peculiarly disappointing. The other side of the coin, of course, is the possibility of a particularly sensitive and discerning eye selecting the view of the camera with care, controlling shadow and highlight so as not to overwhelm the work itself, and thereby bringing an awareness of the sculpture’s beauty to the viewer which might other wise have not registered. Happily, the photographs in Form and Space fall, in almost all cases, into this latter category.

This is all the more remarkable for the fact that so many of them are taken by the author himself. With obvious patience and care, he has assembled a large group of photographs of contemporary sculpture so excellent in quality, and of works so excellently chosen from among the works of so many artists, that the collection gives a stamp of quality to the book which alone makes it worth reading and owning. One hundred eighty-two artists are represented, all sculptors of the 20th Century, and, repeatedly, one comes across reproductions which either force a new awareness of an artist to whom one may have hitherto been indifferent, or supply fresh visual pleasure in more familiar images. The photographs are grouped into stylistic “families” regardless of the age or period of the artist, or his nationality. Thus, one group of photographs may have in common only the fact that all the works shown are examples of solid sculptures, sharply set off from the surrounding space by their compact volume; another group will demonstrate the gradual opening of these solid volumes to admit space into the structure of the work itself; another group will demonstrate the dissolution of mass through the use of transparent materials, or extremely light materials. If such organization is didactic, it is also refreshing to see the emphasis on “period” or nationality or age completely dismissed, and to find instead categories created out of the logic of the art itself rather than out of the logic of geography or chronology. It is pleasant, for example, to find a Duchamp-Villon of 1914, a Brancusi of 1925 and a Bernard Meadows of 1955 grouped together solely to demonstrate the treatment of animal shapes; the emphasis on the common problem faced by each artist renders insignificant the difference of age and nationality. A serious drawback to the system, however, is the carryover of sensibility from one photograph to another: an indifferent wooden Bird of Toon Kelder looks very, very good on a page facing Brancusi’s exquisite bronze, Bird in Space.

The book is exhaustive: sections on commissioned sculpture, sculpture in architecture, the sculpture of architecture, monument sculpture—all are included. (One of the more striking photographs is of a lovely stainless steel watertower by Eero Saarinen.) The text is, unaccountably, a bore.

The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, (Sausalito, California: Contact Editions).

Like many of CONTACT’s ideas, this one does not quite come off. To the extent that it’s an honest-to-God cookbook—who cares about cookbooks? To the extent that it presents an opportunity to a lot of artists and writers to be witty and clever—no one is particularly witty and clever. Here is Man Ray serving up the same Dada menu the Dada Diner has been serving for forty years (with the cooks getting older and older), and Lawrence Durrell coming out of the kitchen with nothing more witty than Stuffed Publishers Hearts with Agents Gravy. Soulages, on the other hand, with four recipes, shows more variety in his cooking than in his painting.

Considering how much “bon cuisine” we are getting on gallery walls these days, and that for the writers some of these recipes are the first published works in several years, perhaps artists and writers might be somewhat better off spending more time in the studios and less in the kitchens—while they are still alive and cooking.

Philip Leider