For the past few months most of our attention was focused on sculpture, three events specifically. In August the large Picasso head was unveiled; for nine weeks (June 23 to August 27) there was a large exhibition of sculpture at the Art Institute; and early in the summer there was a show of the work by local sculptors, the seventh annual New Horizons in Sculpture at Marina City.

This show, organized and sponsored annually by the North Shore Art League, included some 50-odd artists and was a lively if uneven group of works which ranged in form from the organic through the mechanically inspired and from traditional materials and techniques to those new ones which are more common.

Sculpture by some of the artists included was concerned with full, volumetric form, a single compact unit, or extended outward and arched through space. Although full, these were without exception also hollow forms, the skin enveloping an inner space which was emphatically an integral part of the total idea. As might be expected, the material used for most of them was plastic and of special note were James O’Hara’s White Sky, Black Stars, Dannis Kowalski’s Rite of Spring, both rounded and pod-like. Ronald Dahl’s Space Form employed the same organic volumes built over a metal skeleton which projected them stem-like out from the center trunk. Its rhythms suggested water, rippling and wavelike in motion. Arnold Cherullo’s work (untitled) was also a thin skin of aluminum, a sinuous involuted form that wedged into space from the wall on which it was slung.

All of these works had an organic context; others took as their starting point either geometric or even engineering concepts. Hans Maier-Aichen’s Pillar, created within very narrow limitations, was based on a modular concept. Its diagonal rippling structure “buttressed” the wall against which it was placed and the discipline of its form and its immaculate finish in yellow allowed it to glow and to expand.

Sculpture, with its power to heighten the viewer’s sense of the space within which they both exist, suffers inordinately when the exhibition quarters are poor. Admittedly the work of most of today’s sculptors would be difficult to place properly in any gallery and the area at Marina City, both the interior “left over” area and the adjoining ice skating rink are very poor indeed. The former was never planned for this function; the exterior affords neither a view of the river nor of Chicago’s skyline. If this space is unsuitable, Chicago, with its sprawling character, has many unhindered areas ranging from lakefront, riverbank, and of course parks which could be used for sculpture exhibitions. Even vacant lots, so much a part of our urban sprawl, would be suitable and would have a character never found in the conventional art gallery. Sculptures such as those in this show with their strength and unrefined power could easily hold their own and would seem to be at home in such surroundings. The drastic changes in approach to sculpture call for a different presentation of it.

Object to structure to place is the progression which has been suggested L by some to plot the course of some of our most recent sculpture. Accepting this as a possible frame of reference from which to consider various developments it might be said that the second position has been reached by several sculptors in this show. (They are close to the third, as their works extend upward and outward.) Specifically this is true of James Zanzi’s Project For A Monument and Allan Boutin’s untitled work.

Zanzi’s large red fiberglass construction stood like a Japanese “torii,” closer in concept to what would ordinarily be called engineering than to sculpture. He, like a number of other sculptors, draws inspiration from sources such as the skeletons of the towering buildings which are going up in several parts of the city, and he has acknowledged his debt to the Saarinen arch in St. Louis. Boutin’s, less obviously related to the form of such structures, is nevertheless consistent with this approach. A truncated pyramidal volume with inset wedge, it suggests density, inert and impenetrable (even though it was built of plywood) and its single color, dull blue, contracted it still further. It is thoroughly consistent with the “in less there is more” dictum. His earlier work in a show last spring evinced a Romantic vein, an undercurrent which is most often held in check and seldom allowed to surface. But this provides a note of tension necessary to his work.

If such pieces as these bear comparison with engineering ideas and practices more than they do with other art forms, their lack of concern for surface and finish is consistent with this attitude. The red “paint job” on Zanzi’s construction seems utilitarian, applied as red lead would be to a bridge, e.g., to preserve the material rather than to decorate the surface.

If New Horizons in Sculpture was uneven in quality, so was the exhibition of sculpture at the Art Institute and since it spanned the last 20 years and was international in scope there was much less reason for its lapses. Sculpture: A Generation of Innovation was a historical survey, a severely limited one. If the works in this show were taken as definitive (a few exceptions notwithstanding) sculpture at mid-century does little more than continue many of the directions which had been initiated by Cubism, Surrealism and related movements. But these ideas are no longer the prime concern of most of the young sculptors today. Using a host of new materials and consequently new techniques, conceiving of the work not as a mere object but instead as interacting with, taking possession of its environment—both physically and figuratively—they lean toward a more thoroughly pragmatic approach.

The exhibition stressed the more traditional sculpture styles but even so it had some curious gaps and omissions. “. . . such outstanding sculptors as Arp, Pevsner, Gabo or even Lipchitz are not included because their real innovations were before World War II. . . .” This statement from the catalog remains unexplained and in view of some of the 27 sculptors included it would be difficult to support. Though the level of work during the past 20 years by Gabo, Pevsner, Arp and Lipchitz may have fallen below the finest of their earlier efforts (and this is very much open to question) their omission in preference to such figures as Etienne Martin, Cesar, Francois Stahly and Jacques Zqobada is to say the least, idiosyncratic.

However, this was the first sculpture survey at the institute since 1953 and it held considerable interest and provided the opportunity to review a number of works, many of which were well known, having been shown in other exhibitions.

At the entrance stood three David Smiths, one untitled from 1964, #1 from 1960 of the ZIG series, and Cubi VII, 1963. Smith’s late works are well-known now, and the new ground he broke is acknowledged. These works, which once looked awkward, blunt, even arbitrary, seemed to be blundering failures. Their strength as personal statements of great candor have brought about a change in our vision and have forced us to see not only them but other works by other sculptors as well, in a new light. His late work may not have been known widely until recently and may not have been a direct influence on many of the younger sculptors but it nevertheless serves to validate and confirm some of the directions they have taken. Smith’s influence on Anthony Caro is acknowledged but Caro’s omission from this show does not allow us to trace it. Paolozzi, the only younger British sculptor present, is represented by three handsome pieces and, considering their machined surfaces, contrast sharply with his found object bronzes of several years ago. However their sheer elegance seems distracting.

Eduardo Chillida’s Modulation d’Espace IV, 1966, in forged iron, has a strong archaic power, forcing it to appear much larger than it actually is. His Abesti Gogora III, 1962–64, of interlocking oak timbers, a statement in a Cubist idiom, underlines the omission of a sculptor such as Mark di Suvero whose work, starting from the same basis, extends the Cubist language and relates it more closely to current ideas.

Because of the anthropomorphic emphasis of the show a number of works by Surrealists were included. Ernst’s Le Roi Jouant Avec La Reine, 1944, by no means new to us, demonstrates its staying power. Although Ernst is a most uneven sculptor this work has a presence and creates a distinct mood which is almost palpable. Miró was represented by three pieces in ceramic, metal and found objects. His attitude of whimsicality is evident in the irregular surfaces, the aged and rusted patina, but the lightness of touch which is singularly his is missing and seems to be hampered by the materiality of sculpture.

Germaine Richier’s work, which comes from that borderland between the visionary and the grotesque, is limited but has a decidedly personal stamp. The skull head of Le Berger Des Landes, 1951, atop its stalk legs is a compelling image but cast in dark bronze it lacks some of the spectral power which the plaster original has. The considerable power of the color white is a subject for a special essay (as Herman Melville has suggested.) It is the color too of Nevelson’s American Dawn, 1962, a serenely haunted quiet place. It is the characteristic paradox of her work that such inert material as rough splintery wood would serve to create the evanescent aura which it does.

The dreamlike state, captured by Noguchi’s marble Night Voyage, 1949, contrasts with Nevelson’s work of a decade later and it is indicative of the move toward environmental, actual space instead of a metaphorical extension of the idea. More than metaphor, yet hardly credible is Lucas Samaras’s mirrored Room #2. This was known in photographs but even more than most sculpture it had to be seen to be believed, which is hardly possible even then. Quietly it dematerializes an individual’s surroundings, and loosens his sense of actual contact. However, Samaras’s other works, less appealing and pleasurable, his assemblages, probably would have pointed up a more revealing area of feeling.

Simplistically, we tend to think of Dada as playful (it often was not), innocent (its barbs were frequently lethal), while Surrealism is usually considered to be organized and programmatic. H. C. Westermann’s work has very much in common with Dada and tellingly reveals our cherished stereotypes for what they are. Yet his superb craftsmanship in such pieces as Suicide Tower, 1965, and Rotting Jet Wing, 1967, does not substantially interfere with their satirical impact. Never social comment alone, they are “works of art” in the magical sense.

That area which lies between painting and sculpture, where more and more artists are working, is barely represented. Robert Hudson’s painted metal constructions like Inner-Mission, 1965, are interesting, but they do not go beyond solutions to specific problems. Artists such as Rauschenberg, identified with this intermedia, are missing, as is Oldenburg. His (Oldenburg’s) concern with “soft” form which takes sculpture into a little-known domain would have been an exciting addition.

Jean Ipousteguy’s La Femme Au Bain, 1966, and his Ecbatane, 1965, are both sluggish in their conception and the idea which served as the starting point for each has been unnecessarily labored and forced. Reuben Nakian’s gargantuan plaster Judgement Of Paris; Paris, Venus, and Minerva, 1965–66, gains no more coherence in the Institute gallery than when it was seen at the Museum of Modern Art several years ago.

Giacometti and Picasso (who was represented by seven bronzes including Pregnant Woman, 1950, and Baboon and Young, 1951) were no surprise and their inclusion in this historical survey needs no justification. This is of course also true of Henry Moore. His Three Piece Reclining Figure #1, 1961–62, was unquestionably a masterwork and even inside a gallery without landscape background its amplitude filled more than its allotted space. After a slack period in the ’50s the freshness of his approach and the inventiveness of his forms is again manifest.

The approach to the idea of sculpture which reduces visible specific form to a minimum is indicated by the inclusion of Kenneth Snelson and Tony Smith. Although the work by each included is good, we need works by several others, e.g. Judd and Morris, to clarify this direction. There is so much happening in sculpture at the present time that another exhibition is needed to complement this one and to extend the survey.

The large head by Picasso which now presides over the plaza outside the Civic Center has had such publicity and is so widely known by now that little new can be added. Picasso’s gift to the city and the display of the maquette and the model for it last fall was greeted with considerable skepticism. Aside from the to be expected disgruntled protest by an alderman in the city council, its progress from maquette through fabrication at the steel mill and then its erection was almost without incident. Surprisingly, the final five-story work is truly impressive and is one of Picasso’s finest sculptures. It needs to “settle in” somewhat more before a critical analysis is possible (time is needed for the color change to take place in the Tor-ten steel) but its position as an important work of the 20th century seems assured.

It has been aptly compared to some of the folded and painted cutout heads of the ’60s and the drawings and paintings of the late ’20s and early ’30s in which he first conceived of monumental sculpture. But more and more its relationship seems to be closest to some of the tiny constructions which he made in 1914 using wood, cardboard, tin, string, etc. Seen in this light it completes a cycle.

An event which may be, and it is hoped will be, of more lasting significance for Chicago than the exhibitions reported here is the opening this month (October 24) of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The many attempts over the last 15 years or more to bring such an institution into existence have, for a variety of reasons, never gotten off the ground. A year ago space was acquired and in the spring Jan van der Marck assumed his position as Director. As might be expected these developments created the necessary momentum and a buoyant, optimistic attitude began to replace the old skepticism.

Whitney Halstead