New York

“The New Sculpture 1965–75”

Though one may come to this show expecting the sculpture to have acquired a patina of established reserve, instead it looks fresh and provocative. The breakthrough this work constituted in the aftermath of Minimalism remains as appreciable today as when it first appeared. ted the various passages between initial iconoclasm and individual development. Given the sparse arrangements usually encountered in contemporary art exhibitions, this slightly crowded installation evoked the artistic ferment characteristic of the period. Viewed together, the works of these ten artists captured the energy of ideas colliding.

Although this sculpture is customarily tagged “post-Minimalist” there are no obvious stylistic or formal affinities that provide grounds for a unified approach to its categorization or analysis. To suggest any across the board affinities among the artists included in this exhibition (Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson, Richard Tuttle, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Barry Le Va, Alan Saret, Keith Sonnier, Lynda Benglis, and Joel Shapiro), beyond a shared impatience with traditional sculpture would be misleading. For the participants in this esthetic revolution took divergent routes from a shared point of frustration with both the heroics of Abstract Expressionism and the reductive imperatives of Minimalism.

In the hands of these artists sculpture did not disappear; rather it adopted a resistant and critical relationship to the protocols of traditional exhibition. No longer exclusively fixed or stable objects, sculpture became a set of instructions; pieces suddenly consisted of components, collections of materials to be installed and then packed away. Volatility, and transience replaced static formal codes and conventions.

Benglis poured thick puddles of pigmented latex across the floor to produce Planet, 1969. In Untitled (Rope piece), 1970, Hesse suspended a sensual web of rope, string, and wire coated in latex from the ceiling. Nauman constructed a visually porous but spatially claustrophobic environment. Double Steel Cage, 1974, consists of a wire box within a slightly larger cage inviting viewers to enter a small opening on one side and move around the narrow passage between the two cages. Smithson’s Non-Site (Palisades—Edgewater, N.J.), 1968, consisting of maps and bins filled with rocks, was a form of awkward occupation rather than willing cooperation with the art system. In Splash Piece: Casting, 1969–70 (reconstructed 1990), Serra threw molten lead at the corner between wall and floor and then pushed aside the random, gestural forms that resulted.

This sculpture constitutes a potent and enduring record of the esthetic radicality of the late ’60s and early ’70s. An anger with art and the world generated a decade of impassioned experimentation. Perhaps the wisdom of this collective and directed frustration will serve as a timely antidote to our current lassitude.

Patricia C. Phillips