I've been thinking more about my post on how the backs of sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum, backs that were never intended to be seen, are nevertheless beautifully finished. It's occurred to me that traditional sculptures were usually commissioned by rich and powerful people. They were not only sacred objects, but they were also luxury objects, and anything that looked cheap or unfinished would be unseemly.
Modern and contemporary artists, on the other hand, make their art on spec and pay for it themselves. They don’t think of their work as luxury objects commissioned by rich and powerful patrons (even if it is), and they rarely believe their work is sacred. This might explain why the backs of most of their sculptures, if not completely neglected, are treated in a more purely functional manner.
Here, chronologically, are some sculptures currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art that make the point. Significantly, the MoMA website, unlike the Met site, doesn’t have many photos of the backs of sculptures (the backs are just not important), so unfortunately you’ll have to make due with my poor iPhone photos.
And this video of a Duchamp sculpture in action:
Marcel Duchamp, Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics), 1925. Painted papier-mâché demisphere fitted on velvet-covered disk, copper collar with plexiglass dome, motor, pulley, and metal stand, 58 1/2 x 25 1/4 x 24" . Gift of Mrs. William Sisler and Edward James Fund. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp (MoMA, 391.1970.a-c).
|Alberto Giacometti, The Palace at 4 A.M., 1932, wood, glass, wire and string, 25 x 28 x 15 ¾ (MoMA #90.1936)|
|Cady Noland, Tanya as Bandit, 1989, silkscreen ink on aluminum and bandana, 72 x 48 x ⅜ inches (MoMA, #1155.2007).|
|Martin Kippenberger, Untitled, 1989, 69 ¼ x 58 x 13 inches, books bound in linen, wood bookcase, metal, plastic, electric light bulb and silkscreen ink on cloth (MoMA #524.1992.a-b).|
|Dieter Roth, Solo Scenes, 1997-98, 128 video monitors with DVDS on shelving units. Videos of the details of last year of the artist’s life done while recovering, and eventually dying from, alcoholism.|
BTW, now is a good time to go to MoMA -- it's relatively uncrowded. If you go be sure to check this out:
|Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P. I, 1977, pantyhose and sand, dimensions vary.|