Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back to Basics

(Installation view, Vincent Fecteau)

At artcritical, there are engaging recorded discussions about recent exhibitions in the Panel Review section. I turn it on in the studio to distract my thinking mind from what I’m drawing.

In a conversation about the 2009 exhibition of sculptures by Vincent Fecteau, the panelists made distinctions between size and scale, surface and structure. Sounds basic.

As is it is commonly understood, a monument is a commemorative work that usually towers over us. But something relatively small can be monumental not because of its size, but because of its scale. A depiction of a head that is five feet tall is monumental because it’s not human scale, but a five-foot building is not, unless perhaps there are tiny people also depicted. It gets more complicated when forms are not figurative, but abstract.

I’d also add that the monumental is generalized, non-specific. People are archetypes, forms are reductive. That said, I don’t think a monument can’t be intimate, personal.

Intimacy is something that can be offered through scale (or not), but it can also be revealed through surface. For example, if you have a rough, handmade edge on your five-foot head, it will remind us that it was crafted by a person, not at machine. The hand isn’t disguised and therefore the piece comes back down to the human. In art speak, you could say in this case that there’s a tension between scale and surface.

Scale, surface and structure are essentially formal elements in an artwork. Some viewers find meaning more in an idea or concept behind a piece, but I find meaning in its making. These days that’s perceived as a romantic notion. More on this another time.

No comments: