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Defining Sculpture

Saturday, June 18, 2016Sunday, October 9, 2016

Installation view of Defining Sculpture with John Chamberlain’s Crowded Hearts, 1987, and Polly Apfelbaum’s Reckless, 1998. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

1905 Building

How do you begin to define what sculpture is and what it is not? During the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, the Buffalo-born painter Ad Reinhardt jokingly defined it as “something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting.” Reinhardt’s glib dismissal of sculpture as an object that occupies real space and ends up getting in your way inevitably sets it at odds with painting. Paradoxically, many postwar sculptors—among them David Smith, whose work is included in the exhibition—began their artistic careers as painters. This common ground, however, did not prevent others from drawing even finer distinctions.

Influential New York critic Clement Greenberg argued that color was exclusive to painting and that sculpture’s third dimension made color superfluous. Greenberg’s rigidly modernist dictates on what sculpture could and could not be prevented him from seeing its imminent transformation. By the early 1960s, the very notion of sculpture as the thing you bump into was about to crack open as the medium cross-pollinated with dance, theater, film, music, and literature, and it extended into the landscape.

Janet Cardiff (Canadian, born 1957) and George Bures Miller (Canadian, born 1960). Telephone Time, 2004. Sound installation on two minute loop, DVD, DVD player, telephone, desk, chair and lamp, edition 3/3, dimensions variable. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Albert H. Tracy Fund, by exchange and Charles Clifton Fund, 2008 (2008:2a-f). © 2004 Cardiff & Miller.

Tara Donovan (American, born 1969). Untitled (Mylar), 2007. Mylar and glue, 30 x 248 x 203 inches (76.2 x 629.9 x 515.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Mrs. Georgia M. G. Forman, by exchange, 2008 (2008:19a-x).

Guyton/Walker [Wade Guyton (American, born 1972), and Kelley Walker (American, born 1969)]. Untitled, 2009. Inkjet and silkscreen on canvas, inkjet print on drywall, paint cans with inkjet prints, and wooden crate, 98 1/2 x 124 x 112 inches (250.2 x 315 x 284.5 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, by exchange and Charles W. Goodyear Fund, by exchange, 2011 (2011:34a-bb). © 2009 Guyton/Walker.

Marisol (Venezuelan and American, born France, 1930-2016). Baby Girl, 1963. Wood and mixed media,  74 x 35 x 47 inches (188 x 88.9 x 119.4 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1964 (K1964:8). © Estate of Marisol / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jeanne Silverthorne (American, born 1950). Under a Cloud, 2003. Rubber, synthetic hair, Aqua-Resin, styrofoam, artist's proof from an edition of 3 + artist's proof, cloud: 12 x 15 x 10 inches (30.5 x 38.1 x 25.4 cm), figure: 4 x 1 3/4 x 3 inches (10.2 x 4.5 x 7.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Albert H. Tracy Fund, 2003 (2003:21a-b).

Susanna Starr (American, born 1960). Swamp Milk, 2001. Synthetic sponge, acrylic paint, aluminum and buttons, 27 7/8 x 14 1/4 x 13 3/4 inches (70.8 x 36.2 x 34.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2011 (2011:16.1). © 2001 Susanna Starr.

Featuring works drawn exclusively from the Albright-Knox’s collection, Defining Sculpture offers a perspective on the medium’s remarkable development and hybridity from the postwar years to the present. Radically transformative Pop art sculptures by Marisol and Claes Oldenburg join sprawling and monumental abstractions by Polly Apfelbaum, Tara Donovan, and Katharina Grosse that celebrate the glorious possibilities of color and the experimental use of new materials. Selected historical and contemporary statements by sculptors provide personal points of view.

This exhibition is organized by Chief Curator Emeritus Douglas Dreishpoon.

Museum admission is required to view this special exhibition on M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY.