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PETER DOWNSBROUGH The Book(s). 1968–2010 Herausgegeben von / Edited by Moritz Kßng, deSingel, Antwerpen / Antwerp 332 Seiten / pages, 272 Abbildungen / illustrations Broschur / Softcover ISBN 978-3-7757-2833-1 (Englisch / English)

In the 1960s, artists made renewed efforts to explore the conditions required to create art: production, presentation, and reception. With Minimal Art, institutional critique, and Contextual Art, an ambivalent attitude toward the object developed. This raises the question of the sense and purpose of sculpture in the context of today’s world. This publication presents works by six contemporary artists—Phyllida Barlow, Michael Beutler, Alexandra Bircken, Vincent Fecteau, Anita Leisz, and Kimberly Sexton—who have distinguished themselves through their process-oriented approach, and who deal with the invention of form in an explorative way, using diverse materials and actions, and thus contribute to the understanding of sculptural acts.

CHARLOTTE POSENENSKE 1930–1985 Herausgegeben von / Edited by Renate Wiehager 216 Seiten pages, 410 Abbildungen / illustrations, 369 farbig / in color Gebunden / Hardcover ISBN 978-3-7757-2362-6 (Deutsch / German)

Unser gesamtes lieferbares Programm und viele andere Informationen finden Sie unter / You will find our complete list of available titles and more information at

Hatje Cantz

128 Seiten / pages, 54 farbige Abbildungen / color illustrations

Sculptural Acts

GABRIEL OROZCO Herausgegeben vom / Edited by Kunstmuseum Basel 256 Seiten / pages, 478 farbige Abbildungen / color illustrations Gebunden / Hardcover ISBN 978-3-7757-2510-1 (Deutsch / German)

In den 1960er-Jahren haben Kßnstler verstärkt begonnen, die Bedingungen fßr die Entstehung von Kunst–Produktion, Präsentation und Rezeption–zu untersuchen. Mit Minimal Art, Institutionskritik und Kontextkunst hat sich eine ambivalente Haltung gegenßber dem Objekt entwickelt, was letztlich auch die Frage nach dem Sinn und Zweck von Skulptur im gegenwärtigen Kontext aufwirft. Diese Publikation präsentiert Arbeiten sechs zeitgenÜssischer Kßnstler–Phyllida Barlow, Michael Beutler, Alexandra Bircken, Vincent Fecteau, Anita Leisz, Kimberly Sexton –, die sich durch einen prozessorientierten Ansatz auszeichnen und sich bei der Formfindung explorativ mit den unterschiedlichsten Materialien und Handlungen auseinandersetzen, und leistet damit einen ßberblicksartigen Beitrag zum Begriff des skulpturalen Handelns.

Skulpturales Handeln

ABOVE THE FOLD Ayse Erkmen, Ceal Floyer, David Lamelas Herausgegeben von / Edited by Nikola Dietrich 160 Seiten / pages, 80 farbige Abbildungen / color illustrations Gebunden / Hardcover ISBN 978-3-7757-2229-2 (Deutsch– Englisch / German–English)

Skulpturales Handeln

Das Haus der Kunst präsentiert die Arbeiten von / presents the works by:


Sculptural Acts


128 Seiten / pages, 54 farbige Abbildungen / color illustrations

Hatje Cantz

Patrizia Dander & Julienne Lorz


Morris spoke of “unitary forms” or “gestalt,”5 while Judd referred to “threedimensional work”6 or, as in the aforementioned title, “specific objects.” Later accepted terms such as Minimal Art or Minimalism were used to identify this kind of art, which predominantly made use of industrial materials, often employing industrial working methods (the artist’s hand is invisible), as well

Sculptural Acts brings together two seemingly disparate elements: sculpture

as a sense of wholeness as opposed to separate, compositional parts. With

and the act. While sculpture is ordinarily associated with a state of stasis, the

regard to the latter, space and within that, the observer became integral to the

act suggests movement or an action of some sort. The premise here is the acts

works: the shape affects the space and the viewer affects the shape by moving

involved in making sculpture; processes that are not usually presented or vis-

around the space.7

ible to the viewer, but which are, nevertheless, inscribed in the way materials

Just two years after publishing “Notes on Sculpture,” in 1968 Morris wrote

are used. As Donald Judd writes in 1965: “The form of a work and its materi-

another influential essay for Artforum entitled “Anti Form” as a direct re-

als are closely related,”1 which is where Sculptural Acts departs from: focusing

sponse to Michael Fried’s critique of, as he called it, “literalist art.” 8 In it

on the materiality of form, and, additionally, the processes manifest within.

Morris suggests that process be considered an important aspect, which has

This is where the term “process art” or art historian and critic Robert Pincus-

been traditionally disregarded. He cites the painter Jackson Pollock as being

Witten’s Post-Minimalism, which describes the moment when “minimalism

the only Abstract Expressionist artist, who “was able to recover process and

gave way to the behavior of materials in the act of making,”2 becomes relevant

hold on to it as part of the end form of the work. Pollock’s recovery of process

with regard to the art historical context. A case in point is Richard Serra’s

involved a profound rethinking of the role of both material and tools in making.” 9

Verb List (1967–1968), also referred to as Verb List Compilation: Actions to Re-

In turn, Morris applies this to the genre of sculpture. In other words, the art-

late to Oneself, Material, Place, and Process.3 Around eighty verbs describe vari-

ist’s manipulation of the materials manifests itself in the final form of the

ous actions, such as “to roll,” “to crease,” “to fold,” “to store” interspersed by

work, and, more importantly, with regard to Sculptural Acts, the viewer is able

just over twenty nouns such as “of tension,” “of gravity,” “of grouping,” “of

to experience the artist’s act, even if it is not in a literal sense. By mentally

simultaneity” that define the characteristics of individual elements and their

following the physical traces manifest in the manipulation of the materials the act or action begins to emerge.

relations to each other. In an interview with John Tusa, Serra states: I wanted to enact the verbs without think-

Placing the emphasis on process and the act of its creation, brought about a

ing, in relation to material, without thinking

further aspect in that Serra, Morris, and other artists confronted the notion

about their ends or their conclusions, without

of an artwork as a commercial object. Later, this ambivalent approach to the

having to define them in terms of art, but to

object found its continuation in institutional critique and contextual art.

involve myself in a process of making so that

Today artists no longer consider these acts as ends in themselves, but rather

I could understand the physical potential of

select them with regard to their social and cultural connotations. References

what it was to do something in relation [to]

to the act and production is articulated very differently by each artist, as is

material without having to get into a hierar-

clear in the positions presented in Sculptural Acts.There is evidence of an

chy of judgment or evaluation about its defi-

opening toward a sculptural practice that integrates an understanding of the

nition as art or sculpture.4

previously mentioned developments—partly explicitly and partly intuitive-

In the nineteen-sixties, it was artists such as the aforementioned Judd as well

ly—within personal artistic production. In consideration of the referentiality,

as Robert Morris, who were confronting preconceived notions about sculpture

found in several artworks in recent years, it seems important to emphasize

not only in their art, but also in their writing: Judd with “Specific Objects”

that terms such as “intuition” or “subjectivity” should not be confused with

in 1965 and Morris with “Notes on Sculpture 1–3,” in 1966–67. Both were

“random” or “imprecise,” rather it indicates a form of knowledge, which is not necessarily conceptual and thereby linguistic, but is generated by gaining

advocating a new form of sculpture for which they preferred different terms:

knowledge through making. The artists are thoroughly aware, which social 1 2 3



Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” in Complete Writings 1959–1975 (Nova Scotia, 1975), pp. 187–88. Robert Pincus-Witten as quoted in “Process,” in Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz eds., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings (Berkeley, 1999), p. 577. The addition to the title “actions to relate to oneself, material, place, and process” relates to an interview Serra gave to Avalanche (Winter 1971), as quoted by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh in “Process Sculpture and Film in the Work of Richard Serra,” in Hal Foster and Gordon Hughes eds., Richard Serra (Cambridge, 2000), fn7, p. 19. John Tusa, interview with Richard Serra, BBC Radio 3, August 15, 2008.


5 6 7 8 9

Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture, Part 1,” in Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 7–8. Judd, p. 184. Morris, p. 16. Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” in Art and Objecthood—Essays and Reviews (Chicago, 1998), p. 148. Robert Morris, “Anti Form,” Artforum (April 1968).



and cultural references are connected to processes in production and presenta-

The works by Barlow, Beutler, and Kimberly Sexton specifically created for

tion with regard to the aforementioned developments in sculptural practices.

this exhibition reveal references to the Haus der Kunst’s architecture—be-

Thereby, they do not linger with delimiting definitions and conceptual stipu-

yond this, though, architectural forms are also relevant within their oeuvres.

lations in their actions. The scepsis toward the object is confronted within

Barlow’s untitled: eleven columns; standing, fallen, broken (2011, p. 53) are remi-

its own medium in an explorative examination through the handling of the

niscent of the row of columns that dominate the north and south façade of

materials and forms. In the foreground is the considered development of a

the Haus der Kunst. The underlying grid of Michael Beutler’s paper modules

singular work. However, to dismiss such an inherent approach as formalism

refer directly to the physical dimensions of the exhibitions space’s floor tiles,

or return to the autonomous sculpture would be insufficient, as the following

while Kimberly Sexton places her angular pillar fragments consisting of plas-

texts and in particular Daniela Stöppel’s essay on Phyllida Barlow10 illustrate.

ter corner casts in relation to these tiles. Sexton is principally interested in

Instead the artists are working on a kind of sculpture that in all its openness

the corner as a constitutive spatial element. At the same time, she considers

and contestability is once again dedicated to the sculptural.

these as places of intimacy, comparable to the human body’s underarm, and,

While the monographic texts attend to the idiosyncrasy of the respective ar-

thereby, creating a connection between architecture and the body. Through

tistic approaches, the aim here is to highlight several connections between

manual manipulation Sexton’s Columns (2011, pp. 114–15) are charged with

the works. In the first instance it is the manual production—quite in contrast

(sexual) connotations that diametrically oppose the architecture’s severity.

to the aforementioned Minimalists—that is notable, using readily available

Despite the large dimensions that some of the works have, they neverthe-

materials. Anita Leisz, for instance, cuts and manipulates first and foremost

less seem to critically confront the demand for permanence. The reasons are

primed gypsum fiberboards or chipboard. Only small traces of her “artist’s

partly to do with economic realities: until recently, Phyllida Barlow destroyed

hand” remain, while Alexandra Bircken’s use of (artistic) craft techniques such

the majority of her works, which were often too big to store, and reused the

as knitting and knotting of yarn, rope, and wire are more apparent. Michael

various materials for new works. Similarly Kimberly Sexton’s Columns’ du-

Beutler manually produces his large-scale paper modules and designs appa-

rability is restricted to the duration of this exhibition: they are so fragile that

ratuses especially for this task, recalling workshop-like production methods.

it makes it near to impossible to transport them. A distinct awareness for the

The artists may not delegate the works’ embodiments to the process,11 how-

historical problematization of a sculpture “made for eternity” is articulated

ever the resulting restrictions are understood as a productive motor. Beutler,

in this fragility.

thereby, develops and refines his apparatuses through “learning by doing” un-

Further common ground is evident in the way that the works become primarily

til the desired result is reached.12 Similarly the statical requirements of Vin-

accessible in their appearance and independent sculptural form. In this sense

cent Fecteau’s wall objects are an example of this: the sculptures are modeled

they absolutely meet Vincent Fecteau’s requirements: “I’d like to think that

around an integrated tube that is simultaneously a hanging device and sup-

whatever my work has to offer is available to someone simply willing to

port—a condition that has considerably influenced the form finding process.

look.”14 And elsewhere he says: “Once something can be perfectly described

Not knowing what the final form of a work will be connects Fecteau’s and

in words it ceases it’s reason to be a visual object.”15

Bircken’s art. Though even when exact ideas for a final form exist, the artists

With this statement Fecteau refers to a basic problem that arises in the engage-

allow themselves to be steered by the materials and their characteristics.

ment with visual art, which mostly occurs via a linguistic system and, there-

Furthermore, an emphasis on physicality is legible not only in Bircken’s use

by, assumes that it is generally possible to translate the visual into language.

of clothing and other human “attributes,” but also Anita Leisz’s reduced ob-

However, with sculptures, whose third-dimensionality postulate a heightened

jects with their human scale and precise detailing pick up on Michael Fried’s

physicality of perception—which involves the necessary procedures of walk-

critique of Minimalism.13 They highlight an anthropomorphic and contextual

ing along, circling, and viewing from different angles in order to understand

perception, and, accordingly, are absolutely to be understood as characters.

a work—this seems even more questionable than dealing with the pictorial

Anthropomorphic qualities also mark the expansive works by Phyllida Bar-

plane. In fact, with regard to the works presented here, it is the experiencing of

low and Michael Beutler. The individual elements stand, recline, or lean in the

the complex interplay between the materials’ attributes (how malleable, rough,

space. The eccentricity and humor present in several of the works shown are

recalcitrant), artistic process (stacking, knotting, painting), and the spatial

rooted within this literally understood corporeality.

constellations (emptiness, density, height, expansion) that is central. In other words, aspects that can be expressed with language, but do not allow for an

10 See Daniela Stöppel, “Phyllida Barlow. The Sculptural Per Se?,” in this catalogue, pp. 45–47. 11 See Deborah Bürgel, “Kimberly Sexton. Beyond Cire Perd ue,” in this catalogue, pp. 106–09. 12 See Zoë Gray, “Michael Beutler. Cutting and Sticking,” in this catalogue, pp. 57–59. 13 Fried, 1998 (see note 8).



14 Vincent Fecteau, “In Conversation. Vincent Fecteau with Constance Lewellen,” The Brooklyn Rail, September, 2009, (accessed on August 30, 2011). 15 Vincent Fecteau, e-mail message to authors, February 3, 2011.



exhaustive description. In an essay on the artist Eva Hesse, Phyllida Barlow phrased this aptly: “With sculpture rooted in process and touch and which evidence themselves as the essential experiences of the object itself, it can be dif-


ficult to translate such qualities into verbal language. The difficulty belongs to an expectation that what is said, what the words are, will have an absolute integrity when matched against the object itself.”16 The shortcomings of language become surprisingly obvious in Michael Beutler’s onomatopoeic work descriptions with which Zoë Gray begins her essay.17 Precisely because the works presented here elude to, at least partially, a verbalization, they allow for their visual, or rather sculptural, qualities to become all the more apparent. They disclose an alternative approach to the works and, ultimately, to the world, as Vincent Fecteau describes it: “Language is a major part of the way we negotiate the world, but it’s not the only way we think. Shapes, colors, spaces, textures inevitably invoke specific references but the inverse is also real. The world around us, even our emotional or psychological world, can be experienced as a continually shifting arrangement of shapes, colors, spaces, textures.”18 This exhibition confronts language as the dominant mode of thinking with experience, which is suffused by a visual and sensual intelligence. That this is informed by a potential critique is clearly visible in these artists’ works.

16 Phyllida Barlow, “Lost for Words,” in Mark Godfrey et al., Objects for . . . and other things. Phyllida Barlow (London, 2004), p. 216. 17 Please see note 12, p. 57. 18 Vincent Fecteau interview by Bruce Hainley, “Back to Front,” frieze 131 (May 2010).




Haus der Kunst: Skulpturales Handeln (Essay Englisch)  

Zeitgenössische Skulptur zeichnet sich per definitionem durch radikale Heterogenität aus. Diese Situation leitet sich direkt aus der Destruk...