The Expanded Field

krauss

Rosalind E. Krauss’s “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” (1978) (Krauss, R. “The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths” (1985) The MIT Press; London, England) is a really useful essay that I have read three times and will probably read again. It examines the emergence of Postmodern sculptural practices and how they can be quantified when their expression is so varied.

The category of ‘sculpture’ becomes infinitely malleable and comes down from (or absorbs) it’s classical place on the pedestal. Krauss argues that in order for the new to be more palatable and acceptable it needs to have a historical evolution. Where sculpture once had a fairly linear art historical narrative, as it pushes the boundaries into new areas then historical provenance is expanded to include genealogies of millennia incorporating the likes of stonehenge, the nazca lines and neolithic mounds – none of which were ever intended as sculpture!

Modernist practice initially pushed the boundaries by removing the pedestals and moving the place. Modernist sculpture became somewhat nomadic. A new boundary needed to be established; if it’s NOT architecture and it’s NOT landscape, then it must be sculpture.

The 1960s welcomed in the postmodernist approach and the boundaries of sculptural practice were pushed to their outer limits.

“Sculpture is no longer the privileged middle term between two things it isn’t. Sculpture is rather only one term on the periphery of a field in which there are other, differently structured possibilities.” P284

Krauss put forward the Expanded Field theory and quarternary field diagram.

I have identified some examples of works that fit into the new fields:

Marked Site: both landscape and not-landscape

spiral-jetty-08

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970
mud, salt, basalt rocks, water, 460m x 4.6m, Great Salt Lake, Utah

 

Site Construction: both landscape and architecture

screenshot_2014-02-13_154608-1442DA4C4C94B18BDE3

Mary Miss, Perimeters, Pavilions, Decoys, 1978
Long Island, New York

Axiomatic structure: this uses existing structures and works with them or upon them. The structures can be architectural and not-architectural.

Untitled 1965, reconstructed 1971 by Robert Morris born 1931

Robert Morris, Untitled, 1965 (reconstructed 1971)
Mirror glass and wood, 914 x 914 x 914 mm, Tate Gallery, London

 

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7 thoughts on “The Expanded Field

  1. Great post Mary, thanks, very interesting and informative – amazing how much sculpture has opened up in the contemporary, seemingly no boundaries. I’ve been looking at this area too but a different aspect the assembled, taped together, stitched together, ready-made the unmonumental.

    1. I can send you this essay if you like? I actually have it as a pdf 🙂 Have you read the book “Unmonumnental”? It’s a Phaidon book and it’s in the Whitecliffe library (actually I just returned it!). I’m going to write a blog entry about that kind of sculptural practice next

      1. Thanks re the PDF of essay that would be great. Yes I have the Unmonumental book at the moment it’s great ah I’ve found the essay’s really helpful, also finding other artists to look at.

    2. I was quite drawn to Matthew Monahan’s work with the weird collections objects on top of the drywall ‘plinths’. It’s not exactly relevant to my work per se, but it really got me thinking about the role of the display plinth as separate from and part of the work. There was something about the unfinished texture of the drywall that keeps coming back into my head.

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