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
Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970
mud, salt, basalt rocks, water, 460m x 4.6m, Great Salt Lake, Utah
Site Construction: both landscape and architecture
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.