Opticality of Sculpture

Shep Steiner has just sent me his chapter on Olitski, and, as usual, his observations are inspiring and very original. He says that Michael Fried has it that Greenberg’s remarks on the opticality of sculpture, referred to in an earlier post, are the most quoted of all his writings. Here is what Smithson had to say:

“”Objects” are “sham space,” the excrement of thought and language. Once you start seeing objects in a positive or negative way you are on the road to derangement. Objects are phantoms of the mind, as false as angels.”

“The match boxes in Mexico are odd, they are “things in themselves.” While one enjoys a cigarette, he can look at his yellow box of “Clasicos-De Lujo-La Central.” The match company has thoughtfully put a reproduction of Venus de Milo on the front cover, and a changing array of “fine arts” on the back cover, such as Pedro Breugel’s The Blind Leading the Blind.”


Robert Smithson, Asphalt rundown, 1970

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