Drawing in Space

“Drawing in space” is a very important technical development in modern sculpture. Shep Steiner’s study of David Smith’s Hudson River Landscape, and other works, which he kindly let me read, is, as usual, brilliant, and opened up this topic for me. It’s one chapter of his book, which I hope will find a publisher. Anyway, drawing in space offers a particular experience of illusion. The piece appears flat from at least one direction, but movement reveals that the lines are not all in the same plane, and that some important parts of the piece are tilted away from the apparent plane. The plane has thickness, and there is a real, albeit somewhat shallow space, that has to be discovered by the viewer. Anthony Caro, also on the table right now, was clearly, at least in his early period,

DavidSmithHudsonRiver51

David Smith, Hudson River Landscape 1951

within the paradigm of drawing in space. He was able to dispense with the pedestal, something that Picasso had already done, but though Picasso opened up the possibility of drawing in space, he didn’t realize it fully. Caro’s work  is often planar and frontal,

may63

Anthony Caro, Month of May 1963

but this early piece is something else, a more fully three dimensional drawing in space than Smith achieved. Movement will give many relationships between the lines. The drawing dances over the floor and into space. Even with the landscape theme, in both pieces drawing gives animation, so the figuration hinted at by Caro in the previous post is still implicitly present. That implicitness may prove to be the definition of abstraction.

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