Planar Spaces

From Susskind’s book comes another important formulation, also mentioned in my articles of a few years ago, now revisited: “The maximum amount of information that can be stuffed into a region of space is equal to the area of the region, not the volume.” I think this should be interesting for the sculptors to contemplate—it confirms the optical or planar type of modern sculpture. But for painting it’s also relevant, since it appears that volumes are not so much illusions of the plane as constituent of it. Or vice versa—there are no volumes without planes, or surfaces at least. If we equate the concept of information as used in science with meaning in art, then it is truly futile to fight the planar approach.

Frank Stella, Fedallah (IRS-4 1.875X) 1988

Frank Stella, Fedallah (IRS-4 1.875X) 1988

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3 Responses to Planar Spaces

  1. WOW! What a gorgeous piece. Over the passed year you have totally changed my appreciation of Stella’s work. Most of us have seen such a small slice of it. Thanks!

  2. Shep Steiner says:

    Lots of interesting posts Robert especially about the economies of taste and small groups but your statement concerning maximum information might be contested. I’m thinking of Donald Judd who would disagree with the statement about information relative to area and not volume. In his classic works volume bears information and it would seem to say more than the planar surface says. The metaphysical Judd would say volume tells truer truths than the surface. How would you respond?

    • I’m not really sure. Applying scientific insights or discoveries to art is always tricky. This stuff is coming from science, not art, but it’s a kind of science that confirms in a pretty dramatic and compelling way the notion of an optical sculpture. And Margit Rowell’s long ago Guggenheim catalog The Planar Dimension, which I mentioned in an earlier post, gives historical support to the same position. I like it. Is there any volume without a surface? How can the interior volume of a mass, a traditional bronze or stone carving say, bear any information? It’s inaccessible. We really don’t have any experience of the inside of a sculpture except as the surface tells us about it, so the invention of empty volume cubist sculpture/assemblage seems very necessary and inevitable in a way. And there’s no going back. But that kind of sculpture really depends on planes to produce volumes and I don’t see Judd getting beyond that. But on the other side, can you feel the space between yourself and an object? Some art claims that you can, and that space doesn’t necessarily have any boundaries, planar or otherwise. It seems to come back to the dialectic of the optical and the bodily.

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