Objects – Things – Sculpture

Carl Andre, 2 Piece Sort, 1972,
bent steel reinforcing rod, in two parts,
overall: 3½ x 19 x 28 in. (8.4 x 48.3 x 71.1cm.)

In an interview with Phyllis Tuchman in 1970, the American sculptor Carl Andre remarked:
My art springs from my desire to have things in the world that would otherwise never be there. By nature, I am a materialist, and admirer of Lucretius…. The sense of one’s being in the world is confirmed by the existence of things and others in the world.”¹

As the selection of Andre’s statement and its title would suggest, this is a blog about exploring the world through things; through the bits and bobs of shaped, arranged matter that share, however fleetingly, the space of our own corporeal bodies. Things seem to be everywhere these days, and from all corners of scholarly inquiry, they are asserting their presence. Things now have social lives. They have generated their own ‘thing theory,’ are crucial actants in so-called Actor-Networks, and serve as the entry point for, and substance of, material/visual culture. In short, things are having a bit of a moment.

The title of this blog, however, presents a particular qualifier. The inclusion of sculptural was in part practical, a means to provide focus, but, more importantly, was intended to propose a question: what makes a thing a sculpture? Or perhaps better put, what is a sculptural thing and why designate it as such?

I certainly do not have answers to these questions, but I am intrigued by the spaces between objects, things, and sculpture enough to start this blog in attempt to open up a place to explore them. For many, the definition and understanding of ‘sculpture,’ and even more so the term ‘sculptural,’ has been expanded to the point of collapse within contemporary artistic practice while contracting within popular culture to the point of obsolescence (think no further than every bad public sculpture and memorial controversy or the trendiness of using ‘sculptural,’ or as a comparison ‘architectural,’ to describe everything from clothing design to cuisine). Sculpture as a distinct artistic phenomena or, more dramatically, as a way by which to see and understand the world does not seem to have much currency both inside and outside of academia, but sculpture’s always liminal and frequently clunky or awkward presence in the world (what is the point of sculpture after all?) makes it, in my mind, a subject worthy of further pursuit.

To again return to Andre in 1970:
My idea of a piece of sculpture is a road. That is, a road doesn’t reveal itself at any particular point or from any particular point. Roads appear and disappear. We either have to travel on them or beside them. But we don’t have a single point of view for a road at all, except a moving one, moving along it.”²

I am by no means suggesting that a blog is a sculpture or a sculptural thing, but my hope is that Sculptural Things develops in a spirit similar to Andre’s road; without prescribed agenda beyond the questions posed above and open to the multiple points of view that seeing the world through sculpture can provide. I plan on exploring these questions and sculptural concerns through posts that focus on single works or projects, recent exhibitions, books, or lectures related to sculpture, and encounters with sculpture in public spaces (both in physical places and more virtual spheres like the mass media or intellectual debate); and I welcome guests posts from others who share my curiosity in sculpture, things, and objects in all of their various forms. For now, I will just say that I think that matter, matters, and that sculpture, with its unavoidable, insistent material presence is uniquely poised to make us think about our own presence and being in the world.


1 Phyllis Tuchman, "An Interview with Carl Andre," in Modern Sculpture Reader, eds. Jon Wood,
David Hulks, and Alex Potts. (Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2007), 304-305.
2 Ibid., 308.

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