This fall, the Nasher Sculpture Center is pleased to announce two concurrent exhibitions: Rediscoveries: Modes of Making in Modern Sculpture in the upper level galleries highlights masterpieces from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection to illuminate several experimental approaches to sculpture that were central to the invention of modern and contemporary art. Sculpture in So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960–80 in the lower level gallery focuses in turn on a single defining contemporary movement, conceptual art—an approach that gives primacy to ideas in the development and realization of works of art.
“Contemporary sculpture can only be understood with reference to conceptual art,” said Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick. “Rediscoveries: Modes of Making in Modern Sculpture presents some of the most beloved works from the Nasher Collection including an extraordinary sculpture that has not been exhibited since the Nasher Sculpture Center opened, all of which demonstrate the modernist underpinnings of the conceptual approach to art making. Sculpture in So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960–80 brings together more than 70 works that show conceptual art in full flower, focusing on language-based approaches to art-making that expand our understanding of the very nature of sculpture.”
Rediscoveries: Modes of Making in Modern Sculpture
Auguste Rodin once said of his work, “I invent nothing; I rediscover.” Featuring masterworks from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Rediscoveries: Modes of Making in Modern Sculpture traces the roots of new methods of conceiving and making sculpture over the past 125 years. In the upper galleries of the museum, visitors will find familiar works from different historical eras combined in new and unexpected ways, as well as sculptures never before displayed at the Nasher Sculpture Center, most notably Richard Serra’s 1969 Inverted House of Cards.
The first section of Rediscoveries is dedicated to artists’ interest in modules, series, and process. Works by artists associated with minimal art, such as Carl Andre and Tony Smith, exemplify the repeated use of elemental, modular units to create sculptural compositions, as do works by Serra and Richard Long. However, as artworks by Jean Arp and Alexander Calder demonstrate, artists have also drawn inspiration from repeating natural forms, such as the leaves of a budding plant or, in the case of Constantin Brancusi and Henri Matisse, from the human body itself.
Closely related to artists’ interest in modular forms is their fascination with the relation between a whole and its parts, especially the human body. Over the last 125 years, sculptors such as Rodin, Henri Matisse, and Alberto Giacometti have experimented with how much can be stripped away from a figure without losing its essence – a concern apparent even in the sleek stele-like abstract form of Ellsworth Kelly’s totemic Untitled. In turn, sculptors’ creative process often involves breaking apart or disassembling work, resulting in fragments – a hand, a head, a torso – that could appear interesting as sculptures in their own right. The second section of Rediscoveries focuses on this experimental interplay between fragment and totality.
Two additional themes present artists’ engagement with the modern world beyond their studios. A grouping devoted to the machine aesthetic encompasses Raymond Duchamp-Villon’s and John Storrs’ respective evocations of the dynamic power and cool rationality associated with the machine in the early twentieth century, as well as John Chamberlain’s welding of colorful, crumpled metal from automobiles and Donald Judd’s use of industrial fabricators. The legacy of Marcel Duchamp, an artist of key importance to conceptual art, underpins a section devoted to artists’ interest in objects from our everyday lives, from the Light Bulb and Flag of Jasper Johns’s Lead Reliefs to Claes Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser, intellectually playful heirs of the readymade, which Duchamp defined as a work of art created solely by the intellectual decision of the artist.
Sculpture in So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960–80
Comprised of text sculptures from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s, Sculpture in So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960–80 continues the examination of sculptural concerns presented in Rediscoveries by tracing the legacy of Duchamp’s radical reimagining of what constitutes a work of art. The resulting image-free works shed fresh light on the intellectual foundations underpinning much of contemporary art.
Because many of these works were conceived in a context commonly associated with journalism and publishing –gallery announcements, newspaper and magazine ads, posters and broadsheets, bulletins, articles, flyers, artist’s books, and various other insubstantial and impermanent documents—they are easy to overlook. This ephemeral quality encouraged artists to be experimental and let their imaginations range widely. The result was a sort of laboratory of language during this period that let artists rethink what sculpture could be, leading to the multidisciplinary welter of possibilities comprising sculpture today.
Many of the artists included in this show defined their text work as sculpture and referred to it, both explicitly or implicitly, in their titles. Moreover, typical for art of this era, all of these works are concerned with the physical and conceptual place of the art object in the real world. At the same time, their unassuming physical character – papers that could be mechanically printed and, just as easily, discarded – is part of their appeal as sculpture, and as conceptual art.
The strategies by which the featured artists generate “sculpture” are as varied as the practice of sculpture. They encompass instructions given to the viewer, who then becomes a participant, or even maker, of a work, as in Yoko Ono’s Fountain Piece, as well as scripts for such events as Alison Knowles’ Make a Salad. Artists like Richard Serra and Bruce Nauman also used texts to describe both actual installations as well as purely conceptual objects, while others, such as Vito Acconci, Lawrence Weiner, and Robert Morris investigated language’s role in our ability to conceive, and reflect upon, art itself. Other artists in the exhibition include John Baldessari, Mel Bochner, Walter de Maria, Mario Merz, Robert Morris, and Fred Sandback.
Sculpture in So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960–80 was organized by independent curator Dakin Hart and initially exhibited at ZieherSmith Gallery, New York.
Featured in conjunction with the exhibition will be a beautifully produced oversized artists’ book entitled Fountainhead, which has been given to the Nasher Sculpture Center by the Art Foundation.
Inspired by perhaps the most famous of Duchamp’s Readymades, 1917’s Fountain – a urinal that Duchamp submitted to an exhibition as a work of art – the Art Foundation solicited the alteration of various photographs of Fountain, by a number of local and international artists, including Frances Bagley (Dallas), Jesse Morgan Barnett (Dallas), Laetitia Benat (Paris, FR), Rebecca Carter (Dallas), Piotr Chiszinski (Ithaca, NY), Steve Cruz (Dallas), Matt Cusick (Dallas), Laura Doughtie (Dallas), Erika Duque (Fort Worth), Celia Eberle (Dallas), Cassandra Emswiler (Dallas), Teresa Gomez-Martorell (Barcelona, SP), Brenton Good (Harris, Pennsylvania), Sara Hignite (Dallas), Kelly Lynn Jones (San Francisco, CA), Gerald Lopez (Corpus Christi, TX), Stephanie Madewell (Brooklyn, NY), Sam Matineau (Brooklyn, NY), Lindsay McCulloch (Washington, DC), Ruben Nieto (Dallas), Tom Orr (Dallas), Sara Pringle (Brooklyn, NY), Teresa Rafidi (Dallas), Adam Raymont (Berlin), Enrico Riley (Vermont), Gregory Ruppe (Fort Worth), Gretchen Schermerhorn (Washington, DC), Shawn Smith (Austin, TX), Ian F. Thomas (Slippery Rock, PA), Karen Weiner (Dallas), Jonathan Whitfill (Lubbock, TX), and Zero (location unknown).
About the Nasher Sculpture Center;
Open since 2003 and located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, the Nasher Sculpture Center is home to one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculptures in the world, the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, featuring more than 300 masterpieces by Calder, Giacometti, Matisse, Picasso, Rodin, and more. The longtime dream of the late Raymond and Patsy Nasher, the museum was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano in collaboration with landscape architect Peter Walker.
Hailed by the "USA Today" as one of the great sculpture gardens where art enhances nature, the roofless museum seamlessly integrates the indoor galleries with the outdoor spaces creating a museum experience unlike any other in the world. On view in the light-filled galleries and amid the landscaped grounds are rotating works from the Collection, as well as blockbuster exhibitions and one-of-a-kind installations by the most celebrated artists of our times. In addition to the indoor and outdoor gallery spaces, the Center contains an auditorium, education and research facilities, a cafe, and a store.
The Nasher brings the best of contemporary culture to Dallas through special programs designed to engage visitors, including artist talks, lecture programs, contemporary music concerts, educational classes and exclusive member events.
The Nasher Sculpture Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm and until 11 pm for special events, and from 10 am to 5 pm on the first Saturday of each month. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for members and children 12 and under, and includes access to special exhibitions. For more information, visit www.NasherSculptureCenter.org.