Art and, in particular, sculpture has always been the universal means for reflecting the world, as well as for helping people to understand the space around them. However, it is often difficult to recognize the thin line between the true art objects and objects that cannot be referred to as “art”. Thus, while making a critical examination of modern sculpture in her book Passages in Modern Sculpture, Rosalind Krauss tries to find an explanation of criteria, which objects should meet for considering the works of art. Hereby, the core feature for this is not the individual judgment of the work by people but rather the meaning, which it brings to the Universe.
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According to the rational Western understanding of art analyzed by Krauss, every aspect of the original work of art, including the variation and sickness of brush strokes, as well as the physiognomy of the depicted objects, expresses the maker’s inner feelings and experience. Therefore, it can be argued that the traditional work of art is like “a window through which the psychological spaces of viewer and creator open onto each other” (Krauss 76). Such normal works of art promote a viewers' response in the form of analytic examination, whereby they decode the forms, lines, shapes, composition.
Such a traditional understanding of art is opposed by Rosalind Krauss to the mechanistic model of art represented by such sculptures as Duchamp and Brancusi (Krauss 70-90). Hereby, in his work, Ducamp was inspired by the Rossel’s theatrical presentation Impressions of Africa that was overwhelmed by the bizarre sense of discontinuity of different acts and elements. Obviously, the author thought of creating it as a game, for which the artists just elaborate and follow a set of rules, whereby all the elements of the work constitute “an image of primitive machines geared toward a similar product: each one involves an intricate set of contrivances which end up making “art” (Krauss 70). Thus, a game of creation becomes a mechanistic machine by which the art can be created.
However, Krauss raises question whether Duchamp’s process of selecting an object from the number of already manufactured ones and combining it with other already existed can be considered as art at all. From the perspective of cubism, where the subjects are analyzed and reassembled in the geometrical form for representing different contexts, the simple selection of readymade forms cannot be viewed as art because the author has not put his own experience and feelings into it. Consequently, since the Duchamp’s works do not provide a chance for the viewers to decode or understand them, they cannot be viewed as the author’s stamp.
Duchamp’s works are intended to provide the evidence of aesthetic transformation rather than subject. For example, in 1917, he has created a sculpture Fountain that was an ordinary object of an urinal. Although for some people this sculpture violates the norms of good taste, for Duchamp, it means a metaphysical depiction of transformation, whereby “the object has been transplanted from the ordinary world into the realm of art” (Krauss 77). Thus, the sculpture of the urinal exists not for transmitting hidden subject, but rather for the sake of its meaning, which is “the curiosity of production” (Krauss 76). Although in contrast to Duchamp’s simple ready-made objects, Brancusi’s perfectly deformed cylinders or spheres involve precise labor over forms and details; they also do not preserve the connection between the author and its work but rather make people see how the matter and form can change and transform.
By rejecting the principles typical for cubism or futurism that are founded on providing the psychological explanation of forms organization, Duchamp and Brancusi have created a new kind of sculptures that are focused on the object of art itself. Hereby, the sculptors avoided the correspondence between the image and the invisible psychological world of the author because they disbelieved in the necessity of rational connections. According to Brancusi, in order to get to a purpose of all things, “one must go beyond oneself” (Krauss 84). I agree with this point as the onset of analysis and judgments often may be more blinding rather than illuminating.
In turn, while losing the need in judgments, people come in alignment with the rhythms and energies inside the environment, thus becoming the embodiment of unordered flows of the Universe space. Thus, by rejecting the need in analysis of their works, sculptors moved toward meaning that is clear and unitary. For example, in 1913-1915 Duchamp created a sculpture Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighboring Metals that is a literally transparent object in the ground, through the glass of which the viewers can look at the continuation of their own space.
However, one should remember that the self is the only mean for contacting the Whole and interacting with it. In order to live in the connection with everyone and everything, one has to investigate himself and his individuality first. Therefore, I consider that the full automation of art, whereby the machines would contribute to its complete disconnection from the creator’s emotional and psychological structure is rather dangerous for individual. Hereby, the sculptures of Duchamp and Brancusi represent the reality distracted from the potential random perceptions and unstable human opinion.
While reading the thoughts of Krauss, I got the opportunity to look at the art of modern sculpture from different perspectives. The material is accompanied with different examples, illustrations, and literary means, which broadened my mind and allowed me to better understand the dimensions of art. I believe that the works of Duchamp and Brancusi are directed to the liberation of individual’s mind. The rejection from the element of individuality in their sculptures symbolizes the winning of new views and ways of thinking over the old paradigms. Indeed, the art cannot cover new forms with its former contents and standards of vision. Nevertheless, I believe that there must be some unchanged content and that is actually the true meaning laid in the work of art that could help people find their true identity and own place in the world full of chaos, distraction and polarity of views.