Contemporary Monuments: 
Conceptual Declarations, Real Dimensions

Auteur / Author: 
Katherine SMITH (Department of Art and Art History, Agnes Scott College, États-Unis)
Jeudi 25 Août 2011 - 17:00
14-1. Real Monuments


This paper examines the new forms of sculpture in the 1960s in the United States, reconstructing the significance of shifts in forms, dimensions, and materials and suggesting their importance of their influence on attendant changes in monumental practice. Between the 1950s and 1960s, as works of art moved from autonomous objects in museum and gallery exhibitions increasingly to public objects in urban and outdoor settings, concurrent departures from conventional displays and traditional media introduced formal effects that changed viewers’ interactions with and impressions of the works. As large-scale sculptures were sited directly on the ground rather than on pedestals and three-dimensional assemblages of found objects incorporated memory and corporeality, viewing such works necessitated more direct experiences, specifically in ways that expanded artistic territory and also contested recent critical dialogues.

Harriet Senie has suggested that one of the primary characteristics of contemporary public sculpture in the 1960s, and especially of memorials, is their solicitation of physical involvement: they “engaged the public physically by providing a walk-through experience.” This paper addresses and interrogates this proposition in works like Claes Oldenburg’s Placid Civic Monument (a hole dig and refilled in Central Park) and his better-known object monuments, Robert Smithson’s found monuments and his photographic presentations in magazine articles, Dan Flavin’s light sculptures as monuments, and Dan Graham’s criticism of the contemporary practices. I will connect such new ventures to contemporaneous architectural explorations such as Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s “I AM A MONUMENT” proposal in Learning from Las Vegas (1972). I aim to posit connections between these artists’ and architects’ engagement of the public, in physical and conceptual terms, and offer ways their recasting, even undermining, conventional structures and identifying, even embracing, an explicitly transitory and ephemeral nature in their works creates a rupture with the past contemporary monumental practices.