Michelangelo’s David, discussed earlier, and his Pieta, 1499, are examples of sculpture in-the-round. The figures stand on their own feet (actually, three if you count the addition of the tree stump for David, and Mary’s broad skirt in the Pieta). David’s weight is unevenly distributed between the two legs to simulate a more relaxed stance, called the contrapposto. It is possible to walk around the sculpture to observe the skillful carving of the sideways glance, sling shot, and rock held in his right hand. In the Pieta, Mary is seated on a bench with Christ slung over her lap. The distribution of weight and mass appear as in real life. Christ’s arms and legs hang as if pulled down by gravity. While the latter statue was created to be placed against a wall and only to be seen from the front, it nonetheless is finished on all sides, simulating real people in real space.  Additionally in terms of texture, Michelangelo’s ability to differentiate between the textures of flesh and fabric far surpassed that of his peers.

 

IN THIS BOX PLACE “M PIETA”

IN THIS BOX PLACE “HAMILTON MANTLE” AND “SERRA TORQUED ELLIPSE”

Installations are site-specific works. They are most often created for a singular location for a limited period of time. Ann Hamilton’s mantle, 1998, was installed at the Miami Art Museum for two months. The artist designed a room scaled environment that the viewer is invited to enter. The artist herself is seated at a chair doing her sewing; the window provides her with light. Behind her is a 48-foot long table laden with thousands of flowers. The objective of the installation is to encompass the viewer in a full sensory experience, one to be seen, heard, smelled, and touched. While viewers may not totally “get” the narrative or meaning implicit in this composed installation, they will be able to connect issues of women’s work, women and nature, life (the woman) and death (60,000 cut flowers), with “traditional” paintings from Western history which depict the social space and duties of women. As with the Guerrilla Girls’ poster, this all-encompassing experience is meant to force viewers to rethink the “look” of a housewife and the social significance of her activities.

 

The three dimensional, environmental experience is also the key element in Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses, exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in 2000. Look carefully at the image to see the person standing within the sculptural shape at bottom. Clearly, seeing a statue in a book and actually standing within the sculpture are two very different things. There is also a temporal quality to the experience. As the metal forms are bent and twisted there is a pending sense of destruction. Therefore, as with all of Serra’s sculptures, there is anxiety over the immanent collapse of the massive forms and the viewer’s relation and fear of victimization. 

 

 

Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, 1979, is an installation. The artist designed a room sized environment which the viewer is invited to enter. The ceramic tiled floor is inscribed with the names of 999 famous women from history. The table is set for 39 women whose names are written on the placemats (three times 13, satirizing the Last Supper). Chicago and her colleagues created ceramic plates and tableware. The artistic environment becomes interactive: viewers are asked to walk on the tiles, stand at the table, and touch the place settings in order to fully experience the narrative. Incidentally, the table is in-the-round and the plates are relief sculptures.