Unreal Nature

October 20, 2015

Without Naming Its End

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… It is a time during which the action simply acts, and acts, and acts.

Continuing through Modern Painting and Sculpture: 1880 to the Present at The Museum of Modern Art, edited by John Elderfield (2004). This book uses extracts from other books to comment on the featured artists (I’m extracting from those extracts… ) If that text does not refer specifically to the MoMA art that is shown in the parent book, I may choose to use some other work by the artist to illustrate my post. Today’s first is from Richard Serra/Sculpture by Rosalind E. Krauss (1986):

… [Among] Serra’s list of verbs, compiled in 1967-68, suspended in the grammatical midair of the infinitive [are]: “to roll, to crease, to fold, to store, to bend, to shorten, to twist, to twine. … ” These verbs describe pure transitivity. For each is an action to be performed against the imagined resistance of an object; and yet each infinitive rolls back upon itself without naming its end. The list enumerates forty-four acts before something like a goal of the action is pronounced, and even then the condition of object is elided: “of waves,” we read, “of tides,” or again, “of time.” The image of Serra throwing lead is like this suspension of action within the infinitive: all cause with no perceivable effect.

An action deprived of an object has a rather special relation to time. It must occur in time, but it does not move toward a termination, since there is no terminus, no proper destination so to speak. So, while the list of active verbs suggests the temporal, it is a temporality that has nothing to do with narrative time, with something having a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is not a time within which something develops, grows, progresses, achieves. It is a time during which the action simply acts, and acts, and acts.

Richard Serra, TTI London, 2007

Next is from Tony Smith: Architect, Painter, Sculptor by Robert Storr (1998):

… “Why didn’t you make it larger so that it would loom over the observer?” Robert Morris asked him. “I was not making a monument,” was Smith’s reply. “Then why didn’t you make it smaller so that the observer could see over the top?” Morris persisted. “I was not making an object,” the artist answered.

Tony Smith, Die, 1962 [measuring 6 x 6 x 6′]

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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