Unreal Nature

May 17, 2016

Learning How to See

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… They are not satisfied with the knowledge of what they think they know about something — like true empiricists, they are always gathering more data.

This is from Contemporary American Realism since 1960 by Frank H. Goodyear, Jr. (1981):

… The subject matter of Pop Art (and Pop sculpture) was based on familiar materials — brand-name goods and other ordinary images taken from popular culture — that had a precoded information level. As Lawrence Alloway said, it was an art about signs and sign systems. Contemporary realist sculptors who use images from everyday life as their subject matter share this with Pop sculptors, but their work differs in three important ways.

[line break added] First, their art is not based upon the desire to borrow “signs.” Indeed, they have chosen as their subject nonprecoded images, not limited by a priori ideas. Second, their attitude to subject matter is less satirical and caustic; it is more affirmative in its genuine appreciation of the beauty inherent in the most ordinary objects.

[line break added] Third, realist sculpture is not so much predicated upon an object-making mentality — although realist sculptors do make real-looking objects — as it is upon the perception of those objects. As Jud Nelson, who makes meticulously detailed styrofoam as well as marble sculptures, has said, “If there is one activity that takes place in my studio, it is learning how to see.”

Nelson_Wonderbrread
Jud Nelson, Wonder Bread No. 3, 1977

… [Nelson’s] subjects — sunglasses, slices of bread, teabags, Popsicles, mousetraps, and the like, seen in multiples of six — are records of Nelson’s perceptual acumen, of his need to detail the slightest features of an object with the utmost fidelity, as well as records of his own working processes. … His life-size objects are derived from real objects and not photographs of them, and are not about the objects themselves but about the act of perception.

[line break added] Working in the series format … , Nelson believes that one’s perception of objects is increased if one sees them individually and comparatively so that the nuances of each state become clearer while the observer decides whether to regard [the] objects as six exact duplicates or six unique objects.

Nelson_onWall

[ … ]

… No matter what their bias, formal or phenomenological, contemporary realists share a basic concern for visual perception. They like to give the viewer a lot to look at. They like to test their own ability to see at the same time that they challenge ours. They are not satisfied with the knowledge of what they think they know about something — like true empiricists, they are always gathering more data.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

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