Unreal Nature

August 22, 2016

Art’s Hidden But Persistent Narrativity

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… It tells of those larger movements of the artist’s personality, his persistence, his intuitiveness, his cunning, his triumph.

This is from MoMA curator Laura Rosenstock’s Introduction to Richard Serra/Sculpture (1986):

Serra’s works involve the viewer in this creative, exploratory process. They heighten perceptual awareness and virtually force interaction. They compel the viewer to confront his experience and perception of them in relation to both space and time and to focus on their physical properties and the manner in which they were created.

[line break added] All Serra’s sculptures are concerned with what can actually be experienced and observed. Some reveal the process of their making, some clarify aspects of their physical properties, and others redefine the nature of the space they occupy. It is only in tracing these interactions, in “working” to understand the pieces, that they become fully comprehendible and meaningful.

[ … ]

… The artist himself has said: “The structures are the result of experimentation and invention. In every search there is always a degree of unforeseeability, a sort of troubling feeling, a wonder after the work is complete, after the conclusion. The part of the work which surprises me, invariably leads to new works.” For Serra, “most work comes out of work and out of the perception of work.”

[line break added] His structures evolve from earlier pieces and from his experience of those pieces. The viewer, too, must “work” to understand the pieces. By participating in the work, by confronting his perceptions and exploring the paths revealed by the sculptures, the viewer discovers the complexity and meaning of the structures and ultimately shares in the excitement the artist derives from his work.


The following is from Rosalind Krauss’s essay in the book (the essay title is the same as the book title):

… One of the founding arguments about visual art’s relation to narrative turns on the essential distinction between the medium of narration — time — and that of the depicted image — space. In this difference, Gotthold Lessing had argued in the Laocoön (1766), one should locate both the separate problems of the various aesthetic mediums as well as the genius particular to each.

[line break added] He concluded that the problem for the visual artist, who is limited to just one moment in a narrative sequence, is to find the most suggestive or most pregnant moment, the one that will imply both what has already happened and what is to come.

… [The] supposed voiding of narrative within Modernism is, however, only seeming. For Modernist art’s simultaneity is still understood as a “most pregnant moment” — an experience extended and made replete with a certain kind of understanding, a certain kind of ecstatic or spiritual dilation, a certain kind of drive to completion. Within this situation, the genre of the Portrait of the Artist has a special role.

[line break added] It is the signifier of art’s hidden but persistent narrativity; for the unfolding of the artist’s gesture in this work, which is a model on a small scale for the larger unfolding of all his gestures into that totality of his works to which we give the name oeuvre, this is the story of the artist that each portrait can encapsulate. It tells of those larger movements of the artist’s personality, his persistence, his intuitiveness, his cunning, his triumph.





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