Academic Session 34: UEA 2015

41st Annual Conference & Bookfair
Sainsbury Institute for Art, UEA, Norwich
9 – 11 April 2015

Why Sculpture Is Not Boring: New approaches to modern sculpture, 1846-1966

Session Convenors:

Natasha Ruiz-Gómez, University of Essex,
Juliet Bellow, American University, Washington DC,

In a few brief – and now infamous – passages of his Salon of 1846, published under the heading ‘Why Sculpture Is a Bore’, Charles Baudelaire tolled the death-knell for the medium of sculpture. Elaborating upon the centuries-old paragone, Baudelaire not only cited sculpture’s inferiority in the face of painting’s more expansive formal resources, but also concluded that the medium was ill-equipped to capture modernity’s particular forms of beauty. While sculptural production both before and after 1846 was anything but boring, Baudelaire’s eulogy cast a pall over the study of sculpture. The publication of Robert Morris’s ‘Notes on Sculpture’ in 1966 arguably resuscitated the medium in the realm of practice – yet art-historical enquiry on sculpture remained stuck in the methodological past. Scholars of sculpture have only recently taken fuller advantage of new interpretive and theoretical models – from psychoanalysis to post-colonialism and the anti-hermeneutic turn – that allow for innovative interpretations of sculpture’s distinctive contributions to modernism.

This panel includes papers on sculpture between 1846 and 1966 that make the case against Baudelaire and that collectively resituate sculpture’s place in modernity and in modernism. They investigate the contextual frameworks for the production and reception of sculpture; provide a global perspective on the medium; and push the theoretical boundaries of scholarship in the field. Moreover, they reflect upon questions of method and incorporate historiographies of modern sculpture.

Florence Quideau (Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY) Who Said Sculpture Was a Bore?

Sharon Hecker (Independent Scholar) Battling Baudelaire: Medardo Rosso and the birth of modern sculpture

John Zarobell (University of San Francisco) Mass Production and Originality: Rodin’s Patinas, 1902–17

Katrina E. Greene (University of Delaware) In Search of a Modern Outer Form: Colour and patination in William Zorach’s sculpture

Rosalind McKever (Independent Scholar) Not So Unique Forms? Casting Boccioni in and out of modern sculpture

Natasha Adamou (University of Essex) Surrealist Objects and the Crisis of Sculpture, 1930/2013

Imogen Hart (University of California, Berkeley) Sculpture Critics and Evolutionary Theory at the Turn of the 20th Century

Lesley Shipley (Moore College of Art and Design) Lee Bontecou’s Ambivalent Objects