There are two materials for sculpture. One is the actual physical
matter to be worked upon, and the second is the life experiences
of the sculptor.
Traditionally, the sculptor had to choose stone, wood, clay, or
bronze as his material. Sculpture was expected to survive the
ages and had to be realized in hard durable materials. Today, the
sculptor is able to range over any material that suits the
creation of a particular idea. There are now sculptures that are
soft, pliable, that readily mold themselves to the environment.
The environment itself is a subject for sculpture in which further form change is left to nature's ecology.
The new approach to material was one of the first statements found in modern sculpture. Since the end
of the Renaissance until the beginning of the twentieth century, materials had been abused by the
sculptor. Works were first done in one material, such as clay, on a small scale, and then transferred to
another material such as stone without regard to structure or scale. A sculptor would make an image
ten inches high in clay and then a battery of artisans would enlarge that image into stone through the
use of measuring tools, and the sculpture would be placed on a site without regard for the visual scale
of the final location. Often the sculptor didn't even see the finished piece. Stone sculptures were molded
from wet clay. Stone is carved, hard, durable material, not a plastic material that is modeled such as
clay. In the nineteenth century, the manufacture of sculpture became dominant, executed by artisans,
and the quantity of sculpture produced had an inverse proportion to the quality.
Modern sculpture began with the sculptor re-asserting himself with the object and the material. The
sculptor worked directly on the material, and with stone this was called "direct stone carving." This
meant that the sculptor worked on the stone without having previously made a model in another
material, allowing the individual stone to suggest shapes. This is a process that allows the sculptor to
improvise as the work progresses.
This led the sculptor to the concept "Truth to Materials." This meant that each
material had a look and feeling that demanded the sculpture to be developed
fully in that direction. It became apparent that this placed a limitation on the
inception of a piece, and as a concept it went the traditional route of developing
into a mystique of materials.
Does stone have a stony look, does wood have a woody look? And what does
that even mean? "Truth to materials" is a psychological statement that can
change from sculptor to sculptor dealing with man's world, and is not about the
nature of material. the only truth that doesn't change is that a sculptor must
take into consideration the structural properties of a material.
Material is chosen according to the form of the content. Can the material hold the image? Should the
form be hot or cold? You can have a cold image in a natural material such as dead white marble, or a hot
form in an industrial material such as a cool plastic. Cold and hot forms depend upon the total
configuration of the piece and the relationships of the forms. The crossing of image and material is
another reason "truth to materials" is no longer valid. Must a material be defined as to what is "truth"
and thus be limited?
A sculptor may select a material and fit his idea to it or he may have an idea and fit the material to it. The
first idea is a physical one, and the second, a mental one, but both have the same results. It's important
to maintain an open attitude and to experiment, combining, combining or reversing the above two
processes with material in a single piece. Soon, the experimental stage between sculptor and material
ends, a direction is found, and the experimenting is then, in its turn, left to the viewer. He will then have
to devise ways of relating the new materials of sculpture to his concept of what sculpture should be.
As I said at the beginning of this section, the world of the sculptor is also material for sculpture. Each
age demands its own art. The art of other ages can give us insights, but no answers. Our age is one of
dissolution, and this is the material of our art. The summarizers and reflectors, using dissolution and
disorder, create an art not from, but out of disorder, spreading the process of coming apart. Another
approach is to work from the disorder, attempting to fabricate an order that rises to a whole. To maintain
a sense of wholeness, a principle of order is required of an art work. In an age that is going into a state of
chaos, the artist must work harder, with a more violent effort, in order to effect his synthesis. He must
literally make the plastic form of his vision from the substance of experience without the guide of an