(Top Image: “Sunbeams Inside St Peter’s Basilica” photo by Owen Franken)
Though the meaning and media may change, sculpture is found in most cultures around the world. It is the most enduring form of art, present since prehistory, and remains relevant in contemporary art.
A visual art that creates three-dimensional representations, sculpture has a lengthy history that spans the globe. The only remaining examples of prehistoric art exist in the stone figures and ivory figurines unearthed by archeologists. Through much of history, the art form has varied significantly in style across cultures, but it generally was figurative and shared common purposes for the figurines and statues: religion and sanctification. Contemporary sculpture has expanded beyond the figurative into abstract and conceptual expression. Sculptors, limited by tools and technology, are dependent upon available techniques, equipment, and materials. Early sculptors primarily had only stone, wood, clay, bone, and metal available. Art sculptures still are made with these materials, especially clay, perhaps the most common and easily obtained material, and bronze, the oldest and most popular choice of metal. However, technological discoveries and advancements expanded the types of media available to artists, who can now choose from a wide array of materials, including glass, plastic, concrete, fiberglass, and wax in addition to the traditional metal, stone, and clay. Experimental sculptors broaden the concept of what materials are acceptable, using such media as felt, found objects, organic materials, and neon light for their art sculptures. One of the best-known, perhaps the most significant sculptor of the modern era, Auguste Rodin challenged the established styles of his time. Rodin transformed monumental public projects away from conventional standards through his use of emotional poses and thematic symbolism. After Modernism, sculpture progressed along with the Twentieth Century, providing representative works of Cubism, Surrealism, Pop Art, and Minimalism. Since the 1970s, art sculptures generally have been classified as Postmodern. These contemporary sculptures question the established notions of art and push the limits of three-dimensional expression. At times, contemporary artists’ works even crossover into other art forms, blurring the lines between sculpture, installation art, and assemblage art.
- Mae West Lips Sofa, by Salvador Dali, 1937
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial, by Gutzon Borglum (completed by his son, Lincoln Borglum), 1941
- Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni, 1913
- Michael Jackson and Bubbles, by Jeff Koons, 1988
- Object, by Meret Oppenheim, 1936
- The largest of the art sculptures is China’s Spring Temple Buddha. Completed in 2002, the statue stands 420 feet above a monastery.
- In 2007, Jeff Koons’ Hanging Heart broke world auction records for a living artist when the piece sold for $23 million.
- Each president of Mount Rushmore was intended to be head to waist, but lack of funding permitted only the busts.