SOCIALIST HUMANISM AND SCULPTURE
In recent years, new technological inventions have created some changes in the consciousness of Yugoslav sculptors. The society's increasingly sophisticated metallurgy and the production of various synthetic materials have motivated many sculptors to develop new sculptural techniques. The wide range of new materials available to these sculptors has magnified the possibilities of new methods of expression and creative thinking. Materials have therefore begun to play an important role in determining sculptural form, size, and style.
Because of the advanced quality of engineering and craft with which steel can be constructed, suspended, balanced, welded, and displayed, many sculptors have been motivated to adapt it as their artistic medium. Others work primarily in synthetic materials, such as resin, epoxy, polyesters, and synthetic rubbers and lucites. The traditional materials of marble, wood, and bronze, also continue to be in wide use in Yugoslavia, since a number of sculptors attach great importance to the durability and sensuous characteristics of these media. The availability and low cost of marble and wood also explain their popularity. Those who work in steel and plastics show a greater interest in the experimental possibilities of their materials, and continue to directly concern themselves with inquiries into and exploitation of the properties of their materials.
The category "Social Humanism" is necessitated by a number of works which do not fit easily into the pre‑existing categories. Most of the sculptors grouped under this heading are primarily concerned with innovation, usually via the use and exploration of new materials. They often work in a constructive mode. Some have created environments, which are perhaps better referred to with the contemporary description "installations" than as sculpture. most of the sculptors dealt with in this chapter are particularly anxious to defy tradition and to expand the boundaries and definitions of sculpture. Although most rely on new industrial materials to convey their ideas, some use traditional materials like wood, although their reference is technological rather than anthropomorphic.
In fact, the sculptcrs considered here, by their own assertions, have tried to avoid symbolism and association in their work. They have attempted to determine their own, singular standards so that they might be considered free of any pre‑existing, traditional frame of reference. Although grouped here under one chapter heading, these sculptors oppose any manifestation of a collective aesthetic. Their work has resulted in a strikingly diverse range of objects. Whether constructions, soft sculpture, minimal forms, or prefabricated modules, they share certain desired ends: they are meant to shock, amuse, and fascinate ‑‑ but above all to challenge entrenched notions of what sculpture is. They have turned sculpture, historically one of the most conservative media, into a field of controversy.
Because few critics have had the courage to tackle the question of what is sculpture and what is not, recently there has been an indiscriminate acceptance as sculpture of all objects which are presented as such. The intention here is not so much to evaluate this question as to present and interpret the works per se and in terms of their creators' statements about their intentions. Although associations may be suggested, they are for descriptive purposes and are not meant to reflect the sculptors' intentions. The artists discussed here generally vehemently reject any notion of either categorization or symbolic associations for their work.
Even though there are few themes uniting this diverse grouping of sculpture, a few factors are held in common, including inspiration based on the rational order of technology (for example, works resembling machines), scrap materials used as the material, rejection of figurative and anthropomorphic associations, particular regard for unity of space and form, and a human scale intensifying the aesthetic dialogue with the observer.
To answer the sculptural problem of mass and surface and their relation to space, Dragica Cadez employs multi‑colored wooden elements. She arranges them in space in such a manner as to reveal clearly the network of their relationship and the interplay of their lines. Small Symbol with Two Lines (Fig. 90) is a strongly‑colored composition uniting two kinds of wood. Even though the rectangularity of the shapes removes the piece from nature, some elements suggest the female figure. Since Cadez denies any such symbolism, however, this piece is included in this section. The artist's use of the term "symbol" in her title seems an ironic comment on the lack of symbolism intended, or, rather, points to the irreducibility of the artistic forms to any recognizable association. The title implicitly parodies those artistic movements based on extensive use of symbolism. The "symbol" in the work represents only itself, just as the form means only itself.
The composition of three separate wooden forms which Cadez entitles Different Rhythms (Fig. 91) is even more esoteric than the previously‑discussed piece. These oblong objects with corrugated surfaces look like some instrument to measure metaphysical rather than physical dimensions. The individual pieces indicate a progression from the openended, straight patterns of furrows to more restricted and self‑contained configurations. The light color delineating the center of each form emphasizes the differences among the three pieces while uniting them in conception. The concentric rectangular patterns suggest natural forms like tree rings or spreading ripples of water, but their rectangularity denies such naturalistic associations and suggests a technological reference. Every spatial progression is equally important except the central one, from which the radiation of the others is generated. The system seems to measure this radiating force, which does not seem limited by the forms themselves but would seem to continue into space.
Tone Lapajne's Structural Object (Fig. 92) clearly demonstrates a vital concern of the artist for the interaction of form and space. This free‑standing sculpture has a monumentality whose visual strength is determined not so much by the material's characteristics (unlike most of the other works in this section, it is made of wood, a traditional material) as by the sophisticated system of balance and suspension. Two horizontal slabs whose central portions are divided into rough, grid‑like projections are joined by a central square slab of larger‑scale units. Lapajne treats form and surface in such a way that they act in combination with each other to stress the coherence of the composition. The complexity of its cheese‑grater like surface has an almost decorative aspect which is subsumed by the larger‑scale rugged features of the piece.
Lapajne's interest in articulating space finds a larger‑scale form in his series of minimal structures (Fig. 93) entitled There and Back. Two of these painted forms consist of a steel plane balanced against a steel rectangular solid, and the third, of a steel rectangular solid resting against the wall. All three sit directly on the floor, and involve diagonal movement. Paint creates a continuity of line between the two component parts of each piece. Lapajne has integrated his sculpture with the architectural environment, utilizing the floor and wall as an integral part of his structures. The contemporary term "installation" might be a more apt description of this work than "sculpture."
Tomislav Kauzlaric almost avoids pedestals in his work. Instead he suspends them from the ceiling or drops them directly onto the floor. Like Lapajne's work, these pieces confront us and relate to our space in new and direct ways, overstepping the traditional distance established by a pedestal between viewer and sculpture. Many of Kauzlaric's pieces are given titles of common objects, but they neither reflect the proportions of the object whose name they bear nor act as symbols of an~, larger concepts. An interpretation of these forms beyond their objective characteristics is alien to their nature.
Some of the objects Kauzlaric creates are painted wooden assemblages which suggest new objects of recreation. Mailbox (Fig. 94) possesses parts suggestive of play, whimsy, and relaxation. The arrangements of the forms express his concern with the order imposed on him by contemporary life. The interplay of line and plane, and of color and shape, creates a network of relationships that recalls Piet Mondrian's paintings, although this is merely a descriptive analogy since Kauzlaric's concept of art is unrelated to Mondrian and Neo‑Plasticism.
In Hippie‑Top (Fig. 95), Kauzlaric again is interested only in the formal play of his materials. A vertical form, enlarged at either end, bears a cluster of semi‑circles and curved segments which project from it at the ends of rods like hors d'oeuvres on toothpicks. The resulting object is reminiscent of some small satellite. However, the ordering of these prefabricated polychromed wooden shapes seems intuitive rather than scientific. Venia Turinski explores psychological space: her recognition and stimulation of the subconscious imbue common‑looking objects with mysterious reverberations. Some of the ‑forms within her objects seem to have originated in the collective unconscious of some primitive tribe like ritual objects, while some of them resemble tools or machines in use long before the industrial revolution which are now afunctional relics of that time. Zoran Petrovic writes about her forms:
Her sculpture‑objects shelter mystery. We can feel their magic as they irresistibly invite us to a sort of ritual dance. These objects tempt the spectator to touch them, to feel them, but this invitation cannot be taken literally. In the invitation itself there is an element of forbiddance. And just as a totemic object may be touched only in situations determined by taboo, thus Venia's sculpture defends itseli through a sort of taboo . . . this taboo is the creative force of the sculptress, who offers us ritual connected with the object, but at the same time reminds us that the ritual is to take place on a higher spiritual and transcendental level, and not as an amusing game.1
The wooden Press (Fig. 96) admits no discrepancy between the aesthetic and the functional. They are united here; Turinskils art seems to be in part about the beauty of functional structures. Since the beauty here is determined by the sculptress's intuitive feelings rather than through any intellectual conceptualization, the Press conveys a feelina of human expressiveness, its surface seemingly worn by human handling. As singular as her sculpture is, certain Constructivist principles of composition are apparent, such as the strict geometric ordering of the elements despite their warm, irregular quality, the aesthetic balancing of individual prefabricated shapes like the arc projecting to the right, and the clear planes established by the parts.
Grindstone (Fig. 97) is a "vital image" suggestive of manufacture by human hands for the purpose of human labor. It invites the viewer to approach and identify with it. This is neither a functional nor anthropomorphic form, yet a sense of human reality permeates it. Mass is important to the expressive content of the piece: two vertical oblong pieces clasp a wheel between them, displacing and curving the surrounding space.
Bosco Kucinski is an artist who stresses the purity and integrity of his sculptural materials against associative or symbolic meaning. Yet his work has no trace of Kauzlaric's references to technological mass production, nor any decorative features. Despite this stress on the material per se, folk tradition and spiritual totems may have provided the inspiration for his works.
Skadar at Bojana (Fig. 98) is carved in wood and interwoven with rope. The rope has a visual rather than structural purpose. Its horizontally‑arranged loops contrast with the vertical segments of the sculpture and reduce their massiveness. Striated like weathered stone, these vertical elements would suggest impenetrable geological structures without the contradictory free penetration of the rope, which constantlybreaks the strong upward movement and creates a horizontal rhythmic flow. The opposition of the mineral‑like mass and the flexible rope constitutes a dynamic harmony rather than merely a decorative counterpoint. This sculpture has architectonic qualities, as if it were part of the structure of an actual landscape. The materials, the contrast of the smooth and flexible with the rough and static, and the diagonal, thrusting motion of the piece, also evoke a maritime inspiration.
The strange wooden boxes of Vojislav Jakic at first seem to bear some relation to the surrealist symbolist boxes of the idiosyncratic American artist Joseph Cornell. But their components are devoid of the rich literary symbolism of Cornell's boxes and only the concept of the box itself relates them. Jakic's boxes are actually unique plastic symbols originating in the artist's own experience and created to express his private emotions. Spider's Death (Fig. 99) presents itself from a distance as a piece of furniture, like a cabinet with its door ajar.Upon closer examination, this object possesses charisma surpassing any identification of it with an object from everyday life. It encloses something mysterious and disturbing, even though the contents represent nothing specifically symbolic or suggestive. The wooden elements within are quite simple, but somehow they speak to a level of our consciousness beyond the aesthetic one. In its structure and covert suggestiveness, this piece recalls the work of the American sculptress Louise Nevelson more than anyone else. I Tomo Sijakovic creates an inventive plastic reality with his complicated constructions of mixed industrial materials (Fig. 100). The smooth relation of the components of the pJLeces suggest workable mechanisms. They look at once like architectural models and electronic gadgets, and relate visually to the innovative constructions from new technological materials made by Russian Constructivist sculptors like Tatlin, and those envisioned in the writings of the Italian Futurists like Boccioni in his sculpture manifesto. Like them, it seems to imply some future environment in small scale.
Jagoda Bujic takes traditionally functional materials and divests them of any utilitarian aspect. She uses soft sculpture to re‑define space. She shapes the environment where her work stands, but unlike an architect, she composes her elements from a purely visual rather than practical viewpoint. Bujic occupies a distinctive place in the international sculpture arena by inventing new artistic uses for weaving outside of its traditional application. Her free‑standing woven structures suggest hut‑like interconnected habitations or shelters. They are linked by the linear flow of the textural patterning‑ In contrast to traditional artistic use of weaving, like tapestries, her works create walls rather than decorating them. (Fig. 101) shows an overall view of her exhibit at the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris, where her free‑standing sculptures dominate the space.
Bujic's method of creating these structures is very process‑oriented. She does not have a predetermined plan for her compositions, but works freely with her media, letting ,her forms develop without preconceived ideas. Her creative daring and constant experimental efforts enable her to retain a dynamic and ever‑changing approach to an ancient art form.
The tactile quality of the composition (Fig. 102) is as important as its size and form. Fine weaving and soft tufts are contrasted with large nuts, irregular braids, and rings, and a major part of the three‑dimensionality of the piece is determined by these distinctive surfaces. The nuts, ribs, braids, squares, and rectangles make relief‑like patterns which cover and define the free‑standing forms. The forms themselves appear natural and earthy, and this, combined with their architectonic qualities, suggests that the visitor has stumbled into a deserted primitive village. A number of spherical "fruits" resting directly on the floor like baskets add another dimension to the composition, and increase its feeling of wholeness as a habitable environment. The viewer feels compelled to walk through and around these walls because they are open and provide structure without confinement. Despite their size, the forms are not threatening because of their dominant qualities of softness, lightness, and openness. Their human scale encourages exploration, and their sculptural grandeur invites rather than alienates.
Sharing some of the views of Eduardo Paolozzi, Milija Nesic is also concerned with the "rational of the industrial age." His technological objects express the complexity of human life in contemporary culture. His objects tend to be rather austere, with no human references. Nesic stresses the beauty of his industrial materials, the harmony of proportions, and surface textural variation. These highly polished, perfected forms, involve a high level and awareness of craftsmanship.
Nesic's Object Idea (Fig. 103) is composed in aluminum. The primary geometric shapes ‑‑ ellipses, parallel lines, circles, cubes, and a crescent ‑‑ spread vertically across space like a column of hieroglyphs. The composition reads symmetrically around the central ovoid form in sensitively equilibrated balance. The buffed reflecting surfaces of these elements provide a jewel‑like precision and bring the 228 surrounding environment into the piece. Set against a dark panel which in turn adheres to a white arch‑shaped form, the sculpture exists three‑dimensionally despite its relief‑like qualities.
Oto Logo also deals with conceptions that relate to the world of technology. His precise craftsmanship, the smooth relationship of curved plans and pure lines, and the use of reflecting surfaces result in a well‑defined, association‑free artistic style.
His bronze Sculpture (Fig. 104) is a powerful, unified composition with a constantly changing form. Two curved vertical elements which incline inward and are joined at their mid‑section surround a central, vertical screw form, which sits on the base of the larger vertical element. The other vertical member seems to step off the base and seems to be helped onto it by the joined "arms." The expressive content of the piece is achieved through the solidity of the masses, the mirror‑like surfaces, and the contrast of the carving outer forms with the central mechanical spiral form. This central form imparts a vertical movement to the piece which is countered by the overreaching forms around it, resulting in a tension between the outer and inner forms.
Although different in form, Sculpture (Fig. 105) is similar in structural principles to the previous work. Here again curved outer forms enclose a more dynamic, broken inner vertical form. The light reflected by the shiny periscope‑like mirror at the top, which bridges the bisected ovoid form, captures the eye and establishes the vertical axis along which the eye descends via the diagonal disks between them which seem like some mechanism for opening and closing the form. Organic and mechanistic forms join to create a work of tremendous vitality despite its overt simplicity.
The Macedonian sculptor Stefan Manevski welds sculptureobjects from technological debris. Some of his works have totemic associations, while others possess a more personal significance.
Morbid Leg (Fig. 106) is welded from parts of old mechanisms, I‑beams, and sheet metal. The component parts ‑‑ different in color, shape, and origin ‑‑ fuse suggestions of aggression and monumentality with more animated elements of whimsy and decorativeness. These components rest together in the one piece like the record of a process of creative discovery rather than a predetermined scheme. Geometric and symmetrical features contrast with the irregular elements in an animated equilibrium.
The First Big Festivity (Fig. 107) by Naso Becarovski consists of two large circular forms balanced on their edge which spring in opposite directions away from the center. This center, which seems to be held as if by pincers by the surrounding circular forms, is itself composed of two halves of a circular:form between which is suspended a series of bullet‑like forms projecting outward. The outer forms are textured by welded beads; this rough texture contrasts with the smooth surface of the bullet‑forms, which form a nucleus of activity. Space is an integral part of the composition and shot with tension as it separates the two pairs of forms from their other "half."
The three identical arced pieces of iron welded together in a sculpture by Vojin Stojic (Fig. 108) form a soaring, elegant construction. Standing on the tripod formed by themselves, the three elements touch one another at four points at the center of the composition, which is opened by three arcs cut out of each element. There is a tense, high‑precision delicacy to the piece, which is made of modern materials; it seems poised for the flight its soaring contours imply.
Petar Hadji‑Boskov arranges his forms diagonally in vertical structures which resemble collapsing architectural constructions. His works demonstrate his interest in dynamic spatial order and the exterior properties of planes. Light and dark from the shifting planeseats into the mass of his sculpture, revealing the sculptor's fundamental concern with the dialectic of interior and exterior space. If the "materials" of twentieth century sculpture are space, time, and energy, as some theorizers have asserted, then Hadji‑Boskov understands his materials. His column Sculpture I (Fig. 109), like a collapsed version of Brancusi's Endless Column seems to expand and contract with the vertically‑moving rhythm of the deeply faceted surface. The simple cubistic forms of the top and base of the piece contain a condensed energy which is released along the column. The rhythm of the forms is inseparable from their conformation.
The bronze double column entitled Touch I (Fig. 110) by Belizar Bahoric relates in its columnar configuration to Hadji‑Boskov's column, although it is less active. The piece consists of two pillar‑like forms contiguous at a point somewhat above the mid‑point of both. Reminiscent of some ancient ruin, its simplicity nonetheless allies it more compellingly to the modern age. The pieces give the impression of once having been one and then broken or separated by some natural force.
The forms of Jordan Grabulosk also evince an interest in the apparently accidental, here not so much the result of natural forces but of random placement. His art consists of the large‑scale configurations of objects which Grabuloski feels only exist in because of their relationships to each other and to their surroundings rather than any intrinsic qualities of the individual components. Ambient (Fig. 111) builds spatial composition from minimal forms. Dropped casually into industrial settings, these painted reductive forms interrupt the space and create their own environment, just as comparable work by American Minimalists like Carl Andre or Richard Serra, when placed in the midst of urban settings, create their own ambience. Grabuloski justifies the transformation of the "object" to the "art object" by emphasizing the architectural concepts lying behind his works.
A member of the group "10 Plus" from Belgrade, Milorad Tepavac, builds alumin=, objects that look like megalithic contemporary totems. The Modular Sculpture A 14 (Fig. 112) is constructed of dense aluminum plates horizontally and regularly aligned and held together by more complex vertical segments. The suggestion of some industrial form, either as large scale as an electronic plan or as small‑scale as the interior of a battery‑cell, creates a powerful although covert psychological force.
While Tepavac emulates technology in his forms, two other members of the group "10 Plus" ‑‑ Milun Vicic and Ratko Bulanovic ‑‑ create surrealistic works which refer to technology in their content. Mihailo Tripkovic works in a visually narrative or symbolistic mode, utilizing the humorous and grotesque. His Grand Orator (Fig. 113) recalls the early surrealistic works of Giacometti like Palace at Four A.M. or even more specifically, Caught Hand." In a glass box‑float two round mirrors within the arrangement. Here the political and poetic concerns take precedence over the formal concerns more characteristic of this group.
For Stevan Luketic, the harmony of his simple, half‑enclosed volumes is the paramount feature of his art. He deliberately limits the variety of his elements, stressing a kind of architectural order and balance. In Sculpture (Fig. 114), a ten‑foot high structure, two vertical units composed of steel planes hold a vertical series of six highly‑polished spheres between them. These seemingly hovering spheres join the two vertical units, which relate to each other in a positive‑negative symmetry of parts. Although precise and simple in construction, the planes set up an endless visual reverberation back and forth between them which the interstice of the spheres heightens.
Milena Lah also works in steel. Her compositions are assembled from elementary forms which assume more complex dimensions when arranged together. Lah succeeds in integrating the individual elements with one another and with whatever spatial situation they inhabit.
Many of the sculpture discussed so far in this chapter have had architectural overtones or references. Since post‑war conditions in Yugoslavia resulted in the rapid migration of the population from villages to towns and cities, creating a problem of runaway urbanization, this artistic correlation is noteworthy. The phenomenon of architectural urbanization has preoccupied Vjemceslave Richter throughout his entire artistic career. He offers his idea of a professional solution through his own system. "Systematic architecture" provides a solution to the problem of urbanization, both the present crisis and the demands of the future. This concept involves the arrangement of similar or identical objects in varied ways: diversity occurs through overall patterns of parts rather than through individual structures. Based on this idea, Richter created a device in 1964 which he calls a "reljefometer." This device was composed of 10,000 aluminum rods assembled in such a way that each one could move back and forth ten centimeters in relation to the adjacent rods. This system created the possibility of changing spatial planes, and served as a kind of membrane allowing for multiple interpretation of plastic ideas. According to Richter's theory, the movements of the rods could produce 10010,000 spatial variations within the piece, counting only those variations which could be easily perceived by the human eye.
Richter's Divided Sphere (Fig. 115) is made of more than 1,000 glass tubes; the resultant honeycomb structure demonstrates his architectural concept. Although architectural as well as sculptural in conception, the piece is a free object in space.
Dusan Dzamonja's latest artistic venture involves rational programming of the environment which will, according to him, eventually alter man's role within it. He promotes artistic objects for the coming technological society. He believes that such objects should have multiple meanings so that the viewer, interacting with them, can create aesthetic situations in which he finds personal meaning. With this idea in mind, Dzamonja designs his "model‑multiples," which are relatively small discs of stainless steel with small sectors cut out of them and held together by a pin driven through their centers so that they can spin freely about their axes. The pieces of steel are produced and assembled in a factory assembly‑line. The sector‑like notches in each discs to change when several discs are turned.
Because moving the discs involves the viewer in the creative process by encouraging him to design his own shapes, this "model‑multiple" system has a recreational function. Also, according to the artist, the relatively simple production and low cost of the objects will promote the socialization of art. In contrast to the uniqueness of other art, it has been accessible only to the elite, while these art multiples are a reality of the technological age and are accessible to all.
Miroslav Sutej also denies individual emotional or psychological experience any artistic justification. He finds artistic meaning only in the physical existence of the object; hence, he focuses his attention on craft, the quality of physical workmanship, rather than on any subjective dimension. Similar to Dzamonjals "model‑multiples," Sutej's objects also require viewer participation to change the spatial and visual relationships of the elements; in the case of his art, this is achieved by moving the poles on which the objects are mounted.
These last artists, then, are one extreme development of the consciousness of technology which characterize all the sculptors in this chapter. From assemblages miming technology representationally to identifying with it and adapting its more socially idealistic potentials, the artists discussed here have responded to technology positively, both in formal and thematic dimensions. They constitute a provocative contrast to the artistic reaction of groups such as "Biafra" to the same modern reality of technology.
1.Zoran Petrovic, Umetnost XXII (1970): 103.