Reading from Inside the White Cube, Brian O’Doherty at UCC Lewis Glucksman Art Gallery 20th February 2018

O’ Doherty’s essay (Texts were originally published as a series of essays) about the emergence of a white cube style gallery space was a natural step in the evolution of methods of display, it occurred as modernism continued to expand the limits of both each individual medium and of the frame itself. Art needed a greater space within which to contemplate and evaluate itself. I have gathered some of my favourite passages from the text and documented some of my own thoughts and musings in this post.

Chapter I Notes on the Gallery Space

“A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white… The art is free, as the saying used to go, “to take on its own life”.” (P.15) Since the work of art becomes sacred due to its context, it is the context that becomes the work. In the late modernist movement, the frame became less important and the gallery more important.

On our lecturer Lucy’s recommendation I looked up the work of Jacques Derrida, a French philosopher best known for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction, which he discussed in numerous texts, and developed in the context of phenomenology. He is one of the major figures associated with post-structuralism and postmodern philosophy. I found a great scientific article on dwelling and the deconstruction of space by Francesco Vitale which is feeding into my studio practice, I’m exploring dimensions and deconstruction.

Studio Drawing February 2018

“Abstract Expressionist paintings followed the route of lateral expansion, dropped off the frame, and gradually began to conceive the edge as a structural unit through which the painting entered into a dialogue with the wall beyond it.” (P.27) With modernism, work begins to escape the frame.

“Stella’s show of striped U, T, and L-shaped canvasses at Castelli in 1964 “developed” every bit of the wall, floor to ceiling, corner to corner. ….The hanging there was as revolutionary as the paintings; since the hanging was part of the aesthetic, it evolved simultaneously with the pictures.”  (P.29) The gallery space itself becomes art  and context becomes content

Frank Stella had an increasing interest in asymmetrical pattern, irregular shape, and varied color tendencies that paralleled his canvases’ shift from flat to high relief constructions. His early work The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, 1961 was about creating an illusion of space based in visual tension, Sharpeville, 1962, is an example of the development of Stella’s iconic, monochromatic imagery of concentric squares. Stella’s Polish Village series of the early 1970s was an experiment in bringing a literal third dimension to his artworks by incorporating low relief constructions inspired by architectural design. Stella’s works express the artist’s central ideas with clarity, maintaining his aphorism that “what you see is what you see” Constructivism and Malevich’s Suprematism appeared to have an ultimate truth to convey.

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In Frank Stella’s Polish Village Series he moves away from the flat surface to the third dimension. He is consistent with his hard edges, geometric shapes, pop of color and visual flatness, yet its hard to deny this series is very sculptural. Made with primarily acrylic paint and cloth on constructed plywood, the use of industrial materials was new to his art. The inspiration for this series all began when Stella stumbled upon pictures of Polish synagogues that were destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War 2. He was struck by the architecture of the buildings, and his intent for the series was not to create a memorial, but he was accepting a creative challenge at how to address the construction of these buildings

We discussed the institution of art as a philosophical constitution and how it may affect our own artistic practice. We had a brief talk and introduction from Chris Clarke, Senior Curator at The Lewis Glucksman Gallery about the current show: Outposts: Global borders and national boundaries (1 December 2017 – 11 March 2018) My pick of the exhibition was the work of irish artist Willie Doherty and the hanging of his work far below regular eye level, close to where floor meets wall.