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Sculpture Marathon – with Brandt Junceau

Spring 2019

Course Description

Some of us consider the head the basic unit of sculpture. It’s the one piece of the body that can stand in for the rest, and the one part that we consider a likeness of the whole.
Let’s say the old-fashioned mounted bust is a unit of one plus a fraction; a decimal of 1.xxx, more or less; the head plus some body and molding, etc. How does one get to a clean unit of 1.000? It’s practical problem with wide philosophical implications. At 1.000, is the “head” an “object”?

The aggregate mission of western sculpture is presence. Does the head at 1.000 open a fresh path to presence? Giacometti, famously, wrote a tale of a death vigil (it really happened, as a young man traveling alone from Switzerland to Italy; a fellow traveler died suddenly and Giacometti sat overnight with the body). Before he knew what to do with it, he had seen the human thing. A person become object. Over the years following he trafficked between “present” and “matter.” For just so long, some of western Europe’s most advanced work on the question of human being, condition, self and other was investigated by a guy in jacket and tie, hands on a lump of clay.

That can be art, and that artist can be us.

This Marathon concentrates on concepts of life and ‘head,” and the techniques of mold-making, variation and development: how, nuts-and-bolts, to make ideas into objects and vice versa.

Course Outline

We begin at a point between naturalism and “the object.” Starting with the skull. Each student pours a life-size plaster skull from a mold. The plaster castings are the basis of a “head-object.” In the course of adding to and cutting away the cast plaster, we discuss problems of how to dissociate the object from the body (these pieces will be neck and shoulder-less), and how to place and orient this thing without the body. We’ll review those issues in brief slide talks. The first talk leads from the early 20C naturalistic bust, to Rilke’s essay on sculpture-as-thing, and to Brancusi’s early detached heads. How to and why to, and where does it get us.

At the end of the first week, we make a flexible rubber mold from the work in progress. From that you get the basic know-how for mold-making in your independent work. That first mold is the means of outward development. By a sequence of molds, and castings, the states-in-progress multiply. Your work moves forward while retaining your threshold points of departure. In the second week, brief morning slide lectures continue almost daily; on the “post/anti-classical head,” “the irrational head,” “the inchoate head,” and “the unified head,” each of which is an ongoing ready point of departure today. The class is intended as a working seminar. We talk as we work. A group review of progress takes place on the second to last day, and appointments will be made then for individual reviews on the last.

Course Syllabus

Snapshots From NYSS

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