Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Gabo and Pevsner

1920 - Manifesto

Two sculptors, the thirty-year-old Naum Gabo and his brother, the thirty-four-year-old Anton Pevsner, have decided to reconstruct art on an entirely new basis, in agreement with the society in which we live today. Even Cubism and Futurism do not break really with the past, in their eyes. The text that follows is the center section of their Realist Manifesto, printed in Moscow on August 5 by the 2nd state printing plant. The reader will find it to be a bewildered hymn to science and technology.

We proclaim: For us, space and time are born today. Space and time: the only forms where life is built, the only forms, therefore, where art should be erected.

States, political and economic systems, die under the push of the centuries: ideas crumble, but life is robust; it grows and cannot be ripped up, and time is continuous in life's true duration. Who will show us more efficient forms? Which great human will give us more solid foundations? Which genius will conceive for us a legend more elating than the prosaic story that is called life?

The fulfillment of our perception of the world under the aspects of space and time: that is the only goal of our plastic creation.

And we do not measure our work by the yardstick of beauty, we do not weigh it on the scales of tenderness and feeling. The plumb line in hand, the look accurate as a ruler, the mind rigid as a compass, we are building our works as the universe builds. This is why, when we represent objects, we are tearing up the labels their owners gave them, everything that is accidental and local, leaving them with just their essence and their permanence, to bring out the rhythm of the forces that hide in them.

1. In painting, we repudiate color as a pictorial element. Color is the idealized and optical face of the objects. The exterior impression is superficial. Color is accidental and has nothing in common with the internal content of bodies.

We proclaim that the tone of bodies, that is, their material substance absorbing the light, is their sole pictorial reality.

2. We deny the line its graphic value. In the real life of the bodies, there is nothing graphic. The line is only an accidental trace that humans leave on objects. It has no connection to essential life and to the permanent structure of things. The line is a merely graphic, illustrative, decorative element.

We acknowledge the line only as the direction of static forces that are hidden in the objects, and of their rhythms.

3. We disown volume as a plastic form of space. One cannot measure a liquid in inches. Look at our real space: What is it if not a continuous depth?

We proclaim depth as the unique plastic form of space.

4. We disown, in sculpture, mass as a sculptural element. Every engineer knows that the static forces of solids, their material resistance, are not a function of their mass. Example: the rail, the buttress, the beam . . . But you sculptors of any trend and any nuance, you always cling to the old prejudice according to which it is impossible to free volume from mass. Like this: We take four planes and we make of them the same volume that we would make with a mass of one hundred pounds.

We thus restore to sculpture the line as direction, which prejudice had stolen from it. This way, we affirm in sculpture depth, the unique form of space.

5. We repudiate: the millennial error inherited from Egyptian art: static rhythms seem as the sole elements of plastic creation.

We proclaim a new element in plastic arts: the kinetic rhythms, which are essential forms of our perception of real time . . .

Art is called upon to accompany man everywhere where his tireless life takes place and acts: at the workbench, at the office, at work, at rest, and at leisure; work days and holidays, at home and on the road, so that the flame of life does not go out in man.

Pevsner and Gabo, Realist Manifesto

[An Excerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 209]



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