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Abstract Sculpture

The origins of abstract sculpture lie in the artistic developments of the 19th and 20th centuries. By ceasing to use antiquity as a source of inspiration, which had previously dominated sculptural creation for centuries, Auguste Rodin led the way for modern sculpture. Although Rodin's sculptures continued to respect the principles of classical art, his work encouraged many 20th century sculptors to break away from traditional conventions.

Rodin's sculptures were a source of inspiration for Brancusi and his distinctive use of clean, simple lines. He later went on to pave the way for abstract sculpture.

The beginning of the 20th century was marked by several discoveries including key mathematical advances which fascinated intellectuals. At the same time, many exiled European artists arrived in Paris seeking refuge, and formed various different art movements, each one hoping to lead the way for a better world. The World Wars were fundamental in encouraging artists to detach themselves from the violence of their lived realities.

A new form of expression appeared; abstraction! Artists no longer wanted to represent reality in a figural way but explored expressing the immaterial using shapes, colour…

Cubism was responsible for introducing the use of geometric shapes to modern art. Representing real life objects as shapes from different angles allowed the artist to create completely new perspectives. Thank you Pablo Picasso! Sculpture was no longer obliged to represent reality in a literal sense as we see it before our very eyes. Sculpture became the object in its own right, embodying its very essence.

Perhaps out of necessity, Cubists imposed few limits in regards to the materials they worked with, many of which were not as 'noble' as those previously used in sculpture and included steel and cardboard.

Several movements were to follow, including Dadaism, Neo-Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, all of which helped to expand abstract art.

Marcel Duchamp, who had shown interest in the movement, introduced the art world to his 'ready-mades', establishing the idea that an artwork can be a manufactured object. In his view, it was up to the artist to decide whether something is worthy of being called a work of art or not.

Italian Futurism focused on the representation of movement and was responsible for the creation of kinetic art, in which movement is the artwork itself. One artist in particular had a profound impact on abstract sculpture and that was Thank you Alexander Calder. His famous mobiles were made of thin strips of smooth metal, tied together with strong wire. His colour palette was inspired by Piet Mondrian and he was even quoted as saying: 'I want to make Mondrians that move.' Jean Tinguely and Nicolas Schöffer also explored kinetic art and the use of robotics.

As art continued to deal with objects taken from daily life, artists increasingly used poorer materials or objects that had been recycled.

After the Second World War, sculptors could start to be creative on an even bigger scale. Thanks to increased industrialisation, they could produce larger sculptures which were highly weather-resistant, creating possibilities for outdoor creations. Within the Land Art movement, Christo and Jeanne Claude create sculptures which are directly part of the landscape. In Minimalism, the sculpture and its material are determined by its environment so as to highlight the sense of emptiness and space which surrounds it. An excellent example of minimalist sculpture would be Richard Serra's gigantic creations which allow visitors to explore and wander around inside them.

Some of the biggest names incontemporary sculpture include Anish Kapoor, Donald Judd, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois and Sol LeWitt.

Discover Artsper's collection of abstract sculpture from contemporary artists such as Man Ray, Victor Vasarely, César and Nando Stevoli...

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