Monday, November 24, 2008


''Foundling'', a sculpture [commissioned?] by Patricia Piccinini from the show Related Individuals at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, Australia. The show is on until Dec. 6th.


Holly said...

I remember her work from the We Are Family exhibit photos. Although it's interesting, it's not totally clear to me that it's so interesting as to continue doing it for many years. I wonder if she's stuck here, or will move on to other interesting explorations?

Rufus said...

I'd never seen it before. My question was if she should really be considered the artist since she had other people make the stuff. I wonder the same thing with people like Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst who have these teams assembling their work for them. I'm not really sure why we should call them artists.

Holly said...

If I recall correctly, this argument goes back to American sculptor Harriet Hosmer (and probably earlier). Hosner discovered that if you live in Rome, you can hire the services of skilled marble workers, and simply specify what it is you want them to do for you. Your name goes on the statue, and not theirs.

This is a standard practice for some forms of art production which require high levels of technical skill in addition to creative input. Foundry operations, for instance, exist to realize the designs of artists. The artist may or may not make casting form and finish the piece, but it's certainly more cost effective for everyone involved if there is a central operation to actually melt & pour bronze...

For example:

This sculpture of Don Juan de Oñate that's in El Paso, TX...

This sculpture was produced in the Shidoni foundry outside Santa Fe. It took 3-4 years to cast, clean, weld, and finish all the parts. It's enormous and intricately detailed. (I saw the pieces up close during the work, it'd detailed down to the motifs on the buttons on Oñate's cuffs. Down to the thread where the buttons are sewn on.)

Sure, it was *made* at the foundry, but where I can I point to part of the thing and say, "Well, John Sherrill Houser--the artist--had nothing to do with that bit".... ? I don't see it, to be honest. The foundry wasn't going to make this without Houser's design and model and input and finishing work.

Similarly, Koons and Hirst and all the others DO hire craftspeople to realize their visions, but those people weren't going to do those things on their own. They were doing something else with their skills and talents.

Personally, I don't think the problem is that the term artist is being over-extended. I think the problem is that the value and contribution of craftspeople is being undervalued. There is a tendency to dismiss the worth of the technical masteries of skilled craftspeople. The craft vs art argument goes back a long way, and probably won't be solved any time soon.

But if we're voting, I'm OK with barring Hirst and Koons from further public exhibition. Just on principle.