LESSON ONE: Serial Forms/Material Difference
The proliferation of consumer goods in the United States after World War II prompted Pop artists to borrow the materials, techniques, and imagery of mass production for their art. A predominantly American group of artists known as Minimalists used manufactured materials, industrial fabrication, and repeated forms in their work, but opted to leave the imagery of Pop art behind. Together these strategies challenged traditional notions of the uniqueness of works of art and the role of artistic expression and skill.
In this lesson, students will consider their own definitions of painting and sculpture and explore three works of art made with repeated forms that may challenge these definitions. Students will discuss artists' choices in relation to materials, methods of making, and display.
- Students will consider artists' choices related to materials, line, color, and scale.
- Students will consider artists' motivations for using repeated forms.
- Students will compare and contrast industrially fabricated works of art with those made by hand.
The three works of art discussed in this lesson employ repeated forms and use materials that are associated more with industry than with art. These tendencies were embraced by Pop artists in the early 1960s, most notably Andy Warhol.
- Show your students an image of Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times (1963), by Andy Warhol. This work may be viewed in MoMA's Online Collection (http://www.moma.org/collection/). Ask your students to describe what they see. What image do they see? How many times is it repeated?
To make this painting, Warhol and members of his studio, which he called The Factory, screenprinted a police photograph of a fatal car accident onto a canvas fourteen times. About this method of working Warhol said, "I tried doing them by hand, but I find it easier to use a screen. This way, I don't have to work on my objects at all. One of my assistants or anyone else, for that matter, can reproduce the design as well as I could." [Andy Warhol,quoted in Kasper König et al.,eds., Andy Warhol (Stockholm:Moderna Museet,1968), n.p.]
- Ask your students to consider Warhol's choice of photograph and how this image changes— both visually and in meaning—when it is repeated fourteen times.
- Ask your students to consider why the photographic image is repeated on one canvas but not the other.
Warhol added a plain red canvas to the first to form a diptych. About this he stated, "You see, for every large painting I do, I paint a blank canvas, the same background color. The two are designed to hang together however the owner wants....It just makes them bigger and mainly makes them cost more." Andy Warhol, "Superpop or a Night at the Factory," interview by Roger Vaughan, New York Herald Tribune, August 8, 1965, quoted in Annette Michelson, Andy Warhol (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), 19.]
This painting uses preexisting imagery and combines manual and mechanical reproduction. Ask your students to keep Warhol's materials and process in mind as they explore the three works in this lesson. (For more about Andy Warhol, see 1950–1969, Transforming Everyday Objects.)
Yayoi Kusama: Accumulation of Stamps, 63, pasted labels and ink on paper, 603×736 mm, 1962 (New York, Museum of Modern Art); © 2007 Yayoi Kusama, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
- Show your students the image of Accumulation of Stamps, 63, by Yayoi Kusama. Ask them to describe what they see, paying particular attention to composition dip, color, and line.
- Ask your students to look closely at this work and infer how it was made.
- Inform your students that Kusama made this collage by placing individual adhesive labels on brown paper that she had covered with an uneven wash of black ink.
- As a class, come up with a list of adjectives to describe the lines formed by the stickers. Have your students point out which lines lead their eyes around the collage. Ask them to infer where Kusama might have begun applying stickers, paying particular attention to the edges of the composition.
In the early 1960s, Kusama used labels and stickers (originally made for file folders, airmail, and pricing) to make gridlike collages. While the stickers provided a readymade, standardized form, she applied them in weaving, misaligned grids—even cropping some at the edges of her compositions.
Kusama has said that her use of repeated forms grows out of her lifelong struggle with mental illness. She does not consider her art to be an end in itself, but rather, she has said, it serves a personal function: "I am pursuing my art in order to correct the disability which began during my childhood." [Yayoi Kusama, quoted in Calvin Tomkins,"On the Edge," New Yorker, October 7, 1996,100.] When she was a girl, Kusama had hallucinations of flowers, dots, and nets—"the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows, and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body, and the universe." [Ibid.] The repetitive production practices required to make her collages, paintings, and immersive sculptural installations are reflected in her titles, which often include the words accumulations and infinity.
- Before showing your students the next image, ask them to spend a few minutes writing down characteristics they associate with painting and characteristics they associate with sculpture. Have them share their ideas with the class. Write these on the board for the class to review and discuss.
Donald Judd: Untitled (Stack), lacquer on galvanized iron, twelve units, each 228×1016×787 mm, installed vertically with 228 mm intervals, 1967 (New York, Museum of Modern Art, ); © 2007 Estate of Donald Judd/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
- Show your students the image of Untitled (Stack), by Donald Judd.
- Ask your students to name characteristics Untitled (Stack) seems to share with painting and characteristics it seems to share with sculpture. Using visual observation, students should consider formal traits such as line, shape, color, materials, and dimensionality.
In 1965 Judd wrote, "Half or more of the best works in the last few years ha[ve] been neither painting nor sculpture," but rather what he called "Specific Objects." [Donald Judd, "Artist's Statement," in Primary Structures, exh. cat., ed. Kynaston McShine (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1966), n.p.] Judd's three-dimensional objects, including Untitled (Stack), challenged the strict categorization of art into mediums like painting and sculpture that dominated the discussion of abstract art in the 1950s and early 1960s.
- Inform your students that Untitled (Stack) includes twelve identical units. Each square unit is forty inches wide, thirty-one inches deep, and nine inches tall. According to the artist's specifications, the work must be installed so the vertical space between each unit is also nine inches. To give your students a sense of the work's scale, have them measure out the width and depth of each unit using a tape measure. Then have them measure out the height of four stacked units with proper spacing between them. Mark these measurements on the board or on paper.
- Ask your students to count how many units are visible in this image of Untitled (Stack). Ask them to consider why all twelve units are not pictured.
Depending on the height of the ceiling of the gallery where Untitled (Stack) is displayed, the number of units may be reduced to maintain proper spacing between them. The flexibility of this work reflects the importance to Judd of the whole work of art over its individual parts.
- Ask your students to consider the relationship of this work to viewers and to the surrounding space, paying particular attention to its scale and how it is displayed.
Judd made his objects bearing viewers' bodies in mind, not just their sense of sight, because he believed that the body's movement through space greatly affected a viewer's perception of a work of art. Although it is hung on a wall like a painting, Untitled (Stack) projects nearly three feet from the wall and rises imposingly from floor to ceiling.
Untitled (Stack) is made of galvanized iron, which is a mottled gray color. The sides are covered with the commercially available translucent green lacquer that is used to customize Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Judd's works were fabricated by a small manufacturing company called Bernstein Brothers. Although Judd was criticized for using nontraditional art materials and for not making his objects by hand, he insisted, "If someone says his work is art, it's art." [Donald Judd, quoted in Thierry de Duve, "The Monochrome and the Blank Canvas," in Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York, Paris, and Montreal, 1945–1964, ed. Serge Guilbaut (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), 272.]
- Ask your students if they agree with Judd's statement. Why or why not?
Eva Hesse: Repetition Nineteen III, fiberglass and polyester resin, nineteen units, each h. c. 480–510 mm, diam. 278–322 mm, 1968 (New York, Museum of Modern Art); © Estate of Eva Hesse. Galerie Hauser & Wirth Zurich, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
- Show your students the image of Repetition Nineteen III, by Eva Hesse, and ask them to describe what they see, keeping in mind shape, color, and arrangement of forms.
- Have your students work in pairs to write a list of the similarities and differences between this work and Judd's Untitled (Stack). When they are finished, have them share their lists with the class.
Repetition Nineteen III is composed of nineteen translucent, bucketlike forms approximately twenty inches tall. Minimalist artists explored serial repetition of identical units, but Hesse loosened that principle; her forms are both repetitive and irregular. These forms are handmade and organic rather than manufactured and hard-edged; although they are similar to one another in size and shape, each form maintains its individuality.
Hesse was flexible about the arrangement of the nineteen units that make up this work. She said, "I don't ask that the piece be moved or changed, only that it could be moved and changed. There is not one preferred format." [Eva Hesse, quoted in MoMA Highlights: 350 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, rev. ed. (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004), 271.] Because she did not give specific instructions about how her work was to be arranged, its overall shape varies with each installation.
- Repetition Nineteen III sits directly on the gallery floor. Ask your students to consider how this placement differs from other sculptures they have seen. How does it affect the work's relationship to the viewer? How does this differ from Judd's Untitled (Stack), which projects from the wall?
Hesse used a wide range of materials to make her sculptural works. She was drawn to newly developed materials, particularly latex and fiberglass, despite the fact that they discolor and deteriorate over time. Aware of the instability of these materials, Hesse stated, "Life doesn't last; art doesn't last. It doesn't matter." [Eva Hesse, quoted in Mignon Nixon, "Ringaround Arosie: 2 in 1," in Mignon Nixon, ed., Eva Hesse (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002), 212.]
- Ask your students to compare these materials to those used by Judd.
- Inform your students that the first version of this sculpture was made from white-painted papier-mâché over wire mesh at half the scale. Hesse planned other versions, in Sculp-Metal and latex, but did not realize them.
- Ask your students to brainstorm alternate versions of this sculpture. Have each student draw how they would arrange the units, what size they would be, and what materials they would use. Ask them to consider how changing each of these elements would change the work.
- The works in this lesson by Kusama, Judd, and Hesse all use repeated forms. Ask your students to review the works and discuss the similarities and differences between them, giving consideration to materials and how individual units relate to the works as a whole. Also, have your students compare the artists' roles in the process of making these works.
As a take-home assignment, have your students make a two- or three-dimensional work of art using repeated forms or images. For two-dimensional works, students may want to use labels, stamps, photocopies, photographs, or photocopy transfers. (For how-to information about photocopy transfers, please visit In the Making on Red Studio, A MoMA Site for Teens http://redstudio.moma.org/in_the_making/.) For three-dimensional works, they may use conventional art supplies, small everyday objects, or recycled materials. Encourage your students to be creative not only in selecting their materials but in forming their compositions.
Have your students present their completed works of art to the class. Discuss the range of materials and forms they used. Ask your students to share the reasons why they selected the particular material or image they chose to repeat. Does the meaning of the object or image change with repetition?
Red Studio Podcast
To hear about the materials, fabrication, and maintenance of Judd's Untitled (Stack), listen to the podcast on this work by MoMA's Youth Advisory Council on Red Studio, A MoMA Site for Teens (http://redstudio.moma.org/podcasts/2006/).
Grove Art Online: Suggested Reading
Below is a list of selected articles, which provide more information on the specific topics discussed in the lesson.