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Kristine Stiles

Process of unsticking and ripping through successive layers of glued paper. The term first appeared in print in the Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme accompanying the catalogue of the Exposition internationale du surréalisme held at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1938. The technique developed through the use of posters torn from street walls to expose underlying images as interpenetrating forms within an overall surface. The altered posters revealed the fragmentary, confusing and alienating character of representation. Décollage represents a socially engaged practice. Unlike the constructive and atemporal unification of disparate materials in collage, from which it is derived, décollage is deconstructive and historical, an archaeological process unmasking the sequential, continuous relation of apparently dissociated images and events. In 1949 Raymond Hains began to collect, and perform the décollage technique on, commercial and political posters to exhibit them as aesthetic objects and sociological documents. Throughout the 1950s he and other artists associated with ...

Article

Mary M. Tinti

Architecture, design and conceptual art partnership. Diller Scofidio + Renfro [Diller + Scofidio] was formed in 1979 by Elizabeth Diller (b Lodz, Poland, 1954) and Ricardo Scofidio (b New York, NY, 1935) as an interdisciplinary design practice based in New York.

Diller studied at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York (BArch, 1979) and then worked as an Assistant Professor of Architecture (1981–90) at the Cooper Union School of Architecture, becoming Associate Professor of Architecture at Princeton University in 1990. Scofidio, who also attended Cooper Union (1952–5), obtained his BArch from Columbia University (1960) and became Professor of Architecture at Cooper Union in 1965. In 1997 Charles Renfro joined the firm and was made partner in 2004, at which point the partnership changed its name to Diller Scofidio + Renfro. While the couple (who are married) initially eschewed traditional architectural projects in favor of installations, set design and landscape design, by the 21st century their firm had received commissions for both new buildings and renovations of existing architecture. Diller and Scofidio were the first architects to receive a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (...

Article

Kristine Stiles

Term first used by the critic Lawrence Alloway in 1961 to describe an urban art in which found or ready-made objects and mechanical debris were transformed into paintings, sculptures and environments by welding, collaging, décollaging or otherwise assembling them into new and unusual forms. The name evolved from the phrase ‘junk culture’, which had been used in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in Great Britain and the USA, by writers such as Hilton Kramer (b 1928) to describe the vulgar and kitsch qualities of objects with built-in obsolescence produced in industrial nations after World War II.

Precedents for Junk art prior to World War II include collages by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, Dada assemblages, Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau constructions and Surrealist objects such as Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup known as Object (1936). Urban junk featured in the sculptural form known as ...

Article

Laser  

Frank Popper

Device used to amplify light to an intense beam of a very pure single colour by stimulated emission of radiation. The theoretical basis for the technique of the laser was calculated by Albert Einstein in 1917, but it was not until 1960 that Theodore H. Maiman created the first active laser, using a synthetic ruby crystal. For practical and economic reasons the pulse ruby lasers were largely replaced by continuous wave gas lasers in their helium-neon, argon ion or krypton argon ion versions. The artistic applications of the laser appeared from 1965 in three main areas: in combined visual and aural productions, in long-distance environmental plastic displays and in holography (see Hologram).

Large-scale productions such as Video/Laser I, II, III, which took place in Oakland, CA (1969), Osaka, Japan (1970), and in several European towns in 1971–2, were the collective work of the sculptor and physicist ...

Article

Masonry  

Francis Woodman and Jacques Heyman

Assemblage of stones, bricks, or sun-dried mud (adobe), fitted together for construction, with or without mortar.

Francis Woodman

Masonry can be either quarried and artificially shaped (dressed and ashlar; see §II below), or natural (dry-stone and flint walling). Dry-stone walling is an ancient masonry technique, using well-chosen frost-shattered or splintered rocks carefully interlocked. The resulting structures are most frequently used for field walls and crude huts. South Italian trulli, with their beehive domes, are remarkable survivors of this continuous tradition. The dry-stone walling of Great Zimbabwe, however, shows that it could also be used in ceremonial buildings.

The ancient Egyptians first exploited cut stone, using primitive tools to extract and shape rectangular blocks and harder granites to grind and polish smooth surfaces and perfect joints. Their extraordinary skill permitted substantial masonry structures to be erected without any form of bonding or mortar. Aswan granite was quarried using wedges, heat, and rapid cooling, whereby the Egyptians created substantial monolithic blocks, such as the obelisk (h. 30 m) now in the ...

Article

Mobile  

Gerhard Graulich

Form of kinetic sculpture, incorporating an element or elements set in motion by natural external forces. The term, which is also sometimes used more loosely to describe sculptural works with the capacity for motorized or hand-driven mechanical movement, was first used by Marcel Duchamp in 1932 to describe works by Alexander Calder (see Calder family, §3). The notable feature of Calder’s sculptures, which were suspended by threads, was that their movement was caused solely by atmospheric forces, such as wind and warm air currents. Movement was not, therefore, merely suggested by the treatment, as in traditional sculpture, but took place directly and unpredictably in the object. Because the kinetic sequences of the mobile could not be fixed or programmed, predictability and repeatability were eliminated.

The main inspiration behind the development of the mobile was Duchamp, whose ready-made Bicycle Wheel (1913; untraced; editioned replica 1964; Cologne, Mus. Ludwig) gave rise to many innovations in ...

Article

Neon  

Frank Popper

Term used in its widest meaning to refer to luminous devices containing neon, mercury vapour, argon or other inert gases and their combinations used in electric signs or lamps generally tubular in shape. This extended definition is also applied in an artistic context. In its narrower, more technical sense, neon (from Gr. neos: ‘new’) is a rare inert gas that was discovered in 1898 and that was immediately recognized as a new element by its unique glow when electrically stimulated. The vapour-tube device filled with neon gas was invented by Georges Claude in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris in 1910. When a high voltage was applied to the two electrodes at either end of the tube, it emitted a deep red light. With other gases, mercury vapour and their mixtures, a small range of colours was obtained in the following years in tubes that could be cut to any length, bent and formed by skilled craftsmen into almost any shape and used for signs that had, however, a very limited lighting capacity. When industrially produced, low-tension fluorescent straight tubing of white (and occasionally coloured) light in standardized sizes came into use in the 1930s, results approaching natural lighting were obtained....

Article

Sky art  

Astrid A. Hiemer

Term coined by Otto Piene in 1969 and described by him as: ‘The arbitrator between man-made feelings and emotions and yearnings evoked by earth and sky and their overwhelming size and power …. Technology helps to distribute and connect while we keep it from dulling the senses and numbing our imagination’ (see 1986 exh. cat.). By the 1980s sky art had become a movement centred around Piene and other artists at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA.

Piene’s early but most ambitious sky project was the Olympic Rainbow produced for the XX Olympiad in Munich, Germany (1972). In 1966 Christo had produced his 42,390 Cubic Feet Package at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, which was a precursor of sky art. In the same year as Piene’s Olympic Rainbow he constructed his Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado (see...

Article

Erika Billeter

Term that gained currency in the late 1960s to describe any form of sculpture made from pliable materials and consequently not absolutely fixed in its shape. As an art form its origins can be traced particularly to the ‘soft sculptures’ devised by Claes Oldenburg as early as 1962. Precedents can be found, however, in earlier 20th-century art, beginning with Dada, for example in Marcel Duchamp’s presentation of a typewriter cover as a ready-made entitled Traveller’s Folding Item (1917; untraced; replica, 1964; see Marcel Duchamp, exh. cat., New York, MOMA, 1973, p. 280) and in object collages by Man Ray (e.g. the Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920; see Man Ray photographie, exh. cat., Paris, Pompidou, 1981, p. 134). Sculptures made by Surrealists, such as those shown in Paris at the Galerie Charles Ratton (1936) and at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme (Paris, Gal. B.-A., 1938), made particular use of malleable materials, often with a strong erotic aspect; ...