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Not all art is subject to a straight forward interpretation in fact some, such as abstract art, can have varied interpretations depending on the person viewing it. The reason I mention this is due to the fact that I picked two particular types of abstract art for this paper, namely the Kuduo, an abstract public sculpture by Paul Marco, and the Star, another abstract piece made by the artist Albert Paley.
These two particular pieces were chosen for two reasons, for one thing their location is rather convenient and as such I was able to easily visit them and the other reason is the fact that I was curious as to what interpretations other people would draw from seeing a similar sculpture. As I mentioned earlier, art is subject to individual interpretation with abstract art in particular being subject to the whims of a person’s imagination, similar to the concept of a block of wood looking like a block of wood to one person while to another this particular block is a potential canvas from which they can create a masterpiece.
Based on what I’ve just stated my goal for this particular paper was two things, to view the piece and create my own interpretation of what it means to me and secondly to see what others think of it and compare what they see to what I see and try to interpret how they can see it in that particular way.
Examining the Kuduo and the Star
The abstract sculpture, Kuduo, was created in 1987 by Paul Marco and is currently located at the Mennello Museum of American Art. Various accounts regarding the statue’s construction all agree that its form and shape is reminiscent of Marco’s earlier work which takes the form of the abstract concept of an animal yet incorporates the author’s interest in various African sculptures and masks from which the head and certain parts of the anatomy are based off of. On the other hand the Star, similarly in the Mennello Musuem of American Art, was created in 1991 by artist Albert Paley who is noted for integrating both art and architecture into is works thereby giving them a kind of intrinsic integration wherein the art and architecture seem to blend into a seamless whole.
Impressions on the Sculptures
The first impression anyone would get from looking at the welded steel structure created by Marco would have to be that its skeletal appearance represents the bone structure of a dead animal. In fact when the sun strikes it in just the right way the shadow that falls onto the ground does in deed look the sun drenched bones of a corpse. This opinion is evidenced by the main frame of the sculpture which takes the form of the bone structure normally seen in an animal structure with a spinal cord on top with a series of ribs jutting down.
Further more the skeletal quality of the legs which are on the ground when combined with the overly thin neck and skull like head that is facing up further contribute to the thought that this statue represents a skeleton. On the other hand it must be noted that the statue seems to come alive under a certain angle when the light hits it in just the right angle to produce a large fat shadow. In this state it could be stated the statue itself is representational of an animal that is dead but can seemingly come alive at any given moment.
While the sculptor used hard lines and very little in the form of intricate shapes on the molding of the sculpture the fact of the matter is his use of planes particularly on the front end of the statue as well as on ribs actually results in the statue seemingly reflecting in a shadow a whole animal rather than a mere skeletal figure. The sculpture uses the shape of ovoid rectangles on the front and hind quarters into order to produce this in effect which in turns help to emphasize the hard lines used on the neck and the spine.
It must be noted that when examining the overall balance of the statue itself it can be seen that most of the emphasis was done on the front rather than the back, in fact when I saw it I got the distinct impression that the animal itself seemed somewhat like a mutated version of a bulldog due to the front skeletal quarters seemingly being hunched. The overall color utilized is a form of rust colored paint or it could be the statue’s natural rust color which actually lends to overall impression that you are dealing with an old skeleton. On the other hand the “Star” created by Paley is a non-representational geometric masterpiece incorporating hard lines, circles, planes and a variety of geometric shapes.
The base of the sculpture starts out as an amalgam of different types of geometric shape such as planes, cylinders rectangles and squares, yet this haphazard configuration actually appears to be quite intentional and architecturally inspired. As the work progresses upwards it makes less use of planes and instead starts to use shapes such as hard rectangles and sharp triangles in order to give balance and emphasis to the major point of the piece which is a large asterisk like star perched at the very top.
What is impressive about this pieces is that despite the base which seems out of balance and fragile the entire piece actually stays steady. On the other hand it cannot be stated that there is balance in the creation of the work since shapes seem haphazardly added in here and there yet overall the white color of the statue along with the hard geometric lines helps to contrast nicely with the natural shapes of the trees and sky in the background which makes this piece that much more noticeable.
My Thoughts on the Work
As I mentioned before, art is completely subject to interpretation however in this particular case I would have to say that in my opinion, while the statue of Marco does look overly intricate, it lacks a sufficient “pull” so to speak in that it doesn’t capture the attention as much as other pieces within the area. While it is interesting to look at, the use of rust colors on the sculpture actually makes the sculpture rather forgettable since it makes itself seem rather subdued and as such not eye catching or memorable.
In complete contrast to this is the work of Paley which immediately captures the eye. In fact the work is so eye catching and vivid against the organic background of the environment it is in that one cannot help but notice it. Further examination of the piece reveals that the sterile white color of the sculpture and the use of geometric shapes with a hardness and sharpness not found in nature is in fact intentional which gives it a nice contrast to the overly natural shapes in the background.
Message of the Artist
It is my belief that the message of Marco through this particular sculpture was one directed at the concept of endangered species. An examination of the work of Marco in the past reveals that a continuing theme in most of his sculptures has been the creation of unique animal forms based off of African art. These forms are usually skeletal in appearance yet when hit with the light at a certain angle they show a unique representation of an animal from the African continent.
It must be noted while other people may state that the use of a skeletal structure is not in fact directly connected to endangered animals but could just be an aesthetic choice. While this may be true for some works the fact remains that in the works of Marco his use of masks on his animal pieces changes the dynamic of interpretation. If you will observe the placement of the skull on the sculpture you will see that it is placed downward in the form of a mask, this is similar to many of the sculptors pieces where instead of a head it is a mask.
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It must be noted that the use of masks has always been connected to the representations of that which is hidden and in this case what is hidden is the plight of animals within Africa and in other parts of the world which are kept from the public eye. On the other hand the overly geometrical sculpture created by Paley seems to be in defiance of nature itself. Its white color stands in stark contrast to the natural world around it making it stand out on its own. Due to the architectural background of Paley it can be assumed that message he is trying to achieve is to have viewers of the piece realize that the piece itself is symbolic of the current state of mankind.
The stark harsh colors and the adherence to sharp geometric shapes cannot help but make a person think that man is no longer in tune with nature and in fact stands in stark contrast to the natural world. This view is supported by the fact that the use of geometric shapes and the vivid white color was meant to stand apart from the natural environment. It was meant to show something that contrasted with the environment around it, something which didn’t belong but was there nonetheless.
In terms of its impact on me I would have to say that I was not significantly impacted in the least due to the fact that the sculpture by Marco seems overly subdued when it could have had a greater impact if the color was different instead of the rust color the sculptor chose. As such while the work is being featured by a museum I would still say that for me it lacks the necessary impact necessary to continue to attract visitors but like I said before art is completely subject to interpretation with others having a different interpretation of the sculpture itself.
On the other hand I was deeply impacted by the sculpture created by Paley, its vivid nature and the way it stood in stark contrast to its surrounding environment makes one think of the nature of man and how he stands in contrast to nature. While I do not disparage the work of Marco when taken in comparison to the work of Paley, Marco’s work seems less subdued and less eye-catching. It is based on my impression of the piece that I definitely agree that it belongs in a museum and that its worth as a piece of art is in its ability to a deep contrast between the artificial nature of humanity and the shapes of the natural world.
What can be learned from the Sculptures
From Kuduo western society can learn that just because we shut our eyes to the truth doesn’t mean that it is not there, the extinction and slaughter of animals is real and is something which should not be hidden from the eyes of the public by the mask of civilization but rather should be viewed clear eyes in order to understand the destruction that is being done. On the other hand from the piece Star, western society can realize how through modernization we have lost our place in nature wherein we stand in stark contrast to the natural world.
- Subject: Kyle Peters.
- Age: 13.
- Reason for being there: Mother made him come along with her to the museum.
When looking back on the interview I cannot help but think on how popular culture has influenced modern society and people. When I asked Kyle what he though of “Star” by Paley he described it as being similar to what he saw in the Superman movie where the Kryptonian city burst forth from the ground.
While I do see the similarity between the two I cannot help but think that it is an overly simplistic view of the art itself since he even fails to mention contrasts to the natural environmental or even takes into account the style utilized by Paley on the other hand since Mr. Peters is only 13 years old it is to be expected that his views are grounded more towards what he knows rather than a thorough understanding of art.
The same type of response was noted when asked to describe the piece by Marco wherein Mr. Peter’s did have the same response as I did in that he thought it looked like a skeleton however he didn’t have anything to say about the interplay of shapes and lines and merely said that it looked like a deer. When asked of what he thought of both works he mentioned that the sculpture by Paley was cool but disparaged the sculpture by Marco as being weird and lame.
As such his views do indeed reflect some of my own however in a baser intellectual perspective. When asked about what he thought the artist was trying to communicate from the piece Mr. Peters did respond rather surprising regarding the work of Marco wherein he stated that the artist was probably trying to call attention to dying animals which was rather close to the original message. on the other hand his response to what the message from the work of Paley was is something disappointing since he mentioned that the sculptor was probably a science fiction buff and wanted to build something that looked like a space station. Again I do see the connection between the two views however it is a rather simplistic take on interpreting the work.
When asked how either sculpture made him feel Mr. Peters said that he really didn’t feel anything for any sculpture however he did mention that he thought the work of Paley looked cool. Further questioning regarding if the work had any value resulted in him stating material value rather than culture or intellectual value while his response to if western culture can learn anything from the sculptures merely stated how both can be used to teach people about art. Overall the interview itself was rather anticlimactic but my interviewee did provide some reasonable answers about the pieces.