chapter 5 Space Fig. 90 Donald Sultan, Lemons, May 16, 1984, 1984. Latex, tar on vinyl tile over wood, 97 in. 971/2 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of the Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation. Photo: Katherine Wetzel. © 1996 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. W ISBN 0-558-55180-7 e live in a physical world whose properties are familiar, and, together with line, space is one of the most familiar. It is all around us, all the time. We talk about “outer” space (the space outside our world) and “inner” space (the space inside our own minds). We cherish our own “space. ” We give “space” to people or things that scare us.
But in the twenty-first century, space has become an increasingly contested issue. Since Einstein, we have come to recognize that the space in which we live is fluid. It takes place in time. We have developed new kinds of space as well— the space of mass media, the Internet, the computer screen, “virtual reality,” and cyberspace. All these new kinds of space result, as we shall see, in new media for artists. But first, we need to define some elementary concepts of shape and mass. 75 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. SHAPE AND TWO-DIMENSIONAL SPACE
A shape is flat. In mathematical terms, a shape is a two-dimensional area; that is, its boundaries can be measured in terms of height and width. A form, or mass, on the other hand, is a solid that occupies a three-dimensional volume. It must be measured in terms of height, width, and depth. Though mass also implies density and weight, in the simplest terms, the difference between shape and mass is the difference between a square and a cube, a circle and a sphere. Donald Sultan’s Lemons, May 16, 1984 (Fig. 90) is an image of three lemons overlapping in space, but it consists of a flat yellow shape on a black ground over 8 feet square.
To create the image, Sultan covered vinyl composite tile with tar. Then he drew the outline of the lemons, scraped out the area inside the outline, filled it with plaster, and painted the plaster area yellow. The shape of the three lemons is created not only by the outline Sultan drew but also by the contrasting colors and textures, black and yellow, tar and plaster. Sultan’s image contains two shapes: the square black background, and the yellow figure. Indeed, the instant we place any shape on a ground, another shape is created.
The ground is known as a negative shape, while the figure that commands our attention is known as a positive shape. Consider, however, the more dynamic figure-ground relationship in Figure 91. At first glance, the figure appears to be a black vase resting on a white ground. But the image also contains the figure of two heads resting on a black ground. Such figure-ground reversals help us recognize how important both positive and negative shapes are to our perception of an image. Fig. 92 Martin Puryear, Self, 1978. Polychromed red cedar and mahogany, 69 Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha. 48 25 in. THREE-DIMENSIONAL SPACE
A photograph cannot quite reproduce the experience of seeing Martin Puryear’s Self (Fig. 92), a sculptural mass that stands nearly six feet high. Made of wood, it looms out of the floor like a giant basalt outcropping, and it seems to satisfy the other implied meanings of mass—that is, it seems to possess weight and density as well as volume. “It looks as though it might have been created by erosion,” Puryear has said, “like a rock worn by sand and weather until the angles are all gone. . . . It’s meant to be a visual notion of the self, rather than any particular self—the self as a secret entity, as a secret, hidden place. And, in fact, it does not possess the mass it visually announces. It is actually very lightweight, built of thin layers of wood over a hollow core. This hidden, almost secret fragility is the “self” of Puryear’s title. Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture Two Figures (Fig. 93) invites the viewer to look at it up close. It consists of two standing vertical masses that occupy three-dimensional space in a manner similar to standing human forms. (See, for example, the sculpture’s similarity to the standing forms of King Menkaure and His ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 91 Rubin vase. 76 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design
A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 93 Barbara Hepworth, Two Figures, 1947–48. Elmwood and white paint, 38 17 in. Collection Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Gift of John Rood Sculpture Collection. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Queen, Fig. 370) Into each of these figures Hepworth has carved negative spaces, so called because they are empty spaces that acquire a sense of volume and form by means of the outline or frame that surrounds them. Hepworth has painted these negative spaces white.
Especially in the lefthand figure, the negative spaces suggest anatomical features: The top round indentation suggests a head, the middle hollow a breast, and the bottom hole a belly, with the elmwood wrapping around the figure like a cloak. The negative space formed by the bowl of the ceremonial spoon of the Dan people native to Liberia and the Ivory Coast (Fig. 94) likewise suggests anatomy. Nearly a foot in length and called the “belly pregnant with rice,” the bowl represents the generosity of the most hospitable woman of the clan, who is known as the wunkirle. The wunkirle carries this spoon at festi- Fig. 4 Feast-making spoon (Wunkirmian), Liberia/Ivory Coast, Dan, twentieth century. Wood and iron, height 24 1/4 in. The Seattle Art Museum. Gift of Katherine C. White and the Boeing Company, 81. 17. 204. Photo: Paul Macapia. © abm / Archives Barbier-Mueller / Studio Ferrazzini-Bouchet, Geneve. Chapter 5 Space 77 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 95 Olafur Eliasson, Suney, 1995. Installation view at the Kunstlerhas Stuttgart, Germany, 1995. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Neugerriemschneider, Berlin. als, where she dances and sings. As wunkirles from other clans arrive, the festivals become competitions, each woman striving to give away more than the others. Finally, the most generous wunkirle of all is proclaimed, and the men sing in her honor. The spoon represents the power of the imagination to transform an everyday object into a symbolically charged container of social good. The world that we live in (our homes, our streets, our cities) has been carved out of three-dimensional space, that is, the space of the natural world which itself possesses height, width, and depth.
A building surrounds empty space in such a way as to frame it or outline it. Walls shape the space they contain, and rooms acquire a sense of volume and form. In fact, the space in a room is a kind of negative space created by the architecture. Danish artist Olafur Eliasson seems to fill this space with color in his 1995 installation Suney (Fig. 95). Actually, he has bisected a gallery with a yellow Mylar sheet. The side of the gallery in which the viewer stands seems bathed in natural light, while the opposite side seems filled with yellow light.
There are separate entrances at each end of the space and, if viewers change sides, their experience of the two spaces is reversed. 78 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design REPRESENTING THREE-DIMENSIONAL SPACE A sense of depth, of three dimensions, can be achieved on a flat canvas or paper only by means of illusion. There are many ways to create the illusion of deep space, and most are used simultaneously, as in Steve DiBenedetto’s Deliverance (Fig. 96). For example, we recognize that objects close to us appear larger than objects farther away, so that the juxtaposition of a large and a small helicopter suggests deep space between them.
Overlapping images also create the illusion that one object is in front of the other in space: the helicopters appear to be closer to us than the elaborately decorated red launching or landing pad below. And because we are looking down on the scene, a sense of deep space is further suggested. The use of line also adds to the illusion, as the tightly packed, finer lines of the round pad pull the eye inward. The presence of a shadow supplies yet another visual clue that the figures possess dimensionality, and we will look closely at how the effect of light creates believable space in the next chapter.
Even though the image is highly abstract and decorative, we are still able to read it as representing objects in three-dimensional space. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 96 Steve DiBenedetto, Deliverance, 2004. Colored pencil on paper, 301/8 221/2 in. Courtesy of David Nolan Gallery, New York, Collection of Morris Orden, New York. Chapter 5 Space 79 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall.
Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Linear Perspective The overlapping images in DiBenedetto’s work evoke certain principles of perspective, one of the most convincing means of representing three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Perspective is a system, known to the Greeks and Romans but not mathematically codified until the Renaissance, that, in the simplest terms, allows the picture plane to function as a window through which a specific scene is presented to the viewer. In one-point linear perspective (Fig. 7), lines are drawn on the picture plane in such a way as to represent parallel lines receding to a single point on the viewer’s horizon, called the vanishing point. As the two examples in Figure 97 make clear, when the vanishing point is directly across from the viewer’s vantage point where the viewer is positioned, the recession is said to be frontal. If the vanishing point is to one side or the other, the recession is said to be diagonal. To judge the effectiveness of linear perspective as a system capable of creating the illusion of real space on a two-dimensional surface, we need only look at an xample of a work painted before linear perspective was fully understood and then compare it to works in which the system is successfully employed. Commissioned in 1308, Duccio’s Maesta (“Majesty”) Altarpiece was an enormous composition—its central panel alone was 7 feet high and 131/2 feet wide. Many smaller scenes depicting the life of the Virgin and the Life and Passion of Christ appear on both the front and back of the work. In one of these smaller panels, depicting the Annunciation of the Death of the Virgin (Fig. 98), in which the angel Gabriel warns the Virgin of her impending death, Duccio is evidently attempting to
Fig. 97 One-point linear perspective. Left: frontal recession, street level. Right: diagonal recession, elevated position. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 98 Duccio, Perspective Analysis of Annunciation of the Death of the Virgin, from the Maesta Altarpiece, 1308–11. Tempera on panel, 16 3/8 211/4 in. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena. Canali Photobank. 80 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 99 Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, c. 1495–98.
Mural (oil and tempera on plaster), 15 ft. 11/8 in. 28 ft. 101/2 in. Refectory, Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Index Ricerca Iconografica. Photo: Ghigo Roli. grasp the principles of perspective intuitively. At the top, the walls and ceiling beams all converge at a single vanishing point above the Virgin’s head. But the moldings at the base of the arches in the doorways recede to a vanishing point at her hands, while the base of the reading stand, the left side of the bench, and the baseboard at the right converge on a point beneath her hands. Other lines converge on no vanishing point at all.
Duccio has attempted to create a realistic space in which to place his figures, but he does not quite succeed. This is especially evident in his treatment of the reading stand and bench. In true perspective, the top and bottom of the reading stand would not be parallel, as they are here, but would converge to a single vanishing point. Similarly, the right side of the bench is splayed out awkwardly to the right and seems to crawl up and into the wall. By way of contrast, the space of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous depiction of The Last Supper (Fig. 99) is completely convincing.
Leonardo employs a fully frontal one-point perspective system, as the perspective analysis shows (Fig. 100). This system focuses our attention on Christ, since the perspective lines appear almost as rays of light radiating from Christ’s head. The Last Supper itself is a wall painting created in the refectory—dining hall—of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Because the painting’s architecture appears to be continuous with the actual architecture of the refectory, it seems as if the world outside the space of the painting is organized around Christ as well.
Everything in the architecture of the painting and the refectory draws our attention to him. His gaze controls the world. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 100 Leonardo da Vinci, Perspective analysis of The Last Supper, c. 1495–98. Mural (oil and tempera on plaster), 15 ft. 11/8 in. 28 ft. 10 1/2 in. Refectory, Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Index Ricerca Iconografica. Photo: Ghigo Roli. Chapter 5 Space 81 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.
When there are two vanishing points in a composition—that is, when an artist uses two-point linear perspective (Fig. 101)—a more dynamic composition often results. Eric Bulatov’s Happy End (Fig. 102) an image of a gigantic sculpture by Vera Muhkina first installed atop the Soviet Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition of 1937 and later transferred to Moscow fronted by the Statue of Liberty (Fig. 103). The Russian farm woman and the male worker in Muhkina’s sculpture raise the traditional symbols of the Soviet state, the hammer and sickle, while, in the drawing, Liberty raises the torch of freedom above her head.
This drawing is a satiric put-down of Perestroika, which means “openness,” the official cultural policy of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, which promised new social freedoms for the Soviet people. The drawing suggests that the Soviet Union must follow the lead of the United States, and yet Bulatov himself is “free” to work only in the traditional manner of a Soviet Realist poster tradition that had pervaded Russian art since the totalitarian dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Fig. 101 Two-point linear perspective. Fig. 102 Eric Bulatov, Happy End, 1989. Colored pencil on paper, 20 7/8 20 7/8 in.
BULA0022. Courtesy Arndt & Partner. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 103 Vera Muhkina, Worker and Collective Farm Worker, 1936. Bronze, height 78 ft. 9 in. Moscow. Photo Novosti, London. 82 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 104 Gustave Caillebotte, Place de l’Europe on a Rainy Day, 1876–77. Oil on canvas, 83 1/2 108 3/4 in. The Art Institute of Chicago. Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1964. 336. Photo © 1999 The Art Institute of Chicago. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 0-558-55180-7 The complex illusion of real space that perspective makes possible is evident in Gustave Caillebotte’s Place de l’Europe on a Rainy Day (Fig. 104). A series of multiple vanishing points organize a complex array of parallel lines emanating from the intersection of the five Paris streets depicted (Fig. 105). Moving across and through these perspective lines are the implied lines of the pedestrian’s movements across the street and square and down the sidewalk in both directions, as well as the line of sight created by the glance of the two figures walking toward the viewer.
Caillebotte imposes order on this scene by dividing the canvas into four equal rectangles formed by the vertical lamp post and the horizon line. Fig. 105 Gustave Caillebotte, Perspective analysis of Place de l’Europe on a Rainy Day, 1876–77. Oil on canvas, 83 1/2 108 3/4 in. The Art Institute of Chicago. Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1964. 336. Photo © 1999 The Art Institute of Chicago. All Rights Reserved. Chapter 5 Space 83 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.
Some Other Means of Representing Space Linear perspective creates the illusion of threedimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Other systems of projecting space, however, are available. A type of projection commonly found in Japanese art is oblique projection. As in axonometric projection, the sides of the object are parallel, but in this system, one face is parallel to the picture plane as well. The same scale is used for height and width, while depth is reduced. This hanging scroll (Fig. 106) depicts, in oblique perspective, the three sacred Shinto-Buddhist shrines of Kumano, south of Osaka, Japan.
The shrines are actually about 80 miles apart: the one at the bottom of the scroll high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula in a cypress forest, the middle one on the eastern coast of the peninsula, and the top one near a famous waterfall that can be seen to its right. In addition to oblique projection, the artist employs two other devices to give a sense of spatial depth. As is common in traditional perspective, each shrine appears smaller the farther away it is. But spatial depth is also indicated here by position—the farther away the shrine, the higher it is in the composition.
A related means of projecting space is axonometric projection (Fig. 107), commonly employed by architects and engineers. It has the advantage of translating space in such a way that the changes of scale inevitable in linear perspective—in the way that a thing in the distance appears smaller than a thing close at hand— are eliminated. In axonometric projections, all lines remain parallel rather than receding to a common vanishing point, and all sides of the object are at an angle to the picture plane. Fig. 106 Kumano Mandala, Kamakura period, c. 1300. Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 52 1/4 241/4 in. 2004 The Cleveland Museum of Art. John L. Severance Fund, 1953. 16. Fig. 107 Theo van Doesburg and Cornelius van Eesteren, Color Construction, Project for a private house, 1923. Gouache and ink on paper, sheet: 221/2 22 1/2 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr. Fund. Photo © 1999 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, New York. © 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Beeldrecht, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 84 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall.
Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 108 Photographer unknown, Man with Big Shoes, c. 1890. Stereograph. Library of Congress. Distortions of Space and Foreshortening The space created by means of linear perspective is closely related to the space created by photography, the medium we accept as representing “real” space with the highest degree of accuracy. The picture drawn in perspective and the photograph both employ a monocular, that is, one-eyed, point of view that defines the picture plane as the base of a pyramid, the apex of which is the single lens or eye.
Our actual vision, however, is binocular. We see with both eyes. If you hold your finger up before your eyes and look at it first with one eye closed and then with the other, you will readily see that the point of view of each eye is different. Under most conditions, the human organism has the capacity to synthesize these differing points of view into a unitary image. In the nineteenth century, the stereoscope was invented precisely to imitate binocular vision. Two pictures of the same subject, taken from slightly different points of view, were viewed through the stereoscope, one by each eye.
The effect of a single picture was produced, with the appearance of depth, or relief, a result of the divergence of the point of view. Usually, the difference between the two points of view is barely discernible, especially if we are looking at relatively distant objects. But if we look at objects that are nearby, as in the stereoscopic view of the Man with Big Shoes (Fig. 108), then the difference is readily apparent. Painters can make up for such distortions in ways that photographers cannot. If the artist portrayed in Durer’s woodcut (Fig. 109) were to draw exactly what
ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 109 Albrecht Durer, Draftsman Drawing a Reclining Nude, c. 1527. Woodcut, second edition, 3 81/2 in. One of 138 woodcuts and diagrams in Underweysung der Messung, mit dem Zirkel und richtscheyt (Teaching of Measurement with Compass and Ruler). Photo © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Horatio Greenough Curtis Fund. Chapter 5 Space 85 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 110 Andrea Mantegna, The Dead Christ, c. 1501. Tempera on canvas, 26 30 in.
Brera Gallery, Milan. De Agostini Editore Picture Library. he sees before his eyes, he would end up drawing a figure with knees and lower legs that are too large in relation to her breasts and head. The effect would not be unlike that achieved by the enormous feet that reach toward the viewer in Man with Big Shoes. These are effects that Andrea Mantegna would work steadfastly to avoid in his depiction of The Dead Christ (Fig. 110). Such a representation would make comic or ridiculous a scene of high seriousness and consequence. It would be indecorous.
Thus, Mantegna has employed foreshortening in order to represent Christ’s body. In foreshortening, the dimensions of the closer extremities are adjusted in order to make up for the distortion created by the point of view. MODERN EXPERIMENTS AND NEW DIMENSIONS One of the most important functions of the means of representing three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface is to make the world more intelligible. Linear perspective provides a way for artists to focus and organize the visual field. Axonometric projections help the architect and engineer to visualize the spaces they create.
Foreshortening makes the potentially grotesque view of objects seen from below or above seem more natural, less disorienting. Modern artists have consistently challenged the utility of these means in capturing the complex condi- ISBN 0-558-55180-7 86 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. tions of contemporary culture. Very often it is precisely the disorienting and the chaotic that defines the modern for them, and perspective, for instance, seems to impose something of a false order on the world.
Even photographers, the truth of whose means was largely unquestioned in the early decades of the twentieth century, sought to picture the world from points of view that challenged the ease of a viewer’s recognition. One of the most startling of these points of view to viewers was the overhead shot. Used to seeing people on the street at eye level, viewers found the sudden appearance of their bodies from above, compacted into spaces the breadth of their shoulders, disconcerting and strange. A good example is Mystery of the Street, by German photographer Otto Umbehr, known as Umbo (Fig. 111).
Umbo actually photographed the scene from the other side, but recognizing the power of the shadows, seemingly standing erect on the flat street and sidewalk, he inverted the image. As a result, the shadows seem more animate, more human and real, than the figures themselves. Fig. 112 Paul Strand, Abstraction, Porch Shadows, 1916. Silver platinum print, 12 15/16 9 1/8 in. Musee d’Orsay, Paris. Reunion des Musees Nationaux / Art Resource, NY. Inv. Pho1981-35-10. Repro-Photo: Rene-Gabriel Ojeda. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 111 Umbo (Otto Umbehr), Weird Street, 1928. Gelatin silver print, 117/16 91/4 in.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987. 1100. 49). © Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne and Phyllis Umbehr, Frankfurt/M. Similar effects were achieved by photographers by means of other odd points of view, extreme close-ups, and radical cropping. In his Abstraction, Porch Shadows (Fig. 112), Paul Strand employs all three techniques. The image is an unmanipulated photograph (that is, not altered during the development process) of the shadows of a porch railing cast across a porch and onto a white patio table turned on its side.
The camera lens is pointed down and across the porch. The close-up of approximately 9 square feet of porch is cropped so that no single object in the picture is wholly visible. Strand draws the viewer’s attention not so much to the scene itself as to the patterns of light and dark that create a visual rhythm across the surface. The picture is more abstraction, as its title suggests, than realistic rendering, a picture of shapes, not things. Chapter 5 Space 87 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 13 Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red (The Red Room), 1908–09. Oil on canvas, 70 7/8 86 5/8 in. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. © Alinari / Art Resource, New York. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. In painting, modern artists intentionally began to violate the rules of perspective to draw the attention of the viewer to elements of the composition other than its verisimilitude, or the apparent “truth” of its representation of reality. In other words, the artist seeks to draw attention to the act of imagination that created the painting, not its overt subject matter.
In his large painting Harmony in Red (Fig. 113), Henri Matisse has almost completely eliminated any sense of three-dimensionality by uniting the different spaces of the painting in one large field of uniform color and design. The wallpaper and the tablecloth are made of the same fabric. Shapes are repeated throughout: The spindles of the chairs and the tops of the decanters echo one another, as do the maid’s hair and the white foliage of the large tree outside the 88 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design window. The tree’s trunk repeats the arabesque design on the tablecloth directly below it.
Even the window can be read in two ways: It could, in fact, be a window opening to the world outside, or it could be the corner of a painting, a framed canvas lying flat against the wall. In traditional perspective, the picture frame functions as a window. Here the window has been transformed into a frame. What one notices most of all in Cezanne’s Mme. Cezanne in a Red Armchair (Fig. 114) is its very lack of spatial depth. Although the arm of the chair seems to project forward on the right, on the left the painting is almost totally flat.
The blue flower pattern on the wallpaper seems to float above the spiraled end of the arm, as does the tassel that hangs below it, drawing the wall far forward into the com- ISBN 0-558-55180-7 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 114 Paul Cezanne, Mme. Cezanne in a Red Armchair, 1877. Oil on canvas, 281/2 22 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Bequest of Robert Treat Paine II, 44. 77. 6. Photo © 2004 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Chapter 5 Space 89 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall.
Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. position. The line that establishes the bottom of the baseboard on the left seems to ripple on through Mme. Cezanne’s dress. Most of all, the assertive vertical stripes of that dress, which appear to rise straight up from her feet parallel to the picture plane, deny Mme. Cezanne her lap. It is almost as if a second, striped vertical plane lies between her and the viewer. By this means Cezanne announces that it is not so much the accurate representation of the figure that interests him as it is the design of the canvas and the activity of painting itself, the play of its pattern and olor. With the advent of the computer age, a new space for art has opened up, one beyond the boundaries of the frame and, moreover, beyond the traditional boundaries of time and matter. It is the space of information, which in Terry Winters’s Color and Information (Fig. 115) seems to engulf us. The painting is enormous, 9 by 12 feet. It is organized around a central pole that rises just to the left of center. A web of circuitry-like squares circle around this pole, seeming to implode into the center or explode out of it— there is no way to tell. Writing in Art in America in 005, critic Carol Diehl describes her reaction to paintings such as this one: At any given moment, some or all of the following impressions may suggest themselves and then quickly fade, to be replaced by others: maps, blueprints, urban aerial photographs, steel girders, spiderwebs, X-rays, molecular structures, microscopic slides of protozoa, the warp and woof of gauzy fabric, tangles or balls of yarn, fishing nets, the interlace of wintry tree branches, magnified crystals, computer readouts or diagrams of the neurological circuits of the brain, perhaps on information overload.
That we can never figure out whether what we’re looking at depicts something organic or man-made only adds to the enigma. In fact, the title of this painting refers only to Winters’s process, not its enigmatic content. The work began with a series of black-and-white woodcuts generated from small pen-and-ink drawings scanned into a computer so that the blocks could be cut by a laser. Winters wanted to see what would happen if he transformed this digital information into a painting, confounding ISBN 0-558-55180-7 Fig. 115 Terry Winters, Color and Information, 1998.
Oil and alkyd resin on canvas, 9 12 ft. © Terry Winters, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. 90 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc. Fig. 116 Mary Flanagan, [collection], 2001–present. Courtesy of Mary Flanagan, http://www. maryflanagan. com/collection. htm ISBN 0-558-55180-7 or amplifying the stark black-and-white contrast of the source images by adding color and vastly magnifying their size.
In front of the resulting work, we are suspended between order and chaos, image and abstraction, information and information overload. Mary Flanagan’s [collection] (Fig. 116) is a work that exists in what might be called digital space. The work is an ongoing project that may be downloaded onto any visitor’s hard drive from the Web address provided in the caption. Once downloaded, it scours the visitor’s hard drive for bits and pieces of data—sentences from emails, graphics, cached images from the Web browser, business letters, sound files, operating-system files, and normally hidden materials—and then collects them on a centralized server.
It then presents these materials, taken from countless users’ hard drives, and creates a moving, three-dimensional and continuously shift- ing map of this information, floating as if projected on the blackest of night skies. What the work reveals might be called the subconscious of the Web, or the collective unconscious of the Internet, functioning like some digital dreamwork. It also questions notions of authenticity and authorship in the digital age, breaking the conceptual line separating, for example, a personal email from a Help file, or the space separating my computer from yours.
In the words of one of the leading experts on the impact of digital technology on modern life, William J. Mitchell, it projects a new kind of space, “unrooted to any definite spot on the surface of the earth, shaped by connectivity and bandwidth constraints rather than by accessibility and land values, largely asynchronous in its operation, and inhabited by disembodied and fragmented subjects who exist as collections of aliases and agents. ” Chapter 5 Space 91 A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.
THE CRITICAL PROCESS Thinking about Space T he history of modern art has often been summarized as the growing refusal of painters to represent three-dimensional space and the resulting emphasis placed on the two-dimensional space of the picture plane. While modern art diminished the importance of representing “real” space in order to draw attention to other types of reality, continuing developments in video and computer technologies have made it increasingly possible to create artificial environments that the viewer experiences as real space.
Examples of these virtual realities—computer simulations of real or imagined places—are becoming increasingly realistic. The viewer can “enter” a virtual reality by donning head-mounted displays (a set of goggles containing two small video monitors, one in front of each eye), data gloves, and body suits, sensitive to movement, or more directly, as in an early version of such an environment, The Legible City (Fig. 117), created between 1989 and 1991 by Jeffrey Shaw for the Center for Art and Media at Karlsruhe, Germany.
Shaw placed a bicycle in a computer graphic three-dimensional animation system consisting of three large projection screens of block-letter descriptions of the streets of Manhattan, Amsterdam, or Karlsruhe. The viewer pedals through these projections, which are sensitive to both direction and pedal speed. As Shaw explains: The existing architecture of these cities is completely replaced by textual formations. . . . Traveling through these cities of words is consequently a journey of reading; choosing the path one takes is a choice of texts as well as their spontaneous juxtapositions and conjunctions of meaning.
In a later version, entitled Distributed Legible City, two riders, at remote locations, enter the city simultaneously present in the virtual environment. They can meet each other (by accident or intentionally), see abstracted representations of each other, and verbally communicate with each other. Today, these technologies are beginning to enter the mainstream, as in game systems that are movementsensitive in three dimensions, such as the popular Wii games produced by Nintendo.
Virtual reality surgery simulators are used to train doctors in the techniques of laparoscopic surgery, which involves the insertion of tiny cameras, lights, and instruments through small incisions in the abdomen to see and operate inside the body. In this technology, traditional distinctions about the nature of space begin to collapse. As a result, our sense of space is today open to redefinition, a redefinition perhaps as fundamental as that which occurred in the fifteenth century when the laws of linear perspective were finally codified. How would you speak of this space? In what ways is it two-dimensional?
In what ways is it three-dimensional? What are the implications of our seeming to move in and through a two-dimensional image? What would you call such new spaces? Electronic space? Four-dimensional space? What possibilities do you see for such spaces? Fig. 117 Jeffrey Shaw, The Legible City, 1989–91. Interactive installation. © Jeffrey Shaw and Dirk Groeneveld Collection of the ZKM Karlsruhe. ISBN 0-558-55180-7 92 Part 2 The Formal Elements and Their Design A World of Art, Sixth Edition, by Henry M. Sayre. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.