Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Into the Negative Space

Assembly of Sea Forms (1972) by Barbara Hepworth, looking through the Sea King

On this date in 1903, Barbara Hepworth was born. She is one of my favorite 20th Century sculptors, perhaps in the Top Five. Her utilization of negative space in abstract forms is always compelling, be it as punctures or concavities or even in the distance between multiple forms.

But my favorite thing to do when I see one of her punctured works is to look through the hole. Yeah, it's a bit juvenile, but I feel as if the view is part of the experience of the sculpture, as if the perceived space beyond imparts significance to the artwork itself. Perhaps the thrill that I receive comes from an identification with the sculpture, viewing the environs through the work, seeing the world as the art, if it had sentience, would see it.

And that's another point about Hepworth's work, her sculptures "feel" alive, like creatures comprised of bronze or stone. It's weird to associate personality with abstract forms, but I can't help but detect a spirit within them, like animistic totems or primitive idols.

Four Square - Walk Through (1966) by Barbara Hepworth

Recently, one of her sculptures was stolen out of a park in London, likely by scrap metal thieves. This news totally broke my heart, like a story about an innocent person being brutally murdered. I can't understand how people can look at Hepworth's art and not be able to discern their distinct personalities, their irreplaceable charm, their wit and eloquence.

Fortunately, the Los Angeles area has quite a few of her works on view. These photos were taken at the Norton Simon Museum, which has a nice collection of her art, although a significant portion is hidden away down in the vaults.

Rock Form - Porthcurno (1964) by Barbara Hepworth

Assembly of Sea Forms (1972) by Barbara Hepworth

Four Square - Walk Through (1966) by Barbara Hepworth

Here are a few vids:


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