Na nowo patrzeć i dotykać? Znaczenie tradycyjnych materiałów w plastyce współczesnej na przykładzie użycia alabastru w XX i XXI w. (cz. II).
To look and touch anew? The meaning of traditional materials in the modern sculpture. On the example of alabaster in the 20th and 21st centuries (part II)
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The text makes up the second part of the paper presented in the previous issue of ‘Quart’ quarterly. While there the usage of alabaster in the sculpture of the 1st half of the 20th century has been demonstrated, in the current issue the development in the following decades of the 20th century as well as of the early 21st century has been sketched. In the opening part of the paper it has been emphasised that in the time when countless new materials have been introduced into the fine arts and the borders between art genres became vague, alabaster was even more marginalised. Although it did not disappear for good, it had to compete with synthetic materials as polyester, in which comparable effects could have been achieved but they had advantage over traditional materials as they were easier to work with and cheaper. The case of the late oeuvre of the Polish sculptress Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973) provides perfect illustration for this phenomenon. In her ‘fetish-lamps’, combining polyester with electric light, the artist broached the issues previously often realised in alabaster: female body, light, fragility and impermanence. In the following the position of alabaster in the time of the triumph of arte povera and its new attitude towards art material have been considered. The author noticed that, even though this artistic movement has originated in Italy where alabaster has been discredited by the Volterran mass production, the material has apparently not been critically demythologized as it was the case of marble. Their roots in arte povera have the contemporary works of Marisa Merz or Ettorre Spalletti who have succeeded in retrieving in their abstract works rudimental properties of alabaster. Such interpretation of traditional material is rather exceptional. Most of the important sculptures in alabaster realised since the 1960s relate somehow to the tradition, if not formally then at least thematically. Eduardo Chillida in his extraordinary ‘architectural’ works as Homage to Kandinsky or Homage to the sea exploited the translucency of alabaster, its ability to let light inside and in this way to give shape to the inner space. The other traditional motif reinterpreted by contemporary artists are alabaster windows. It has been taken up by Cristina Iglesias (Untitled – Alabaster room) and Tacita Dean (Alabaster drawings). British artist Alison Wilding combines alabaster with synthetic materials as resin to look into the problem of duality of objects (Alabastros). She pursues in reinterpretation of old meanings, as in her alabaster work Harbour which stands for Entombment in the series of works being contemporary interpretation of the Passion of Christ in the abstract language. The last discussed artist – Anish Kapoor discovered alabaster for him in 1999 (Untitled). For him as well fundamental is the duality of the form, however in this case derived from the properties of the stone itself. Rough crust of alabaster block contrasts with its glowing polished inner core. Common for most of these artists is undoubtedly an attempt to regain the spirituality in art. They consciously use for this purpose the material for ages regarded as mystic. Summarising the author considers the reasons of the mystic interpretation of alabaster.
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