Abstract Sculpture

History of Abstract Sculpture

As with painting, 19th century sculpture stressed the importance of figurative subjects that usually held some allegorical, religious, or political significance. Abstract sculptures emerged at around the same time other avant-garde movements did, toward the beginning of the 20th century. Cubist ideals, for example, also affected sculptural practices, leading to flattened and fragmented depictions of objects. Similarly, Dada practices impacted the types of materials and subjects that could be considered to be sculptures. This gradual rejection of traditional sculptural practices led to a total avoidance of depicting subjects that exist in the natural world. This tradition still lives today, most prominently in large, postmodern abstract decorative sculptures placed in public areas.

Abstract Sculpture Techniques

Abstract art sculptures past and present are influenced by a variety of modernist movements. Cubist sculpture, for example, paralleled the movement’s flat geometric shapes and skewed perspectives. Constructivist sculpture demonstrated an emphasis on the materiality of the works, encouraging artist to build sculptures out of industrial materials like metal, glass, and stucco. Dada ready-mades and found objects influenced assemblage artists in the 1960s, sparking the use of junk as a sculptural material. Minimalist sculpture demonstrates a desire for simplified, reduced forms and geometric shapes. Though these movements each have a different approach, they all aimed to drive sculpture away from Western tradition.

Artists Known For Abstract Sculpture

Pablo Picasso is renowned for his Cubist constructions, like “Guitar” (1914), that occupied several spatial planes and skewed the viewer’s perspective of the intended subject. David Smith is known for his geometric sculptures like “Cubi VI” (1963), while abstract expressionist sculptor Louise Nevelson is known for creating assemblages whose scale rivaled those of the movement’s paintings. Constantin Brancusi polished abstract orbs like “Beginning of the World” (1924). Richard Serra is famous for his monumental steel structures such as “Tilted Arc” (1981). Famous abstract sculptors associated with Constructivism include Vladimir Tatlin, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and Alexander Calder, whose name is synonymous with mobile sculpture. Other artists famous for creating abstract sculptures include Joan Miro, Mark di Suvero, Donald Judd, Len Lye, Sir Anthony Caro, Jean Tinguely, Isamu Noguchi, Frederick Kiesler, Naum Gabo, Jacob Epstein, Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, and Kurt Schwitters.