Eleanor Antin: 'CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture'
28 Sep 2016 – 3 Jan 2017
Exhibition in Gallery 4
CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture is a landmark work in the history of conceptual art, and a key reference on art and art history courses today.
Eleanor Antin (b. 1935) began working as a visual artist in 1968, having established herself as a poet. Based in California, for the last five decades she has explored constructions of self-identity, constantly pushing at the limits of artistic genre. This far from traditional sculpture expands the very nature of how sculpture can be made, while being rooted in classical, figurative tradition. This display forms part of our continuing series of single-sculpture exhibitions highlighting examples of sculptural experimentation.
For this 'traditional sculpture', between 15 July and 21 August 1972 Antin reduced her food intake. Each morning, save for one day when she was travelling, she was photographed naked in the same four stances. Documented in the round, as if a figurative sculpture, her body is recorded being carved into a shape conforming to classical sculptural ideals. From the first to last image four-and-half kilogrammes are slowly pared away, yet each image shows a barely discernible difference from the ones beside it. The artist herself describes how:
“Technically it is carried out in what can be considered the matter of archaic and classical Greek sculpture (peeling small layers off an overall body image until the image is gradually refined to the point of aesthetic satisfaction).”
Greek sculpture would have used marble, and sought a specific version of an ideal body. Antin's material is her own body, which she describes as ‘standard poor man's material'. The final result, as with any carving process, was determined by both the intention and the limits of the material.
A Collaborative Museum Grant from the Association of Art Historians enabled research into the papers of Eleanor Antin held at the Getty Research Institute.