1957 (EDITED BY THE ARTIST IN 1960)
To a great extent, the success of an artist in today’s society might still be a matter of building a better mouse trap. There is danger in being drawn into the whirlpool of day-to-day relations. In this respect, the problem is to keep one’s head in the clouds but one’s feet on the ground. I think that artists who posit, as a first condition of a contemporary culture, the fostering of art, dream in vain and ask too much. To work in relative freedom within its complicated framework is enough.
Out of a number of possible bases for judging art, the dominance of the style peculiar to any given period always makes one basis more tenable than the rest; but, this criterion is always tempered by the prevailing intellectual and social climate, and is further modulated by seasonal highs and lows. Thus, the critical basis of art is as everchanging as the work it seeks to evaluate, but the development of criticism of necessity follows the development of art. This situation makes it difficult for an artist to be [a] critic in any general sense, especially as regards his own production, for here it is a criticism of development, in which works destroyed but remembered, works in progress, and usually a host of projected works are considered. In this respect objective evaluation of extant works is well nigh impossible. Thus I have been satisfied merely to indicate the extent of my intent.
It seems to me that the seeds of artistic revolution sown, grown, and reaped during the last fifty years should see the rich fruits of their harvest nurture a new art in this wiser half century—an art which need not seek strength in revolt, but in the creative pulse of its makers; an art having sinew and gut, as well as heart and soft flesh.
Most beautiful to me are the buds opened by [Julio] Gonzalez, whose influence has been important in my development. The influence of some primitive and Renaissance sculpture has been significant. There has been passing interest in Brancusi, [Marino] Marini, Noguchi, [Theodore] Roszak, and [Joseph] Goto, fleeting interest in [Reg] Butler, [Lynn] Chadwick, [Richard] Stankiewicz, and others.
My serious work to date may be divided into two categories. The first, which involves the larger part of my production, is sculpture in which subject is conceived in the most general terms. It derives from an observation of the formal and spatial contents of organic and machine structure. I hope the resultant constructions exhibit an organic presence of life which the use of vigorous technique is designed to create.
The technique, essentially the same for my second category of pieces—works showing definite image consciousness and often specific subjects—has expanded a good deal since I began to develop it. My first welded sculptures were conceived in terms which I thought spatial. These were largely linear with uniplanar accents. Next came works using large wood volumes that in time were alternated with metal ones. Presently both wood and metal forms are used in combination with spatial metal work. These attempts are to my mind a way of getting strong three-dimensional statements; to use every element of tri-dimensionality in one sculpture—spatial and planar themes projecting into space, solid volumes completely displacing it, and concave or hollow volumes used with the other elements in combinations and multiples to displace and enclose space. Thus the complications of form are additive and always related to basic units.
Emotional and image conditions are, of course, affected by size, height, and spatial positioning. The problem of my sculpture therefore involves penetration of space by line, plane, and volume, as well as the implications of image and emotion.
It is not possible to set down a clear outline for future work, for it seems that each new work suggests another either isolated in style and idea or as a developable series. I can only say that at present I wish to treat my materials (steel and space) in increasingly expansive terms.