The first book to devote serious attention to questions of scale in contemporary sculpture, this study considers the phenomenon within the interlinked cultural and socio-historical framework of the legacies of postmodern theory and the growth of global capitalism. In particular, the book traces the impact of postmodern theory on concepts of measurement and exaggeration, and analyses the relationship between this philosophy and the sculptural trend that has developed since the early 1990s. Rachel Wells examines the arresting international trend of sculpture exploring scale, including American precedents from the 1970s and 1980s and work by the 'Young British Artists'. Noting that the emergence of this sculptural trend coincides with the end of the Cold War, Wells suggests a similarity between the quantitative ratio of scale and the growth of global capitalism that has replaced the former status quo of qualitatively opposed systems. This study also claims the allegorical nature of scale in contemporary sculpture, outlining its potential for critique or complicity in a system dominated by quantitative criteria of value. In a period characterised by uncertainty and incommensurability, Wells demonstrates that scale in contemporary sculpture can suggest the possibility of, and even an unashamed reliance upon, comparison and external difference in the construction of meaning.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction: defining scale: Enlargement and miniaturisation; The life size; Photography, sculpture and scale; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
Rachel Wells is Lecturer in the History of Art at Newcastle University. She was previously Tutor at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
Winner, Henry Moore Foundation Grant
'... sustained attention is lent to the appearance, properties and rhetorical modes of sculpture, and to the open question of its particular relationship to contemporary reality.' Burlington Magazine
'This first work by Rachel Wells offers a contribution to thinking about recent developments in sculpture which is as unexpected as it is remarkable. This analysis undertakes a critique of postmodernist theories and their effect on the perception of sculptural practices, which, since the end of the 1980s, explore the concept of scale by means of enlargement, miniaturisation or the life-size. Through a selection of artists - from Claes Oldenberg to Do-Ho-Suh, via the Young British Artists, Ron Mueck, Mark Wallinger, Elizabeth Wright and Michael Landy - Rachel Wells outlines the genesis of a sculptural tendency which, because it is imbued with the preoccupations underlined by postmodern theory, has been considered as the expression of a denial of all certainty and of the stable value which would make possible the interpretation of the real..." Sandra Delacourt, Critique d’art