1st Edition

Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism International Experiments in Italy

By Marin R. Sullivan Copyright 2017
    212 Pages 67 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    210 Pages 67 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism is structured around four distinct but interrelated projects initially realized in Italy between 1966 and 1972: Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Newspaper Sphere (Sfera di giornali), Robert Smithson’s Asphalt Rundown, and Joseph Beuys’s Arena. These works all utilized non-traditional materials, collaborative patronage models, and alternative modes of display to create a spatially and temporally dispersed arena of matter and action, with photography serving as a connective, material thread within the sculpture it reflects. While created by major artists of the postwar period, these particular projects have yet to receive substantive art historical analysis, especially from a sculptural perspective. Here, they anchor a transnational narrative in which sculpture emerged as a node, a center of transaction comprising multiple material phenomenon, including objects, images, and actors. When seen as entangled, polymorphous entities, these works suggest that the charge of sculpture in the late postwar period came from its concurrent existence as both three-dimensional phenomena and photographic image, in the interchanges among the materials that continue to activate and alter the constitution of sculpture within the contemporary sphere.

    Introduction: Meshworks and Networks

    Sculptural Materiality

    Action and Circulation in Postwar Italy

    1. Reflective Acts: Yayoi Kusama in Venice

    "Sideshow" Sculpture and the XXXIII Venice Biennale

    Photographic Mirrors

    Self, Sculpture, and Photograph

    Remnants and Residuum

    2. With Time Action: Michelangelo Pistoletto in Turin

    Mirror Images and Minus Objects

    Con temp l’azione

    The City as Material

    From the Street to the Cage

    3. Slow Dissolves: Robert Smithson in Rome

    Exhibiting Process

    The Flow of Sculpture

    Photography is Action

    The Age of Conceptualism

    4. The Sculptural Arena: Joseph Beuys in Naples

    The Mediterranean Situation


    Between Image and Object

    Sculpture as Multiple

    Conclusion: Material Dispersions

    Recreations and Replicas

    Inert Monuments and Enlivened Objects


    Marin R. Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Art, Keene State College, USA.

    "While the book addresses one Italian artist, Pistoletto, it underscores the radical artistic subculture in Italy during this period. Moreover, it demonstrates that the tension between materiality and immateriality that ran through arte povera yielded a welcome environment for international artists wishing to undertake such projects as well as a support system for their patronage, realization, documentation and photography."

    -Rosalind McKever, Art History