Saturday, December 6, 2008

Visual Art: Architectural Servant?

I recently heard a caution that visual art not return to the role of a servant to architecture ... it had taken long enough to break painting (and perhaps sculpture) free from architecture ... and that installation in a sense locks these mediums back into serving architecture.

The comment had more to do with art history and the church (followed by merchant patrons, etc) as historical patron of art, a time when the artist was a servant to the patron's tastes. But the comment made me think about how the objects -- paintings and sculptures -- did gain greater freedom as expressions for their own sake, a painting as a painting, a sculpture as a sculpture, both in making and appreciation, regardless of whether they fit into a larger context of display. So too, artifacts from days past, e.g. ruins, are displayed in museums, etc., regardless of whether they fit the context of display. The fact of such severed display however does not eliminate the relevance that spatial context has on the viewer's reception and perception of the work.

Sculpture and painting, while becoming distinct mediums of there own right, and breaking free of being relegated to decorating and serving architectural space, can never really break free of the context in which they are shown. Installation, or mindfulness of the ultimate display context, by acknowledging the relevance of context, does not make the object or the space the servant; rather, it integrates the two.

Perhaps we've gone a bit silly on the other end, turning buildings into sculptural forms rather than functional spaces.

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