The Studio Without Walls: Sculpture in the Expanded Field

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In the late 1960s a radical aesthetic change altered both the definition of the sculptural object and the ways in which that object was experienced. A number of artists who did not consider themselves photographers in the traditional sense began using the camera to rework the idea of what sculpture is, dispensing with the immobile object in favor of an altered site: the built environment, the remote landscape, or the studio and the museum space in which the artist intervened.

This engagement with site and architecture meant that sculpture no longer had to be a permanent three-dimensional object; it could, for instance, be a configuration of debris on the studio floor (Bruce Nauman), a vapor released into the landscape (Robert Barry), a dissected home reconfigured as gravity-defying walk-through sculpture (Gordon Matta-Clark), or a wrapped-up building (Christo). These and many other artists made extensive use of photography, collecting and taking hundreds of pictures as raw material for other pieces, such as collages and photomontages. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, artists such as Zhang Dali, Cyprien Gaillard, and Rachel Whiteread have continued this dialogue through photographs contemplating examples of architecture and sculpture in states of dilapidation and entropy.