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The Sculpture Quarterly ‘Orońsko’

The tendency in sculpture to experiment with architectural motifs and concepts was one aspect of a complex situation in the arts. Late modernism (which as far as transformations in sculpture are concerned was defined and analysed by the aforementioned Rosalind Krauss) coincided with general postmodernist cultural changes. In the field of architecture, those changes were brilliantly investigated and described in Charles Jencks’ numerous publications. Meanwhile, clear, conscious allusions to architecture surfaced in the sculptures of Alice Aycock, Donna Dennis, Jackie Ferrara, and Siah Armajani. Critics swiftly dubbed this tendency ‘mock-architecture’, indicating that all the architectural motifs, references, pastiches, and associations in these works were used in a deliberately afunctional way.[1] As early as the 1970s, Alice Aycock began using architectural forms, structures, and materials in sculptures such as Maze (1972), Wooden Shacks on Stilts with Platform (1976), and The Beginnings of a Complex… (1977). However, in these works, she chiefly concentrated on space, developing sequences of it, and provoking viewers to ‘use’ it, actively. In this they still bear the marks of late modernist works. Indeed, there is a lack of postmodern double coding, irony, pastiche, metaphor, or eclectic decorativeness. However, Aycock took a completely different approach in another work unveiled in 1977, The True and the False Project Entitled ‘The World Is So Full of a Number of Things’. In this instance, the viewer found nothing but contradictions in the mock-architectural structure – the doors do not open, the stairs are inaccessible, and the step ladder leads nowhere. An additional layer of paradox was provided by the accompanying text, which included the following lines: ‘The false project after the catacombs of St. Sebastian. The true project after the astronomer Lord Rosse’s telescoped construction “The Leviathan of Parsonstown”. This did not clarify anything whatsoever. On the contrary, it prodded the viewer to go off in search of a host of complex and conflicting meanings. Robert Hobbs, who wrote a monograph on the artist, argued that the aforementioned work was deeply influenced by Roland Barthes’ 1964 essay ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, which Aycock had read. [2] In her 1984 piece The House of the Stoics, Aycock used another strategy that is characteristic of postmodernism, creating a pastiche of American vernacular architecture. This white sculpture, which rises to almost 10 metres, is embellished with typical wooden detail (gingerbread trim), and the work looks like a cross between a miniature skyscraper and an oversized, kitschy doll’s house.

—Monika Rydiger

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