The Space of Sculpture and Its Social Function


To be able to talk about the space that sculpture has occupied over time, it is first necessary to focus on an outline of definition to thereby determine its materiality within an adjoining space. The sculpture is an artistic discipline that consists of the creation of three-dimensional elements through actions such as sculpting and carving various materials. Its function can be aesthetic, magical, or ritual and its size will be decisive to know the space it will occupy because it can range from elements of a few centimeters to sculptures several meters high.


Historically there have been four important moments in the change of optical-haptic perception in sculpture. The first occurs in classical antiquity when the sculptures take on monumentality and aesthetic appreciation and are carved on columns of buildings, on facades, and above all as landmarks within the public square.


The second important historical moment within the sculptural production is generated within the Gothic because the sculpture is transferred to the great cathedrals as ornamentation on the facades and inside the enclosures to evolve what would be the Baroque. Before the Baroque, in the Italian Renaissance, sculpture gained relevance thanks to the embedding of sculptural elements inside great palaces and in public squares.


The first sculptural carvings

The first traces of sculpture that are known date from the stone age approximately 230 thousand BC. In the Neolithic, sculpture blends with architecture creating great colossal works in ancient Egypt because sculpture begins to delimit spaces. At this time there is awareness of the importance and monumentality of the statuettes which can serve as a reflection of the power of the rulers imposing themselves with excessive size. The funerary chambers of the rulers are accompanied by sculptures of various sizes with a sacred character. Some critics claim that the sarcophagus is itself a sculpture.


The spaces that have housed sculpture have always been centers of power such as churches, monasteries, palaces, and the public square, but always at the service and representation of authority. With the arrival of the avant-garde and the artistic exploration of techniques, materials, and conceptions, the school decentralized a bit and passed into the hands of the artists. Its ritual function is completely erased and it begins to perform a cathartic function.


Materials and reproducibility

In the 20th century, the sculpture is at the service of the East as a means of expression, leaving sacredness aside. The space where it develops is in academies or art schools, but its distribution is in galleries, exhibitions, or in the streets. The materials, the techniques, and above all the concept have changed for the artist and the viewer. The sculptures become part of a space-delimited by their materiality, a visual contemplation determined by the material, and the concept of sale is also created, that is, the sculpture that is acquired in the streets will not delimit the same space like the one that is buy-in galleries.


On the other hand, the reproducibility and massification of art extract the essence of sculptural materials and create them in sequence. The piece is no longer unique and you can now have a David in your garden or on the entrance porch. This means that the aesthetic value and therefore the spaces of the sculpture have been rethought by a sequential generation of a single element.


The sculptures and the war

The sculptures are visual elements that have been representative of power in each civilization. For this reason, they were sometimes the main target in wars. Otherwise, sculptures have emerged from the rubble to honor memory, time and protect the events.


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