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Fine Art

What is sculptural composition?


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August 13, 2009 9:41AM

Composition is how the forms that make up the sculpture are arranged in space. It is the result of the choices the artist has made to place a hand here or a leg there. Looking at how the various parts interact with one another and the space around them can convey a lot of information about the theme of the work, and can help us to speculate about the artist's message or intent.

Some examples of how to discuss composition:

*Untitled by Donald Judd is a series of 10 identical boxes arranged vertically from floor to ceiling. The even spacing of the boxes suggests industrial precision, the kind of perfection achievable only by machine, and is echoed by the brushed industrial surface of each box. The artist's decision to hang the piece on the wall defies the notion of classical, free-standing sculpture, while the industrial processes used to create it negate the value of the artist-creator. The unambiguous vertical and horizontal lines of the piece and lack of personal expression make this sculpture a perfect example of 20th century minimalism.

*The composition of a 4th Dynasty statue of Menkure and His Chief Queen reveals much about the social and political culture of ancient Egypt. Conforming to a strict vertical line, the two figures form an upright rectangle, conveying the strength and stability of their rule. With their feet firmly planted on the ground, the king and queen seem as immovable and everlasting as the massive block of diorite from which they are carved. Menkure's clenched fists and muscles further underscore the message of eternal power. Standing slightly behind him, with her arm around his back, Queen Khamerernebty demonstrates that the role of a wife is to follow and support her husband.