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Kutash, E. (1987). Archaic Self and Object Imagery in Modern Figurative Sculpture. Am. Imago, 44(4):289-313.

(1987). American Imago, 44(4):289-313

Archaic Self and Object Imagery in Modern Figurative Sculpture

Emilie Kutash

The world of twentieth century sculpture is populated with any and every manner of aberrant and fantastic creature. The parameters of the human figure have been stretched beyond recognition, progressing into borderline areas of form and even disappearing entirely as a recognizable entity. Asymmetry, distortion, uprightness, rotundity, concavity, convexity, size, elongation, fragmentation, and rigidity are a few of the formal qualities exploited by the modern artist to present an image of personage. The potential space he claims is that in which archaic body, self and object experiences and representations still live.

Modern figurative sculpture assumes forms that are eminently decipherable by the discourse of psychoanalysis. Freud for example, envisions an ego which is “first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity but is itself the projection of a surface”.1 The image of the hypothetical entity he posits is almost a sculpture of thought.2 Spatial metaphors abound in Freud. His “peripheral rind of the ego” and other figures of speech suggest options for plastic representation of the entities they signify. Schilder's vision of a “postural model of the body”, which changes continually from “crystallized rather closed entities to states of dissolution and to a stream of less stabilized experiences” is a concept with sensorimotor and phenomenological roots in bodily experience as well.3 Archaic self and object representations, while more abstract than body image models, are extrapolated from them in the course of structuralization of a cohesive unified body self during critical periods of devleopment. In fact, study of modern figurative sculpture via reference to developmentally oriented psychoanalytic theory suggests all sorts of comparisons between the objects of these diverse spheres of discourse.

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