The encrypted object : the secret world of sixties sculpture
This thesis examines the work of artists Lucas Samaras, Lee Bontecou and HC Westermann, specifically the way in which they have been excluded from dominant accounts of 1960s sculptural practice. I explore the ways in which a theory of 'secrecy' provides a framework through which to think about each of these artists. Chapter one focuses on Samaras's use of small-scale boxes in relation to his dialogue with the Minimal cubic structure, whilst the second chapter examines the structures of Bontecou in terms of their 'secrecy'. Working from welded steel armatures, Bontecou developed a unique practice of stretching dirty, worn skeins of fabric over the metal structure, always with a gaping hole backed with black felt, a disturbing void around which the surface is organised and the spectatorial encounter disturbed. Unlike the voracious mode of looking Bontecou's works engender, or the partial, fragmented 'peering' offered by Samaras's boxes, Westermann's works require a type of looking that has more in common with the physical act of 'drifting'. I cast both the viewing experience and the mode of construction Westermann's works demand, in terms of 'bricolage' and 'braconnage' (or 'poaching'). The concluding chapter analyses the role of the artistic homage and notion of influence, taking as model the work of psychoanalysts Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok on haunting and secrecy in relation to the work of Westermann alongside that of Bruce Nauman and Rachel Whiteread. In chapter four I introduce the idea of the 'phantom', as a way of thinking through the problems of inheritance at work in the artistic homage in terms of a series of ruptures, using Abraham and Toroks' concept of the 'transgenerational phantom', in which familial secrets are unwittingly inherited by one's ancestors. In this final chapter, I attempt to undermine the usual way in which influence and artistic lineage are understood.