Bradford Graves

Bradford Graves'  Writings

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Writings by Bradford Graves


The problem is having to translate into words what is totally a

visual experience. In order to fully comprehend sculpture, a

visual, three dimensional object, it has to be seen. Reading

about it isn't going to help that much and photographs are only a

slight improvement, since photos are flat images and cannot

convey the full, spatial qualityof a three dimensional object. I

can only hope that I will be able to create an interest in sculpture

that will lead the reader to a direct interaction with sculpture. If

we read a guide book to the Taj Mahal, it will tell us how to locate

the building and find items that are within, but it isn't a substitute

for the direct experience of that wonder. It's nice to know where

the marble is from, who's buried there, etc., but to experience

the art that is there is to feel the rush of space within.

For better or for worse, we have chosen to store and transmit

information through the written word, due to its accessibility, but

knowledge is stored not only in the written word but also in visual images, and sounds. I can give you

certain information on sculpture, but true knowledge can only be found in direct perception of sculpture.

Knowledge - the understanding of what is known - can only be a tool. What I am going to do in the

following pages is to help the student of sculpture develop tools, to isolate components, to define and

extract essentials to begin to appreciate what sculpture is. The utilization of these tools add up to an

intelligent way of looking at sculpture. I do not want to write about what art is, that unknown quantity and

quality, that is always one step ahead of understanding. Rather, I want to deal with what can be known,

that which is universal to all sculpture, such as how the individual parts are put together to make a total

statement. What is unique to any piece of sculpture is the way in which these components fit together

and that's why each piece of sculpture becomes a separate, emotional


These tools will be used differently by the viewer than by the sculptor. The

viewer uses these tools as a means to an end, the fullest appreciation of

sculpture. The sculptor will challenge these concepts to escape their definition,

which in fact is what tradition is, definitions from the past.

We sculptors, students, viewers, are all coming from different places,

geographically as well as psychologically, bringing with us our baggage of

unique perceptions, as well as unique hindrances. For example, the physcian

who collects Pre-Columbian art because of its graphic representation of

ancient diseases is not dealing with the abstract qualities of sculpture. His interest is turned away from

the individual art work to what his own information is bringing to the piece. There is a tendency to set up

mirrors within us so that we are always perceiving ourselves rather than a new vision.

The difficulty is in finding a balance between our world within, and outside phenomenon. Perception

should be more than soaking up the world through our immediate senses. We must bring our

sensibilities to bear, and heighten our ability to conceptualize. The viewer must put as much work into

viewing the sculpture as the sculptor did into making it. Viewing has to be more than a passive activity.

Our sense of sight is one of our neglected senses. We are conditioned early in life

to rarely use our eyes to see three dimensionally, except in times of personal

danger. For example, if I cross the street now, how long will it take the car coming

up the road to intersect my path? We use our eyes to gain information from two

dimensional materials such as books, films, television, photos, and everyday

directional signs. As a result, we perceive from left to right, but rarely from our

body centers away. It is implied that we are passive in between left and right. If we

become active, left or right ceases to have meaning, and we have entered the

realm of the third dimension.  In order to perceive sculpture we will have to

become Alice - locate the looking glass, go through it, and like her, find a new



A Legacy Carved in Stone



Sculpture - A Definition

by David Smith from "David Smith"


The Handling of Materials

To Construct a Sculpture

The Making of a Sculpture

The Mythology of Stone








Brad's Writings 

Selected Essays