Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Kenneth Snelson and the Science of Sculpture in 1960s America
by Sande-Friedman, Amy, Ph.D., The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 2012, 378; 3504528
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I examine the work of the American sculptor Kenneth Snelson in the context of 1960s art and cultural history. Snelson became well known in the mid-sixties for his large-scale metal sculptures that achieve stability through a physical principle he had discovered, which Buckminster Fuller later called "tensegrity," based on the balance of tension and compression. Snelson has also devoted much of the past half century to research on atomic structure, resulting in an on-going multi-media project called Portrait of an Atom that includes both a scientific treatise and works of art. The concepts of physics and engineering that make Snelson's tensegrity sculptures possible, and the nuclear science that inspired his atom, are essential to his artistic process and to the meaning of his work. To explore the apparent tension of an artist who works in the techno-scientific domain, I look at how Snelson conceived of his own work and how it was discussed by art writers and critics of the sixties. I further this discussion by exploring Snelson's work in the context of his artistic peers who shared his interests and strategies. Drawings on interviews with Snelson and period sources, I place Snelson, an artist who has been seen as an outsider and is largely absent from current literature about 1960s sculpture, within popular currents of artistic thought from the period. In addition, I contribute to the body of knowledge about 1960s American sculpture by demonstrating the manifestations and cultural implications of the techno-scientific in art.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ogata, Amy
School: The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art Criticism, Art history
Keywords: Fuller, R. Buckminster, Minimalism, Nineteen 60s, Science and art, Sculpture, Snelson, Kenneth
Publication Number: 3504528
ISBN: 978-1-267-25507-5
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