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Art Department: Tyvek Sculptures

By Rachel Levi; For The Clock
On December 1, 2015

Art Department: Tyvek Sculptures

Rachel Levi

For The Clock

PSU art students inflating their Tyvek sculptures outside of D&M.



The wind howled as students struggled to secure their ten foot blow up Tyvek sculptures in front of the HUB on Tuesday, Nov. 3. These sculptures, which were meant to stay inflated from Nov. 2 until Nov. 5, have been the subject of copious work by Philip Lonergan’s class based off of Nick Sevigney’s “Foundations 3D: Materials and Meaning.”

Bobby Schwartz, senior, said it took about three weeks and a total of 20 hours to construct his sculpture. The assignment was to research microscopic organisms and make one of these organisms into something massive, non-representational and difficult to ignore.

The material used to make these sculptures was metallic Tyvek, a strong paper-like material that is also highly weather resistant.

Because of the properties of the Tyvek, it was decided that the structures would be placed in front of the HUB. When asked why they were placed outside, Longergan replied “visibility.” Despite other drawbacks of leaving them outdoors, such as vandalism, or in this particular case, inclement weather, they were more visible in an open space rather than indoors.

In addition, since the massive structure is the essence of the sculptures, displaying them outdoors means their surroundings are large. Trees and buildings make the sculptures look smaller in contrast.

When asked what the goal of the structures were in terms of what they meant in relation to the artists, Longergan said “Can you remove representation?” He spoke of a theorist, Clive Bell, who made a claim during the turn of the 19th century that realism gets in the way of form. In Bell’s eyes, form, or the actual elements of design, such as lines and colors, is the only basis in which aesthetic value should be derived from art. His theory ignores symbolism and the context implied by our relationship to draw meaning from other sources.

Lonergan describes Bell’s theory as a “failed” one. He said people are always going to make assumptions and judge aesthetic concepts using our own cultural contexts to derive other meanings, associations and uses symbolized in an object. Form does not create judgment of art, rather both form and underlying meanings of a work contribute to its final derivative message.

As a comparative example, Lonergan used Christo’s Umbrellas in California and Japan to explain what he meant by Bell’s theory being bunk. The umbrellas placed on two different coastlines, in two different countries, represented how context and symbolism cannot easily be factored out to reduce an art work to form alone. 

Pieces of art like the Tyvek and the Umbrellas influence the interpretation of the aesthetics concerning the physical piece and the form in which it was constructed and also considering equivocal meaning open to interpretation.

Despite the weather, a number of students caught glimpses of the sculptures for the few hours they were outside.

One of the sculptures displayed in front of the HUB.

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