The Organization of Forms

By LIZ HAGER

Robert Hartman—This Valley Rocks

Robert Hartman,This Valley Rocks, 2007,
lifochrome photograph  (courtesy Triangle Gallery).

It is safe, I suppose, to assume that today most if not all of us have had the experience of looking down from an airplane onto this earth. What we see is a free flow of forms intersected here and there by straight lines, rectangles, circles, even drawn curves; that is, by shapes of great regularity. Here we have, then, natural and man-made forms in contradisctinction. And here before us we can recognize the essence of designing, a visually comprehensible, simplified organization of forms that is distinct from nature’s secretive and complex working. . .

Bruce Connor, Bowing Down to Half Dome, 1974-84,
collage with cloth, paper, photograph, paint (courtesy Gallery Paule Anglim).

. . . Or on a beach, we may find a button, a bottle, a plank of wood, immediately recognizable as “our” doing, belonging to our world of forms and not to that which made the shells, the seaweed, and the undulated tracings of waves on sand. . .

Chris Drury—Heart River 1999

Chris Drury, Heart River, 1999,
blood and river mud on paper, pattern from a cross section through a human heart (photograph Dawes & Billings).


. . . Also we can observe the counterplay of the forming forces: the sea slowly grinding an evenly walled piece of glass, foreign to it in shape and substance, into a multiform body suitable for adoption into its own orbit of figuration. On the other hand, we see the waves controlled, where dams and dikes draw a rigid line between land and water. . .

Richard Long, Sahara Line, 1988, found stones.

. . . To turn from “looking at” to action: we grow cabbages in straight rows and are not tempted by nature’s fanciful way of planting to scatter them freely about. We may argue that sometimes we follow her method and plant a bush here and another there, but even then we “clear” the ground. . .

Anni Albers—Pasture, pictorial weaving 1958

Anni Albers, Pasture, 1958, pictorial weaving.


. . . Always, though sometimes in a way that is roundabout and apparent only as an underlying scheme of composition, it is clarity we seek. But when the matter of usefulness is involved, we plainly and without qualification use our characteristics: forms that, however far they may deviate in their final development, are intrinsically geometric.

—Anni Albers, On Weaving, Wesleyan University Press, p. 71

Wider Connections

Anni Albers

Bruce Conner

Chris Drury

Robert Hartman

Richard Long


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