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Henry Moore Institute

Shallow Space: Modernism's Civilising Norm (No. 48)

Shallow Space: Modernism's Civilising Norm (No. 48)

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One of the lasting puzzles of modernism is the regularity with which 'shallow space' was claimed to embody a central or even cherished value.

The need for some form of compromise between the flatness of canvas and the demands of representing space and depth was registered in cubism, which in effect reversed the method of traditional relief carving - which worked from the front of a plane backwards - to one that builds from a surface to project towards the viewer.

The relief-like character of Cubist collage is explored here by Brandon Taylor, who suggests that its additive and constructed nature gave rise to a radically understudied category of art lying somewhere between painting and sculpture, a shallow flatness as opposed to illusionistic depth which for a time took up a central position in art.

This essay was written to accompany the exhibition Shallow Space - Relief Sculpture from the Collection (7 May - 7 August 2005, the Upper Sculpture Study Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery).

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