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  • Leonardo

    Dance in My SculptureAuthor(s): Peter Lipman-WulfSource: Leonardo, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr., 1970), pp. 185-187Published by: The MIT PressStable URL: .Accessed: 12/06/2014 16:51

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  • Leonardo, Vol. 3, pp. 185-187. Pergamon Press 1970. Printed in Great Britain

    DANCE IN MY SCULPTURE Peter Lipman-Wulf*

    Fig. 1. 'The Dancing Couple', ebony, height 5 ft 6 in., 1951. (Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.) (Photo: F. Stein, New York.)

    The movements of the bodies of dancers result from disciplined and trained muscular energy. Seeing their display of elemental strength brings to my mind Nietzsche's words: '.... One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star' [1].

    Sequences of dance movements are sometimes arrested at their climax in a frozen gesture. Such a moment clearly reveals the intimate link between the dance and my sculpture [2]. As a sculptor, I try to capture one of these countless moments, whether of one, a pair or a group of dancers.

    The complexity of the dance with its rhythms and designs in space, the ornamental lines of arms and

    * Artist Living at 361 Bleecker Street, New York, N.Y. 10014, U.S.A. (Received 22 October 1969.)

    legs and the gestures of hands and fingers have grip- ped my imagination since early childhood. I have tried to capture in my sculpture an intimate attitude, to recreate the bending of a body in motion with its tilt towards another body which holds, braces or repels it (cf. Figs. 1, 2 and 3).

    Can one believe with Nietzsche that chaos is ultimately at the origin of the dance? I would say that chaos is the enemy of both the dance and of sculpture, for they are the result of study and premeditation. Internal chaos or unbound energy, however, is their source of inspiration.

    As is well known, the representation of the dance in sculpture dates back to antiquity. Dancers can be found in Egyptian reliefs and on Greek vases. In the Renaissance, Luca della Robbia glorified the


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  • Peter Lipman- Wulf


    Fig. 2. 'Dance of Veils', bronze (lost wax process), height 24 in., 1964. (Harbor Gallery, Cold Spring Harbor, N. .) (Photo: F. Stein, New York.)

    Dionysian joy of the dance in the chancel of the cathedral of Florence [3]. Many of Rodin's sculp- tures remind me of dance gestures and postures [4]. I admire the exultation to music captured in the group of dancers by Carpeaux in front of the Opera in Paris [5] and the bronze figures of dancers executed by Degas as an aid for his paintings and drawings [6].

    Artist-craftsmen have produced many sculptures to record the various styles of dancing, ranging from folk and classical dance to modern ballet and disco- teque dancing. I have been less interested in being a recorder than in capturing the essence of dancing. If one compares my dance sculptures with those made by creative artists of the past, it is evident that

    I have not portrayed ballet in the traditional or classical sense. My main interest has always been to use the theme of the dance in the context of my sculptural style, that is, the means of expression I apply in my work. The 'Dancing Couple' (cf. Fig. 1), dating back to 1951, uses a technique of flat wooden boards which are joined with wooden dowels. These boards of ebony are interwoven and give the illusion of movement through their stylized silhouettes. There is very little surface modulation of the polished ebony boards, so that the light can play on their different inclinations and juxtapositions, producing a variety of three-dimensional effects.

    In 'The Dance of Veils' (cf. Fig. 2), created 13 years later, the bronze material is used in a more


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  • Notes: Dance in My Sculpture

    Fig. 3. 'Ballet Dancers', bronze (lost waxprocess), height 8 ft, 1967. SwirburlLibrary, Adelphi University, Garden City, Long Island, U.S.A. (Photo: Aaron Klein, New York.)

    loose and disengaged way. The evocation of moving bodies and floating materials projects out into space. While 'The Dancing Couple' is confined to a tower- ing, elongated shape, 'The Dance of Veils' opens up and pushes sharp points into all directions, drawing space into the different protruding parts. Space here definitely overcomes the limitations of the block-like form of the earlier piece, giving it a more dramatic movement.

    It is only in the 'Ballet Dancers' (cf. Fig. 3) that I really achieved my intention of rendering a dance movement by breaking up each single form. I used a ribbon technique to produce the forms of bodies and limbs by interweaving and twisting flat, long pieces of wax. I could create shapes that, in them- selves, give an illusion of permanent movement.

    The lost wax process offers the possibility of

    obtaining a faithful execution of the most compli- cated models. I could even take a found object, like an old bedspread, dip it into hot wax and drape it around the shoulders of a dancer. Works of this kind can be reproduced only once, as each original model is destroyed in the casting process. The gain is, however, a very spontaneous creation.

    Stone, wood and ceramic limit the execution of my intentions much more than pliable wax. Al- though cast bronze is heavy, my ribbon technique marries solidity with space, giving an illusion of weightlessness. It is this sense of overcoming gravity that relates the sculpture to the movement of dancers. In a poetic way, I feel the flames of an artist's inner chaos kindle inspiration and some- times lead to the creation of a work that shines in its glow.


    1. F. Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra (Stuttgart: Alfred Kroener, 1964) p. 13: '. . . man muss noch Chaos in sich haben, um einen tranzenden Stem gebaeren zu koennen'.

    2. 0. Bie, Der Tanz (Berlin: Julius Bard, 1919) p. 245. 3. J. C. Burckhardt, Luca della Robbia, Der Cicerone (Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1896)

    Vol. 2, p. 589. 4. R. M. Rilke, Auguste Rodin (New York: Fine Editions Press, 1945). 5. Sheldon Cheney, Sculpture of the World (New York: Viking Press, 1968) p. 463. 6. J. Rewald, Degas Sculpture (New York: H. A. Abrams, 1956) pp. 15, 23.


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    Article Contentsp. 185p. 186p. 187

    Issue Table of ContentsLeonardo, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr., 1970), pp. 135-267Front MatterArticles by Artists: Articles d'artistesOn the Use and Phenomena of Fluorescent Pigments in Paintings [pp. 135 - 138]Visual Dialogue through 'Conversational' Drawings [pp. 139 - 147]Polymorphism in Painting through the Use of a Labyrinth [pp. 149 - 158]Role et valeur de la vision interieure dans la creation picturale [pp. 159 - 167]

    Les materiaux plastiques a la disposition des peintres et des sculpteurs [pp. 169 - 171]For a Change in the Education of Artists [pp. 173 - 176]NotesMy Paintings: Unplanned Structures [pp. 177 - 179]My Geometrical Paintings [pp. 181 - 184]Dance in My Sculpture [pp. 185 - 187]Notes on Jack Burnham's Concepts of a Software Exhibition [pp. 189 - 190]Objets-gateaux [pp. 191 - 193]The Helicoidal Skyscraper [pp. 195 - 197]Ceramic Sculptures from a Potter's Wheel [pp. 199 - 201]My Abstract Paintings: Subject, Way and Impulse [pp. 203 - 206]

    DocumentsL'accroissement de la creativite [pp. 207 - 212]Behavior Patterns of Scientists [pp. 213 - 220]Government Policy and Economic Security for Artists: The Case of the "droit de suite" [pp. 221 - 231]

    Terminology: Terminologie [pp. 233 - 234]Books: Livresuntitled [pp. 235 - 239]untitled [pp. 239 - 241]untitled [pp. 241 - 243]untitled [pp. 243 - 244]untitled [pp. 244 - 246]untitled [pp. 246 - 247]untitled [p. 247]untitled [pp. 247 - 248]untitled [pp. 248 - 249]Books Received [pp. 249 - 250]

    International Opportunities for Artists: Pour les artistes a l'etranger [pp. 251 - 255]International Science: Art News: Art et science: Nouvelles de l'etranger [pp. 257 - 263]Letters: LettresJack Burnham Comments on Mallary's Note [pp. 265 - 266]Lithography Today [p. 266]Information on Additive to Water for Use in Kinetic Art [pp. 266 - 267]Art Teacher's Appreciation [p. 267]A Journal Free from Advertising Influence [p. 267]Art and Parapsychology: Observation and Research Teams (APPORTS) [p. 267]

    Back Matter


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