Introduction to the catalog for the Buddha's Seat Exhibitions

by Harry Rand

Curator of Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture

The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Clyde Lynds' work, which seems so easily legible as form and so complex as a narrative experience, clearly relies on a merger of current technology and esthetics. Thus he rebuts wan myth The pernicious idea of the "two cultures" promulgates a high-minded, pompous, ignorance Mental and esthetic experiences, so tied up with our perception of the world, are not distant nor have they ever been. Hardly riven in modernity, great art and great science have never been aloof in temperament or focus, and for most of history were virtually identical in their pursuits The huge accomplishments of the Renaissance (which supply the qualitative touchstone for the "two cultures" crowd) were, in Northern Europe, evidence of the same questioning of empirical reality as true science, while the Southern, Italianate, Renaissance rested on spatial probings whose conjectures eventually supplanted antiquity's classical learning, the putative font of wisdom.

The best scientific thinking, the latest tools of technology, perennially served the best art and the best art always tested the ways a society's assumptions may be portrayed. (Symbolism is as technological as machinery, and the evolution of powerful contrivances clearly relies on the evolution of symbolic thinking) Art always exploits the best functional contemporary devices. Etching was a mechanical advance from engraving, and both were supplanted by lithography (Artists continue to practice all three because each maintains distinct resources to be sensitively qualified)

The enormous mushrooming of factories in the industrial revolution was presaged in Guttenburg's gorgeous printing of the Bible with movable type - ancestor of the assembly-line. Generations of artistic yearnings produced photography, whose evidentiary qualities catapulted science to new levels of empirical precision (The invention of the folding/collapsible, hence portable, paint tube - now used to dispense everything from toothpaste to tomato paste - made outdoor painting possible: Impressionism) Film, which fulfilled an ageless dream, relied on, solicited, and produced, innumerable technical advances in chemistry, optics and electronics. Yet, today, we hardly notice the techniques of these arts; the functional equipment is transparent to our appreciation of artistic intelligence and wit.

For example, the potentiality of the piano is purely theoretical without a Bach or Beethoven. The future of sculpture is no less hazy; there is no evident or proper "direction" for Lynds' art to take; there are only places that sculptors wish to go. Lynds wishes to explore (and that is really the right term, used not as metaphor) the potentiality of new materials, which should cause no concern or reluctance, although we can anticipate the direction from which resistance might arise.


Novelty is the problem. Each generation notes with suspicion or admiration the devices that purvey its art, the relative conservatism or innovation of the presentation Clyde Lynds suffers, wholly unfairly, from such uncertainty. In particular, in our age, the notion of a technically complex art threatens the twin ideas of authenticity and spontaneity at the core of the modern esthetic. Instead of examining the real affective potency of Lynds' works, the spectator new to his art may wonder at the equipment (really elegantly simple after a moment's reflection) that his sculpture incorporates. Nobody gets hung up thinking about the printing of books, or film's technology. Yet, despite any misgivings of the viewer newly introduced to his art, Lynds' sculpture requites many vexations of modern art.

Clean, elemental silhouettes characterize his best work, and these rude forms come into modern art after the primitivist experiments of Brancusi, and others. They are quickly scanned and instantly readable in their outlines and forms. Ruggedness and lack of surface finish is a purely modern esthetic which Lynds integrates and heightens by the contrasting precision of his dematerialized optical effects. (Here the oldest oppositions - of weight and weightlessness, form and formlessness, change and stasis – play a rapidly oscillating concerto of contrasts.)

Prestressed and cast concrete is certainly not of problematical artistic ancestry - as Picasso was among those who used it. This material is the century's quintessence and archetypical of the modern environment, even as Lynds uses it to suggest a timeless humanity much closer to the condition of nature. The sense of temporal play, central to Calder's art ("Mobiles"), is given new meaning in Lynds' work. Lynds introduces cycles, extended time, and cadences into his sculpture, but - and here is the essence of paradox - without movement; his works are unmoving ballets. Change, not movement, takes the place of narrative in an art that has always stood for spatial alterations. How unparalleled is this sensation (formerly reserved for moments like watching sun sets) in art. To this quasi narrative of change-without-movement comes another dimension recalling the swift weightlessness of thought or music.

The illegible symbolism of Lynds' shooting star surfaces recalls precedents in Torres-Garcia, Adolph Gottlieb, even Cy 1\vombly. We crave the ability to read what cannot be read.

With so much that ought to compel attention and affection for this work, only the prejudice against seeing an electric plug sprouting from his sculpture impedes Clyde Lynds' celebrity. As that discomfort fades in the death throes of the "two cultures" his reputation will ascend. There is magic here for the unprejudiced viewer.