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All 4 books by Edward Tufte now in
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Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations
Beautiful Evidence
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La représentation de l'information
quantitative 200 pages $12
La Representación Visual de Información
Cuantitativa 200 páginas $12
Visual and Statistical Thinking $2
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint $2
Seeing Around + Feynman Diagrams $2
Data Analysis for Politics and Policy $2
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Spring Arcs, an ET landscape sculpture

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-- Edward Tufte


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Edward Tufte, Spring Arcs, 2002-2004, installed 2004. 4 stainless steel arcs, tilted 12 degrees from the vertical, 6 feet high, base parallelogram 12 by 67 feet, solid stainless steel, weight 12,800 pounds.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to NEW . . . . Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Edward Tufte teases us with these glorious photos of his intriguing sculptures. Are we allowed to escape this flatland perspective and visit in the round?, to admire the light reflecting off the stainless, the march of the shadows across the ground and the criss-crossing of the legs as we circumnavigate the works.

Monumental modern sculpture rises to a different level when set into glorious landscapes. For others interested in experiencing this I recommend visits to the Storm King Art Center (NY), Dia:Beacon (NY), Opus 40 (NY) and Louisiana (Denmark).

Beware the over-crowded sculpture gardens, like that adjacent to the National Gallery of Art on the Mall in DC, for monumental modern sculpture often needs space when outdoors. One interesting deviation from this observation is the 'Torqued Spirals' and 'Torqued Ellipses' of Richard Serra which work best to my eye when compressed with a low roof and close-hugging walls, like at the original Dia:Chelsea (NYC)installation rather than the open-air setting at the Pulitzer Art Center (St. Louis). In close quarters, Serra's pieces have a physical effect upon your sense of balance, even your understanding of balance, prompting the question -- "how does he move and balance those enormous sheets of steel (2 inch thick by 13 feet high by 40 feet long)?"

Mr. Tufte, when can we visit to experience your works in the round?

-- Torben Jenk (email)


Response to NEW . . . . Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

I would like to see an aerial photograph of this sculpture. would i see points in space? a curve, a single wave?

then a quartet panel that shows how the material integrated in the landscape during Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter would also be interesting, I think the length of the sun's shadow would be considerably different during the two equinoxes in the year.

why is it tilted at 12 degrees?

:)

-- Dana


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As Jimmy Ray Thudpucker, a Dylan-like character in Doonesbury, once said upon being asked about the deep meaning of the words in his cryptic songs, "Man, I'm just trying to get the words to rhyme."

Art-historical speculation builds an interesting edifice, but I'm just trying to make things beautiful.

I tried 18 degrees, an angle used the Millstone series of pieces (more to come), but that was too steep in the sun. 12 degrees was more beautiful in the sun, and in the relationship to the land, and in the relationships among all 4 arcs. Of course a factor of 360 degrees is a necessity, I suppose, although that theory might suggest the far more universal 15 degrees or 1 hour of longitude. Since the full-scale mock-ups (made from insulation foam covered with reflective silver foil) were tested at various angles before and after sunset during 6 months of test installations, there may be something to Jeffrey Berg's point about 12 degrees. A lot of my pieces, which spend most of their time borrowing light, are apparently optimized for the hour before and the hour after sunset when the light is so beautiful.

Thus the choice of 12 degrees was not based on sun theory, but on barefoot empiricism or, better, in-situ visual experience. It might have been helpful to have known about the 12 degree sun theory during these tests; perhaps it would have reinforced my empiricism. I also sought to avoid placing the arcs orthogonal to the ground, since that separated the 4 elements. The constant and unusual tilt-angle of the 4 arcs causes them to interact, to play back and forth, to become tied together into one piece. There was a happy accident as well: at the very beginning, we first worked with the stainless steel arcs, not the foam mockups, and the wood props supporting a 3,000-pound arc held an arc more securely and safely when an arc was slightly tilted (at say 10 to 20 degrees). Assisting this work was an elegant tool that combined a level with a digital readout measurement of angles.

Still more: I first ground the surface of the original arcs with a single-action grinder, creating sworls crude and vulgar compared to the magnificent grinding of David Smith in his stainless steel Cubi series. In the bright sun, my grinding looked like grafitti (or a failed effort to grind away graffiti) and so later my surface grinding was partially neutralized with some light double-action random grinding at the foundry (somewhat like the surfacing in Escaping Flatland 1-10). With this neutralized surface, it was all the more important to pick up and reflect direct sunlight by means of a tilt relative to the ground.

The many experiments with positioning the steel arcs and then the foam mock-ups allowed us to have the underground support-bases constructed, as seen in the last picture in the series, a picture taken at Tallix, a sculpture foundry in Beacon, New York. Those stainless steel support-bases were then in turn bolted directly to a total of 8 separate 4,200 pound concrete pads (off-the-shelf septic tank lids!) buried in the ground.

In fact, the most difficult installation issues by far were locating the 4 arcs relative to the land and to each other. What looked good in little paper mock-ups on the kitchen table or in sketchbook drawings didn't always look good in the field. I had a difficult time conceptualizing and abstractly reasoning about the relative arc and landscape positions (too many variables interacting). Thus for 6 months experiments were done all over the fields, in the woods, partly in a stream bed (imagine silvery flowing water near the arcs), and up and down a hillside (using, of course, the foam full-scale mock-ups). Most experiments produced instantly and obviously poor arrangements; some experiments sounded good verbally but were lousy visually (the water idea was gimmicky, contraptionary, and made the piece look like it was trying too hard); a few experiments were good enough to be photographed and thought about for several weeks.

Then there is the viewer's physical relation to the piece. And the underlying fact tht the arcs are solid stainless steel. Also the volumes in the negative space, in air, created by the piece. And . . . .

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Here's the piece reflected in a puddle during installation.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Several of the comments here make analogies between the piece and some other image or object. And some of my pieces do flirt with metaphor.

But in looking at abstract sculpture, there are many other things, more important things, to see: 3-dimensionality (as the observer moves, the visual experience changes), color, shifts in color as the sun or the observer's viewing angle changes, the volumes in the air created by the piece, the physical experience of the viewer in relation the piece.

That is, concentrate deeply on the visual and the physical experience rather than prematurely turning art into a verbal experience. To see art, not to chat about art. For viewers to repay some small part of the visual work and visual reasoning that went into making and placing the piece. Word authority quickly limits and even defines seeing.

Sculpture reproduced in flatland photographs seems to promote art-chat over art-seeing. Photographs, in one-eyed flatland, are so thin, so impoverished, compared to seeing the real living sculptural object. Abstract sculpture is, at its heart, something to be experienced.

Photographs of abstract pieces do, however, help us to see things that are hard to see in the field. By concentrating attention and isolating particular visual elements, photographs reveal sculptural elements lost in vast complex of outdoors.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Im just going on first instict. But to me, "Spring" has nothing to do with the season but rather in relation to a "coil"/"spring" half buried in the earth. Reminds me of of a minimal, non-descriptive Claes Oldenburg piece. I enjoy the whimsical quality. Here's another thought, a spring/coil or even the Season carries inate energy and tension, which appears to be an over-"arching" (bdum-dum) spirit of the design.

Can imagine the experience in person.

-- Mark Oliver Drilon (email)


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Well said, Mr. Tufte. I hope it was clear that my earlier comments referred to the photographs.

Normally the experience of viewing sculpture leaves me with nothing to say. I wish I could say it was always because I was deeply affected, but mostly it's just because words have so little to do with the effect of sculpture, profound or not. The only time I know I was affected was the installation of Serra's Torqued Ellipses at the Dia Center. And then the effect had to do with so many things outside of three dimensional space -- weight, craft, reflection, effort, presence, and the recognition of my own body in the space.

-- John Morse (email)


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Mr. Tufte writes about experiencing sculpture through flatland photographs. I for one would enjoy seeing stereo pairs of Mr. Tufte's creations posted to this site. The process of recording and displaying stereo images is relatively simple and would indeed offer a new way to appreciate these provocative works. Just as the recent stereo images from the Mars rovers have turned flat looking rocks into vast landscapes and gaping craters that threaten to swallow the viewer, Mr. Tufte's works would become dimensional to those of us who are trapped in flatland. In fact, I'd be happy to take the pictures myself!

-- Jay Riddle (email)


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Photographs taken during the installation:

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

3 Golden Retrievers and 1 Samoyed at the Spring Arcs, September 7, 2004.

Photograph by the amazing Philip Greenspun, Alex's friend. Model releases on file.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Here are labeled negative spaces (in the flatland photograph) and volumes (in 3-space reality) generated by the stainless steel arcs.
Arc 1 = front, arc 4 = backmost arc.

-- Edward Tufte


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Not being one classically trained in "art", I appreciate this sculputure from a few perspectives. Realizing from a pure analytic perspective that in nature there are fundamental equations/ratios that hold true (fibonnaci sequences, the golden ratio), this peice appeals to me in that we recognize it as art given:

1) It does not seem to break the natural order of things (the piece does not disrupt it surrondings), it seems natural that these forms exist in this environment.

2) There is a Message/Communication within the peice that we are relaying that can't be described in words... (this peice did not grow like a tree from the landscape, it was integrated with the environment by man).

Maybe what it means to me is that "We (Man) are communicating our understanding of the beauty, complexity and simplicity of nature."

-- Eric DeFazio (email)


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

As in the art of ikebana, space is most important lending class and spirituality to the art piece. Wonderful from any view, full of deep underlying peace, thanks edward.

Paulene

-- paulene from Malaysia (email)


Response to Spring Arcs, a new sculpture

Here's a wonderful photograph by Dmitry Krasny of the Spring Arcs, with Millstone 6 and a receding artist in the background.

And shown here in a large screen JPEG

-- Edward Tufte


-- Edward Tufte


I am in a sculpting class and needed to find sculptures that utilized negative space. this I believe is a good representation of that. did that play any part in the making of this sculpture?

-- matthew McMahon (email)


Yes, as a reading of my comments above will reveal.

Many of my other landscape pieces deal directly with negative space; see the threads for these pieces as well, particularly Dear Leader 1 and Escaping Flatland 1-10.

-- Edward Tufte


It looks like a giant dropped his slinky. This is said in the most respectful way - I am in love with the slinky (the metallic version of my youth) - and looking at this created a huge smile. As an artist - it goes beyond what has been mentioned above, both aesthetically and creatively. So simple, so harmonious - striking and beautiful. But, I will love it for the slinky aspect the most, I think. Linda

-- linda (email)




Threads relevant to sculpture:
Ace and Porta do multimedia
Airspaces
Artful Feynman Diagrams, Fermilab exhibit by Edward Tufte
The Conceptual and Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams. Art show + 16 page essay.
Bird Series
Aluminum and stainless steel; many, many pieces moving in the air.
Bouquet sculpture series--and Walking, Seeing, Constructing
Beginning of Bouquet series (now 7); along with theoretical statement beginning the volume 5 project.
Buddha with Bird Nest: sculpture
Complex sculptural shapes
Dear Leader I: landscape sculpture May 2006
Narrative piece about some mysterious porcelain objects in a stainless steel perspective box.
Dog sculpture (Porta the Portuguese Water Dog)
ET Modern
ET museum/gallery in the Chelsea Art District in New York 2010-2013.
ET show at George Champion Modern Shop
ET gallery show in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Escaping Flatland sculptures
Ten large stainless steel pieces in the landscape generate many views and painted color fields as the sun moves across the sky and the season changes.
Flame Theater
Georgia O'Keeffe and Escaping Flatland
Hogpen Hill #1: sculpture installed August 2006
First major piece (24 feet light, stainless steel) installed in new 122 acre sculpture park underway in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Ironstone artworks, torqued steel
Magritte's Smile
Masks Quartet, 2011
bronze casting
Megaliths, Continuous and Silent, Stuctures of Unknown Significance
Stone+air artworks. Scuplture, megaliths
Millstone sculpture series
Massive industrial pieces sorting out circles and light. Redesigning and repurposing scrap from nuclear power plant.
Multiplicity in visual experiences (ET presentation for a museum show)

Nine reviews of ET's Aldrich Museum sculpture show
ET museum show in Connecticut 2009-2010
Open-Ended
Paradox sculptures
Petals 1-3
Aluminum hyperbolic paraboloids in the landscape reflect light and shadow. The pieces move with the contour of the land.
Philosophical Diamond Signs
Philosophical alerts, imperatives, and thoughts about the path past and future.
Rocket Science
~32 feet (10 m) high and ~72 feet (22 m) long, and is constructed from ~48,000 pounds (22,000 kg) of rusting scrap steel
Rocket Science #2 (Lunar Lander)
Rocket Science 3: Airstream Interplanetary Explorer
Sculpture Forgings
Steel forging mounted on wood base. Blacksmithing video.
Sculpture: Negative space studies
Three table pieces; strong positive elements create active negative volumes (the air) to torque. Movies.
Seeing Around: New ET essay published
Skewed Machine
Stainless steel images: anisotropic calligraphy
Big series of engraved 3D anisomorphic images that move with light.
Steel sculptures
Rough, thick, rusting steel, with surface images in the steel's patina.
Table sculptures
About a dozen major table pieces in wood, steel, stainless steel.
The Drawing Center fax show: ET exhibits
The Twigs: Landscape artworks made from steel and air
The beautiful Twig. Steel, 32 feet high, with accompanying thread on reading the piece and the complexities of modeling large 3D objects.
Theater Museum artworks
Tong Bird of Paradise
Towers: a new memorial for 9/11
Visual complexities of light, shadow, perpsective. Perforated stainless steel.
ZZ Smile (Zerlina's Smile)