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Research and Academic Explore

Mary Miss, Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys, 1978, installation at Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts, Roslyn, N.Y., detail of underground structure, published on the cover of Artforum (December 1978).    

CLARK LECTURE

From the Tower to the Void: Mary Miss’s Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys (1978)

Sarah Hamill (Sarah Lawrence College), Michael Ann Holly Fellow

This talk returns to a central yet curiously underexamined work of the 1970s: Mary Miss’s Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys, situated on the grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art in 1978. Rosalind Krauss opened her landmark 1979 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” with the work, but it has received scant attention since. Miss, like many other women sculptors in the 1970s, used plywood and other affordable materials to construct temporary, sprawling, and psychically-charged sculptures located beyond the exclusionary confines of the museum and gallery. What was Miss after in inviting viewers to move through an open landscape, as if partaking in a narrative, to climb up a tower, surveying space, and down into a pit, experiencing the confinement of a shelter that muted sound and light? How did this work claim new definitions of sculpture and feminism? Looking at Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys, this talk sheds new light on Miss and an overlooked group of sculptors in the 1970s, among them, Alice Adams, Alice Aycock, Harriet Feigenbaum, and Suzanne Harris, who located their feminism in works that shaped bodily encounters of enclosure and safety, claustrophobia and vulnerability, eliciting a full range of psychological responses.  

The lecture video will remain available until June 15, 2022.

Sarah Hamill is professor of modern and contemporary art at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Her writing focuses on the histories and aesthetics of modern sculpture, contemporary photography, and photography’s role in the historiography of art. She has explored how the camera translates and transforms the medium of sculpture in David Smith in Two Dimensions: Photography and the Matter of Sculpture (University of California Press, 2015), and, co-edited with Megan R. Luke, the volume Photography and Sculpture: The Art Object in Reproduction (Getty Publications, 2017). At the Clark, she will complete a new book titled “‘The Skin of the Earth’: Mary Miss, Abstract Sculpture, and Feminism in the 1970s,” which offers an account of the intersections between sculptural abstraction, feminist politics, and media in the postwar period.