Daily Archives: August 22, 2008

Surreal Games

Augustine Dall’Ava’s sculpture exhibition at John Buckley Gallery is part of a Surrealist tradition. Dall’Ava’s continue the simplified biomorphic forms that Jean Arp first discovered. Dall’Ava’s continues Alberto Giacometti’s arrangement of forms, as in Giacometti’s early surrealist sculptures, like “The Suspended Ball in the Hour of Trances”, 1930. Dall’Ava quotes Giacometti’s the hanging objects in Dall’Ava’s Sixteenth and Twentieth Dialogues. Surrealism is a continuing tradition, not a historic art movement, and Dall’Ava continues to perfect the form of Surrealist sculpture.

Dall’Ava sculptures look beautiful. The materials: the marble, travertine, slate and steel are all polished and elegant. The painted wood is bright and glossy.

One refinement is the board, the base of the sculpture; they are boards, rather than extremely long, very thin plinths. They are, to be precise, game-board, like a chessboard and the base of Dall’Ava’s Eighth Dialogue and Third Dialogue have chessboard patterns. Games, the play of children and the chance rolls of a die are all very important to Surrealism.

A board game is a formalized, miniature, schematic representation of a world; Duchamp described games of chess as sculptural. In a game there is not just the positive and negative space, occupied or unoccupied by the pieces, but the potential spaces of occupation, the possible moves. The pieces in Dall’Ava’s sculptures: trees, clouds, rocks, the moon and other forms in appealing miniatures are carefully arranged on his boards. There are also cubes with pitted sides, suggesting dice, in many of the Dialogues.

All of Dall’Ava’s sculptures in this exhibition are titled ‘Dialogue’. Unlike Geoffrey Edwards, Director of the Geelong Art Gallery, in his catalogue essay for the exhibition, I believe that this collective title does give away a lot of allegorical intent. For a game, like chess, is a dialogue between two players.

There is no need for monumental sculpture in the anti-imperialist, anti-war world of Surrealism. It is a world where we have a playful dialogue with sculpture rather than idolizing the dead soldier or dictator high up on plinth.


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