Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Chinese Scholar Rocks

This is one of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of Chinese scholar rocks. These rocks are pieces of found art placed on carved wooden stands, intended as objects for contemplation. Many of the Met's rocks come from the collection of the American sculptor Richard Rosenblum (1940-2000) who became better known for his extensive collection of Chinese literati objects than for his own sculptures.

Rosenblum said in an interview:
Our 20th century ideas of art tell us that just the act of seeing is a type of making: in the case of rocks, this process is taken to a further degree. Here are found objects brought out of their natural environment and placed in an entirely different one, perhaps a garden, perhaps a studio, as objects of enjoyment. Then, in the case of scholar’s rocks, the addition of the wooden stand is a dramatic imposition on the stone, essentially turning it into an art object. One of the real defects in a rock, in my opinion, is when it is glued to its stand, because it’s very important to take rocks off their stands and let them ‘return’ [to their natural state]; and it’s always amazing to me how unlike art they are when they are off their stands.
What I like about these rocks is how they are, as Rosenblum would say, both natural and cultural at once. They are self-contained miniature landscapes and representatives of the larger world. Since they are natural found art, they defy understanding. They just are. But they are endlessly interesting in all their holes and contours and sides.


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