E&P of Design: Hirshhorn Museum

Elements of Design:


Larry Poons, Day on a Cold Mountain

This piece is comprised of numerous scattered points. The points are of the same color and shape, called similarity, which makes the piece cohesive.  There is also a sense of continuity in this piece; when looking at it one must realize that even though the points are not connected, they create the overall form of the piece.


Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #356 BB: Cube without a cube

This piece was created solely with lines, or moving points. The combination of lines in LeWitt’s piece creates the image of two cube shapes. Then the thickness and uniformity of the lines gives the piece not only an overall feeling of simplicity, but also a sense of control.


Giacomo Balla, Plastic Construction of Noise and Speed

This piece is a three-dimensional form because it possesses a strong sense of depth. This piece is a mixture of organic and geometric form; there are soft, curving outlines, and then there are also hard, sharp outlines. The mixture of organic and geometric form, as well as light and dark colors, gives the piece a very strong, and slightly severe, appearance.


Jesús Rafael Soto, Eight Silver

It is difficult to see that this piece possesses movement upon the first glace. It is not until one strolls past it does one witness the movement. When strolling past, the small squares in the piece appear to quiver and shake, likely with the help of the lines behind the sqaures. The movement in this piece is very literal.


Sam Francis, Blue Out of White

This painting happens to be my favorite, due to its use of color. The contrast of the bright, vibrant colors against the neutral background not only allows one to see the object in the painting more clearly, but it contributes highly to the feeling of the painting. The cool blues, purples, and greens with small pops of yellow and orange make the painting very powerful and pleasing to the eye.


Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #1113: On a wall, a triangle within a rectangle, each with broken bands of color

While this piece could be a good example for many of the elements and principles of design, the main element it represents is pattern. Even though the colors are irregular and do not have a specific pattern, the blocks are very regular and do repeat throughout the entire piece. The pattern is very cohesive due to the repetition, as well as the use of the same colors, in the piece.


Barbara Hepworth, Reclining Figure

The texture of this piece is easily sensed, even if it cannot be touched (since I am sure the security guards would not like that!). This sculpture has a very smooth, soft, and warm texture due to its curves and neutral color. Upon looking closer, one can also see the marble-like texture of the sculpture.

Principles of Design:


Walt Kuhn, The Tragic Comedians

The two figures create a strong sense of balance in this painting. The two figures are of similar, but not identical, size and are formed around the fulcrum line; this creates approximate symmetry. This symmetry can be seen by “cutting” the painting in half, right down the middle: there would be the woman on the left, and the man, almost equal in size and position, on the right. This similarity in size and position balances the piece.


Stuart Davis, Tropes de Teens

The size of the face in the lower left corner in relation to the other objects in the piece provides a good example of proportion. The face is remarkably larger than the human figures above it. By using proportion in this specific way, the artist is drawing attention to the larger face. Viewers may wonder, “Why is that face larger?” or “What does it mean?” The artist used proportion in this piece to create abstraction, which will likely cause people to question its meaning.


Oscar Bluemner, Morning Light (Dover Hills, October)

This painting is a strong example of rhythm. The pattern of the piece contributes to its rhythm; even though there is not a distinct pattern, there are small “blocks” formed by lines in the painting that give it a quilt-like feature. This patterning technique, called repetition, also creates a sense of movement; it almost looks as if the river near the homes is really moving due to the shading in the different “blocks.”


Clyfford Still, 1960-R

This piece has a clear point of focus: the red object. The artist used neutral colors in order to draw attention to the red object in the painting. When looking at this painting, the viewers eye is drawn immediately to the red, solely because it stands out compared to the dullness of the other colors.


Josef Csaky, Abstraction (Standing Figure)

Although this piece is a great example of form, it is an even greater example of unity. The form and color of this piece contribute greatly to its unity. The objects of the piece are similar and repeating and the color is one-toned, creating a very unified and cohesive piece.


Alberto Giacometti, Reclining Woman Who Dreams

For my critique, I chose a sculpture by the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti named Reclining Woman Who Dreams. This piece of artwork was created in 1929 and cast from 1959 to 1960. Many important events were taking place in the world in 1929. First off, it was the year the depression began in the United States. Then in Europe, the Italian Fascist party was becoming stricter, governments all throughout Europe were undergoing changes, and the treatment of prisoners during World War I was being dealt with at the Geneva Convention in Switzerland. The surrealist movement of modernism, which mixes dreams and fantasy with reality, was also becoming popular in Europe during this time. Much of Giacometti’s artwork, including this sculpture, fit into the surrealism movement.

Reclining Woman Who Dreams shows two flowing “boards,” held up by two rods on one side, and one rod on the other side. Then there is a circle shape, which looks like a human head, on top of the higher “board” and then three lines connecting the top and bottom “board.” With the overlapping of shapes in this piece, various shadows are created. The first thing I notice when I look at this piece is the flow of the two board-like forms that together create an object that looks like a chair. The flow of these forms gives the piece a relaxing, dreamlike feel that is very appealing to the eye.

Giacometti used the various Elements and Principles of Design in order to create this relaxing, dreamlike sculpture. The first Element of Design I noticed was form. The form in this sculpture is three-dimensional and organic, giving the piece a very natural feel. Giacometti also used the element of line with the strong, thick lines on each side of the sculpture, and then smaller lines in the middle of the piece. The lines in the middle help create the shape of the woman. Movement in this piece is also extremely important, and it is an element that Giacometti used well. The movement in this piece is dynamic, since the eyes move through the piece with the help of open shapes. The color and texture in this sculpture add to the overall mood as well. The neutral grayish-beige is simplistic and calming, and makes the piece more feminine (rather than darker, more masculine colors). The smooth texture of the sculpture adds to its femininity as well.

Moving on to the Principles of Design, I see rhythm as being a truly essential part of this piece. The flow and movement of the lines create a rhythm in this piece that makes the viewer feel that he or she is in a dreamlike state. Giacometti also uses balance in this sculpture by having two flowing “boards” on top of one another, and therefore balancing each other. The proportion of the objects in this piece (the size of the circle in comparison to the “boards”) allows the viewer to see the woman as a key part of this piece. The last Principle of Design, unity, brings the whole piece together. The form is quite consistent in the piece, as well as the color, which give the sculpture an overall sense of cohesion.

After scrutinizing the Elements and Principles of Design of Giacometti’s sculpture, I tried to interpret what the piece really means. For me, this piece represents a woman while she is dreaming; a simple, yet beautiful, act. This piece brings the dreaming world into reality with the flow and simplicity of the lines. When I look at this piece, I feel calm as if I were dreaming. I think Giacometti’s goal in creating this piece was to showcase the beauty and calmness of dreaming with the help of a woman figure.

This sculpture is truly a beautiful work of art. Giacometti used many of the Elements and Principles of Design that together create a very cohesive work of art that deserves appreciation. I believe that this piece communicates a feeling of relaxation and simplicity that could in fact have value to others. If others understand the fundamental concept of the dream in this piece, then they will be able to appreciate the effect of the piece in a greater sense.


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