Writing about sculpture that is writhing

Laocoon and his sons, 160BC approx, 1.84m high.

In my last post I mentioned that I would break free from being boxed in. This sculpture is composed of visual forces that are in many ways the opposite of those of box forms. Here arabseque, serpentine, whiplash forces are dominant. The sculpture also has a layered sense of space as forms overlap, entwine and have a hierarchical relationship.

Poseidon sent two sea serpents to destroy his own priest and his sons, who warned the Trojans of Greeks bearing gifts in the form of the wooden horse . Troy was of course sacked and the Trojans were massacred. Lacoon's role is relatively slight in the story, but this work is prescient about the changes that it relates to and is an embodiment of energy and dynamism, but also expressive of surprise and fear and hopeless resistance.

The first son stands at the top of the steps on the plinth, whilst Laocoon, twice his size struggles upwards and rears up from the bottom step and loses his balance over the middle step. The second son is firmly rooted to the bottom of the plinth. The serpents flood the figures linking them into one unified group, but also remind us of the waves that would have crashed against the shore dragging Laocoon back into the tide and current of fate that befell him and his sons. The drapery from their bodies gushes down, reminding us of how gravity too keeps us all rooted and determines our existence in one way or another.

So few of the planes of the sculptural forms are parallel or perpendicular to the plinth. They all seem to exist at a different angle, adding further to the sense of forms in a turbulent flow. Foreheads, shoulders, waists and hips, knees and ankles all seem to be twisting in different directions. Classical art is often associated with stable forces; emotions are subsumed to intellectual ideas and the action is often parallel to the viewing audience, to enable a tale to be told through instruction. Although a classical sculpture, this group has expressive meaning and has more to connect it to the Baroque and Romanticism and the flicks of Pollock's wristy, risky gestures.

It might be an idea now to look at the language that I have used in describing sculpture so far (the box and Andre's work), to see if you can boil down the ideas to a criteria about how to deconstruct the composition of a sculptural form.



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