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February 27, 2008 / hascott

The END of Modernism

As a side, I am in an Art Theory class… it blows my mind to put it simply. Our midterm assignment was to create the last modernist work or art. I made a box… or a reductive experience. It is interactive (the viewer has to get inside) so therefore much better in person. You should have seen me lift it over peoples heads to lower it over them. Classic Hilary awkwardness.

exterior in critique space. modernism.jpg

modernism_inside.jpg . interior of the box with light source



The decisions of a Modernist piece of artwork are entirely self referential, looking within that form or discipline to assess the most reduced elements of importance. I have created what I believe is the last work of Modernism. All elements of design and color have been removed to leave a purely functional form. The outside, not unlike modernist architecture, stands apart from its surroundings with vertical and horizontal lines that reference the Modernist grid. Nothing about it is decorative or ornamental; the structure and joinery is in full view, all created to serve the function of the experience that is within. We have departed entirely from the wall to make a new space for human interaction with the work. It could be seen as the most functional one-person gallery ever created, and therefore the last.


A point, or a dot, is unlike a line. Even grid lines that reference the shape of the canvas have movement and direction in them. A point is stationary, unmoving and a finite statement to the end of something. Like the end of a sentence or the moment right before an old television turns off and we see all of the light on the screen instantaneously diminish to darkness. A point, however, has mass to it. The key to the end is in the absence of mass in the form of a point, period or puncture.


The camera obscura, as first described by Leonardo da Vinci, functions similarly to the way an image is formed on the human eye. This pinhole camera was one of the earliest forms of photography. Early models took up whole rooms but where later reduced to become more portable. Louis Daguerre and William Fox Talbot adapted such cameras to create the first photographs. Just as photography is accused for the decay of painting, I thought it most appropriate that a derivative of its earliest form, which is really from the form of our eye, be the last work before it’s death.


This experience of true darkness is interrupted by a small point of light in the top corner. The point is so small and the light forced through that space so concentrated that an actual image to view is rendered virtually impossible. Just as they say you see a bright light right before you die, there is a bright light surrounded by complete darkness to mark the end of Modernism. This visual experience references nothing but itself. The plane is all encompassing to surround the viewer. The shape of the box itself references the practical shape of the human body for the individual, which will experience it.

My regrets for your loss,

Hilary A. Scott




Leave a Comment
  1. Mike D / Mar 14 2008 12:44 am

    Your written statement is very nice.

  2. LJK / Apr 7 2008 11:01 am

    Since we’re on the subject of death, is it possible the shape and function of the object might also suggest a coffin? My dear, your brilliance punctures my dark world like a tiny point of ever-streaming light. 🙂

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