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  • Exhibition catalog

Negative Space

Trajectories of Sculpture in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Peter Weibel (ed.)
© ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
Type of publication
Exhibition catalog
Author / Editor
Peter Weibel (ed.)
Publishing house, place
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA / London, England
Physical Description
704 p.; ca. 1150; 30 x 24,5 cm; hardcover, Dust jacket with fold out space sculpture

Before 1900, sculpture was based on the mimetic embodiment of humans, animals, and objects. Space itself was not its concern. But with the new experiences of space and time brought about by the Industrial Revolution and its technology — moving machines, such as trains and cars, and the emerging telecommunications media — the historical categories of plastic arts such as mass, volume, and gravity, derived from the body, until then the only medium of spatial and temporal experience, were rigorously denied.

This radical rupture from body-bound and object-oriented figurative sculpture and the transition to abstract vectors of space disclose a paradox: when sculpture after 1900 conceived the shaping of space as its only domain, these spatial sculptures were defined through negations of hitherto dominant sculptural characteristics:

void instead of volume
vacuum instead of mass
airy instead of solid
weightless instead of heavy
virtual instead of real
shadow instead of light
abstract instead of figurative

Artists focused on the new shapes of these empty, interstitial, and negative spaces.

Using rediscovered documents from art history and cross-bridging the artistic with mathematical models, this monumental and richly illustrated book from ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe demonstrates a new theory about modern sculpture’s fundamental differences from works of the past. Negative Space unfolds the revolutionary trajectories of abstract sculpture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: from linear and planar, suspended and pneumatic sculptures to virtual volumes and immersive environments.

Production / Corporation / Exhibition

ZKM | Center for Art and Media

Organization / Institution

ZKM | Center for Art and Media


Project management:
Patrick Trappendreher

2xGoldstein (Andrew Golstein, Jeff Goldstein, Joshua Kaiss)



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