Jackie Winsor (American, b. Saint John's, Newfoundland 1941)
Four Corners, 1972
Wood and hemp
28 7/16 x 50 1/2 x 51 3/4 in. (72.2 x 128.3 x 131.4 cm)
Gift of Donald Droll in memory of Eva Hesse, 1973
The simple geometric forms of her massive Four Corners and its matter-of-fact placement directly on the floor demonstrate Winsor's link to Minimalist sculpture. Yet its soft, organic materials and laborious handmade construction place it among the more metaphorical works by the many young so-called post-minimalist sculptors working during the late 1960s and '70s.1
Winsor worked four full days a week for six months during 1972 constructing the Oberlin Four Corners, a fifteen-hundred-pound wood and hemp sculpture.2 At the core of the work is a simple square made of four two-foot-long logs, joined with invisible notches and painstakingly bound together by the artist with thousands of feet of twine that she had unraveled from strands of weathered rope.3 She wrapped, bound, and knotted the twine around the wooden frame, transforming its geometry into an eccentric form of enormous density, weight, and textural and linear intricacy.4 No preparatory sketches or models were used. Although the artist was financially able to hire assistants to construct the piece, she believed that the process of making and her role in that process were critical to the success of the work.
Four Corners is the fourth of Winsor's five wood and hemp sculptures of this period. Within this series, the wrapped twine increasingly submerges the wooden armature. In the first three works--Bound Grid, 1971-72;5 Bound Square, 1972;6 and Bound Logs, 19727--the sculpture is an open frame, propped against a wall. The wrapping occurs only at the joints, but is progressively emphasized in each successive work. In the Oberlin piece, a freestanding work, the gigantic bulges of the wrapped corners no longer appear as the joints of an immediately readable frame, but dominate the sculpture with their massive form, textural and linear complexity, and provocatively tactile character. In the fifth work, Plywood Square, 1973,8 which is also free standing, the wrapped twine completely shrouds, binds, and reshapes a square cut out of a single piece of plywood. All five of these wood and hemp sculptures, along with five other works, were included in Winsor's 1973 exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery, the artist's first solo show.
In a New York Times review of Winsor's 1979 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Hilton Kramer noted a connection between the artist's work, "with its attachment to ritual and pre-industrial modes of workmanship," and what was then called "primitive":9
"There is a yearning in [Winsor's] work for the kind of meaning that the sculpture in a primitive culture could take for granted: the meaning that derives from a traditionally ordained ritual function. It is in this yearning that the true significance of Jackie Winsor's sculpture lies--a yearning that attempts to convert the slick forms of Minimalism back into the language of primitive feeling. The poignancy of the work is to be found in the fact that the only rituals available to the sculpture in this task are the rituals of esthetic ratiocination." Ellen Johnson, in her catalogue essay for the exhibition, seemed to concur with his response:10
"The whole slow process Winsor likened to a ritual long before that reference became so hackneyed. The earlier all-rope series she had executed entirely alone, but the bound-log pieces grew too large and heavy for one person to handle ("Four Corners," for example, weighs fifteen hundred pounds). In the rope pieces Winsor joins hands, as it were, with the original makers and users of the twisted hemp. Such a notion would not, I think, be scoffed at by Winsor inasmuch as she actually invites spectators to bring their own associations to their understanding of her work."
D. E. Scott
Work reproduced with permission of Jackie Winsor
The second of three daughters, Vera Jacqueline Winsor was born in 1941 in Saint John's, Newfoundland. Her father was an engineer and was transferred frequently during the 1940s, taking the Winsor family to different residences in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. In 1952 the family moved to Boston, although Winsor continued to spend her summers in Newfoundland.
Winsor was selected to attend two art schools in the Boston area during her junior year of high school. After graduation she entered the Massachusetts College of Art. During the summer of her junior year, she attended the Yale Summer School of Music and Art in Norfolk, Connecticut. She received her B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1965, and continued her art education at Douglass College, Rutgers University, where she met artists Joan Snyder and Keith Sonnier. She received her M.F.A. from Rutgers in 1967, and moved to New York with Sonnier, whom she had married, and Snyder.
Winsor began to exhibit her work in 1968 and continues to do so today. She currently lives and works in New York, where she recently exhibited a series of incised wall pieces at the Paula Cooper Gallery.
Bear, Liza, and Jackie Winsor. "An Interview with Jackie Winsor." Avalanche, no. 4 (Spring 1972), pp. 11-15.
Gilbert-Rolfe, Jeremy. "Reviews." Artforum 13, no. 5 (December 1973), pp. 67-68.
Johnson, Ellen H. "Introduction." In Jackie Winsor. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1979, pp. 9-13.
Sobel, Dean. "Jackie Winsor's Sculpture: Mediation, Revelation, and Aesthetic Democracy." In Jackie Winsor. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, 1991, pp. 17-45. Includes a complete discussion of the artist's biography.
Purchased from the artist by Donald Droll (1973), by whom given in memory of Eva Hesse in 1993
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1973. Four Young Americans. 29 April - 27 May. Cat. no. 15.
New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, 1973. Jackie Winsor. 20 October - 14 November. No cat.
London, Hayward Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1975. The Condition of Sculpture . 29 May - 13 July. Cat. no. 87.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1979. Jackie Winsor. 19 January - 13 March. Cat. pp. 10, 20, ill.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1984-85. Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern. 10 September - 15 January. Nu number, ill. p. 679.
Milwaukee Museum of Art, 1991-92. Jackie Winsor. 22 November - 19 January (also shown at Newport Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor Museum; Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; and Akron Art Museum). Cat. no. 8.
Tacha, Athena. "Some Thoughts on Contemporary Art: With Reference to Ann McCoy, Mary Miss, Ree Morton, Jacqueline Winsor, Chris Burden, Scott Burton, and Joan Jonas." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 30, no. 3 (Spring 1973), p. 95.
Lippard, Lucy R. "Jackie Winsor." Artforum 12, no. 6 (February 1974), pp. 56-58, ill. p. 57.
Perrault, John. "Jacqueline Winsor at Paula Cooper." Art in America 62, no. 1 (January-February 1974), pp. 103-4, ill. p. 103.
Burr, James. "The Select Few." Apollo 101, no. 160 (June 1975), p. 479, fig. 3.
Johnson, Ellen H. "American Art of the Twentieth Century." Apollo 103, no. 168 (February 1976), p. 133, fig. 11.
Smith, Roberta. "Winsor-Built." Art in America 65, no. 1 (January-February 1977), p. 120.
Arts Magazine 15, no. 10 (June 1977), ill. cover.
Johnson, Ellen H. "Introduction." In Jackie Winsor. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1979, pp. 10, 20, 30.
Kramer, Hilton. "The Second Generation of Minimalists." The New York Times, 4 February 1979, p. D29.
Weil, Stephen E. "The ‘Moral Right' Comes to California." Art News 78 (December 1979), p. 90, ill.
Smagula, Howard J. Currents: Contemporary Directions in the Visual Arts. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1983, p. 152.
Sobel, Dean. "Jackie Winsor's Sculpture: Mediation, Revelation, and Aesthetic Democracy." In Jackie Winsor. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, 1991, pp. 31, 66, 67, 108.
The sculpture is constructed of four sections of tree trunk, each approximately one foot in diameter and two feet long. The bark remains attached to those sections of trunk that are visible. Hemp twine is wrapped around the four corners of the piece, forming four independent twine "balls." See Main Text for additional information on the construction of the piece.
The piece is in good condition. There is some fraying of the twine, but this may be intentional. Cracks were noted in the bark where it is exposed.
1. On the Minimalist/postminimalist tensions within Winsor's work, see John Perrault, "Jacqueline Winsor at Paula Cooper," Art in America 62, no. 1 (January-February 1974), pp. 103-4; and Lucy Lippard, "Jackie Winsor," Artforum 12, no. 6 (February 1974), p. 56.
2. Ellen Johnson explains Winsor's method in her introduction to Jackie Winsor (exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1979).
3. Liza Bear and Jackie Winsor, "An Interview with Jackie Winsor," Avalanche, no. 4 (Spring 1972), p. 12.
4. As John Perrault ("Jacqueline Winsor at Paula Cooper," Art in America 62, no. 1 [February 1973], p. 104) wrote, "it is doubtful that that much hemp is really required to bind four logs into a rectangle. Instead, it is as though the time and effort of construction become directly perceptible as mass and weight."
5.Bound Grid, 1971-72, wood and twine, 213.4 x 213.4 x 20.3 cm, Paris, Fonds National d'Art Contemporain.
6.Bound Square, 1972, wood and twine, 191.8 x 193 x 36.8 cm, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
7. Bound Logs, 1972-73, wood and hemp, 198.5 x 73.4 x 45.7 cm, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, inv. 74.53.
8. Plywood Square, 1973, plywood and hemp, 63.5 x 134.6 x 134.6 cm, Canberra, Australian National Gallery.
9. Hilton Kramer, "The Second Generation of Minimalists," in The New York Times, 4 February 1979, p. D29.
10. Ellen H. Johnson, in her introduction to Jackie Winsor (exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1979), p. 10.