Karl Stirner Catalogue
Essay by Donald Kuspit

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Excerpt from Essay by Donald Kuspit

I will argue that Stirner’s abstract expressionistic sculptures are anxiety ridden. They are anxious objects, to use Harold Rosenberg’s term, uncertain of their identity, expressions of the so-called modern Age of Anxiety, anxiety a sign of unresolved inner conflict, even of split personality, a self in which one part is aggressively at odds with another part.  In sharp contrast, Stirner’s abstract constructivist sculptures involve depressive feelings, associated with the resolution of inner conflict, that is, making whole the self divided against itself—a  new self-certainty instead of the old self-doubt.  As the psychoanalyst Hanna Segal asserts, creativity “is rooted in the depressive position,” more particularly, “successful[ly] working through it.”(7)  Just as there are two basic modes of feeling, so there are two basic modes of abstraction, the gestural serving to express inner conflict, the geometrical serving to express its resolution.  They are two sides of the same psychic coin, that is, opposed yet complementary aspects of the same universal inner content.  
I will argue that Stirner has reduced gestural abstraction and geometrical abstraction—abstraction has been divided against itself from the start, reflecting the innate divide in feeling--to the minimum necessary to make the two basic kinds of feeling expressively evident by working them through in the seemingly feelingless, inexpressive medium of steel.  It is certainly a novel medium through which to convey feeling compared to paint, usually thought of as inherently expressive and full of feeling.  Fluid paint has been idealized as the preferred expressive medium in modern as well as traditional art.  Steel seems all too “realistic” in comparison.  It is certainly “colder,” “harder,”  “unmoving”—and harder to work with--than “warm,” “soft,” “moving” paint.  Why, then, does Stirner use steel to express his feelings, and why do his two kinds of abstract steel sculpture express—or as I prefer to say concentrate in themselves—the two basic kinds of feeling?
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