A New Sacred Space: Michael Somoroff’s Illumination I by Donald Kuspit

Notes Continued

(11)Arnason, p. 565.  Bruderlin, p. 15 notes that “in 1955, when the pilgrimage chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut was dedicated in Ronchamp, the custodians of rational functionalism attacked its creator, Le Corbusier, as a betrayer of modernism....[T]he church, with its mushroom-shaped roof and expressively curved bell tower, was dismissed as ‘subjectivist’ sculpture.”  I don’t think Notre-Dame-du-Haut is as anti-modernist and subjectivist as its critics think.  It does not so much explode the box, as replace one its flat sides and right angles with a curved plane, set at a slight incline to the other sides, as though to evoke a transcendental experience—unconvincingly because without conviction, certainly nowhere near the conviction that informs Somoroff’s archisculpture.  The curve is a formalist element that was structurally forbidden by such pioneering modernist architects as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, although they later turned to it.  Perhaps it was initially rejected because they regarded it as conspicuously feminine and thus irrational.  Mondrian said as much in a statement declaring his opposition to it.  He never wavered from his censorship, remaining a determined rationalist to the end, however intricate his angular paintings became.

(12)Somoroff’s archisculpture seems to have been influenced by Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church, which is transparently a work of archisculpture, indeed, is a major example of the seamless integration of architecture and sculpture.  Somoroff’s tower arches also seem to be a “take” on the conoidal chimneys on Gaudi’s Palau Ga;ell.  Gaudi topped many of his buildings with geometrically intricate “pinnacles,” suggesting that he believed geometry is a useful means to a transcendental end, as Somoroff seems to, and also Plato.

(13)Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (New York and Evanston:  Harper & Row, 1961), p. 34

(14)Roger Fry, “An Essay in Aesthetics,” Vision and Design (New York:  Meridian, 1956), p. 21  

(15)Ibid., p. 27

(16)Ibid., p. 29

(17)W. W. Meissner, Ignatius of Loyola:  The Psychology of a Saint (New Haven  and London:  Yale University Press, 1992), p. 330.  It is worth noting that H. D. Egan calls mystical or transcendental experience “infused contemplation” (quoted in Meissner, p. 313), suggesting the state of mind one must be in to approach and appreciate Illumination I, that is, to be seriously illuminated by it.

(18)Ibid., p. 33

(19)Harold Osborne, Aesthetics and Art Theory (London:  Longmans, Green, 1968), p. 130

(20)Ibid., p. 102

(21)Ibid., quoted from Kant.



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Per Contra Winter 2006-2007