The first book to devote serious attention to questions of scale in contemporary sculpture, this study considers the phenomenon within the interlinked cultural and socio-historical framework of the legacies of postmodern theory and the growth of global capitalism. In particular, the book traces the impact of postmodern theory on concepts of measurement and exaggeration, and analyses the relationship between this philosophy and the sculptural trend that has developed since the early 1990s. Rachel Wells examines the arresting international trend of sculpture exploring scale, including American precedents from the 1970s and 1980s and work by the 'Young British Artists'. Noting that the emergence of this sculptural trend coincides with the end of the Cold War, Wells suggests a similarity between the quantitative ratio of scale and the growth of global capitalism that has replaced the former status quo of qualitatively opposed systems. This study also claims the allegorical nature of scale in contemporary sculpture, outlining its potential for critique or complicity in a system dominated by quantitative criteria of value. In a period characterised by uncertainty and incommensurability, Wells demonstrates that scale in contemporary sculpture can suggest the possibility of, and even an unashamed reliance upon, comparison and external difference in the construction of meaning.
Rachel Wells is Lecturer in the History of Art at Newcastle University. She was previously Tutor at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.