For millennia, plaster has been used by tradespeople and artists in varied forms for wide-ranging applications, from building construction to fine art. Plaster is a soft mixture of lime, sand or cement, and water that hardens as it dries. Sculptors commonly deploy it as a procedural material for experimenting or making molds before executing a final artwork in more permanent mediums like bronze.
In the 20th century, many artists adopted plaster as a medium to make fully realized works, molding, carving, and casting it, as well as combining it with other materials. This gallery illustrates how artists working with plaster brought about new sculptural forms during this period and afterward. Due in part to the ease of working with plaster and its quick drying time, they were able to convey gesture and a sense of immediacy in sculptures that reveal traces of their creation—aligning these works with the modernist tendency to foreground process in art.
Organized by Cara Manes, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, and Lydia Mullin, Manager, Collection Galleries, Department of Curatorial Affairs, with Rachel Remick, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Curatorial Affairs.