Prelude to Spring Notes


Saturday, February 12, 2011

I first made “Enclosed Sculptures” similar to “Prelude to Spring” in the 1950’s shortly after being discharged from the army. I served in an infantry division in the Korean war and the battle had pretty much settled down on the 38th parallel. It was a war zone. Koreans had been evacuated; there was no evidence of any kind of civil society and what was left of villages in the area was rubble. I was sent to Seoul one day on some army business. It was late in the war and armies had pounded their way through the city several times. As a result, it was for the most part, a shambles. Ordinary people made do with whatever scraps of their ruined society that were available and that was the detritus of war. Shelters were made of pieces of lumber, discarded army supplies, tar paper, pieces of canvas and flattened out cans were made into shingles for roof and wall. I was there to visit an army corps headquarters, a very restricted area of great contrast to the desolation of the nearby environs. The soldier I visited in the headquarters suggested we go out in the neighborhood where there was a restaurant which served good Korean food. It was cold, a light rain was falling, there were no paved streets or sidewalks and we walked through the desolation to the restaurant which was a haven (thanks to soldiers’ pay) in the surrounding chaos. On leaving the restaurant we were approached by a small, very thin Korean boy who was begging outside. He was wearing an old G.I. field coat that hung to the ground. His head was almost hidden behind the hood and a small hand reached out from the sleeve. In almost unintelligible English he said “money for family.” My companion was unimpressed. He said there were usually Korean girls in the street with baby-in-arms crying out “G.I. baby G.I. baby.” Not much of a war story but the image of that small boy covered in the cloak of a G.I. field coat, standing in a cold rain in front of a small restaurant in Seoul in 1952 has stuck with me all these years. That image became the outer shell and the inner form of some of my sculptures. I started representing the image with figurative ideas which gradually metamorphosed into abstract forms such as the “Prelude to spring” and the “boxed” forms. The sculptures do not necessarily tell the story of that memorable incident in my life but has influenced much of my work.