Marcel Duchamp was probably the first artist to introduce the found object with his urinal signed R Mutt. He went on to develop his 'Large Glass' which was a combination of semi-sculptural objects on or within a flat surface, thereby combining sculpture and the visual image. However, it was Rauschenburg who developed an individual style through his painted works which used objects, collage and various materials to bring art to the viewer. By opening up the artistic space into the gallery and off of the wall, art became more accessible. "Off the wall" became a phrase absorbed into our language it was quite literally a term meaning avant garde, quirky, unusual. Everyday object could be regarded as sculptures in themselves without being formed in the traditional way. It was no longer necessary for sculpture to be presented on a pedestal but could be displayed on the floor on the wall, outside in the environment rather than in, say, a park or communal space. It is a way of bringing art to the people, rather than people visiting the art.
One of the earliest exponents of the object being represented almost as a wall sculpture is El Lissitzky, a constructionist in his Proun Room in 1923, and various kinetic sculptures, including, Proun 3A, 1920, responding to specific paintings held in LACMA's permanenet collection. Machine Project Field Guide to LACMA, Los Angeles, 2008. Lissitzky, I feel, was under the shadow of Malevich and possibly has not received the recognition he deserves. He was different in that his work is inevitably geometric and is literally a construction.
Joseph Beuys, who, in his Pack of 1969, uses a Volkswagen with 20 sledges carrying fat, felt and a flashlight. The sledges as seen tumbling out of the back of the volkswagen like a cascade on to the ground.
Robert Smithson used the image and sculpture one echoing the other, in a piece entitled Nonsite: Franklin, New Jersey, 1968.
Sol le Witt is an example of an artist who uses sculpture and image as a combine in his Variations of incomplete Open cubes, where these objects are expressed as small sculptures on a dais and also illustrated in images, photographs and drawings on the wall.
Later artists considered the process and materials to develop a more minimalist style of art. Robert Morris in his Untitled of 1967 uses the gravity of felt display from the wall cascading on to the floor. Here the material itself takes centre stage. Similarly Lynda Benglis in Quartered Meteor uses lead to look like a glutinous excrescence coming out of the corner of the room. So that the material and its qualities start to become more important than the object itself, and does not hide the underlying process.
Allan Kaprow through his performances was inspired by Pollock's process in producing drip paintings combined with Willoughby Sharp's vision in looking at different kinds of organic matter. In this way it was possible to use things from the real world to evoke responses. It was no longer necessary for things to be represented visually in paint. Things could be taken out of context and placed in new ones, so that art is no longer segregated from people and real life, but becomes part of it. These conceptual ideas required the viewer to interpret the work to give it meaning.
Cornelia Parker, a sculptor and installation artists uses found objects in innovative ways. She is particularly interested in the material of metal and hangs items on invisible line to display them so that the metal object becomes intrinsic to the display. These objects are often squashed so that its original purpose and decorative nature becomes unrecognisable, thus emphasizing the materiality of the object.
Jessica Stockholder uses plastic in a similar way to that of Parker, except that she uses plastic as her preferred material and creates sculptures involving colour and form. The objects are recognizable but their environment is different. They are combined in a way that creates a new kind of image a combination that is both appealing and "off the wall". She also uses waste materials as well as mixed commodities as in Your Skin in this Weather Bourne Eye-Threads and Swollen Perfume, 1985.
Material starts to take over from commodity as in Mike Kelley's "The Wages of Sin and More Lover House Than Can Ever be Repaid, 1987. It uses waste fabric and wool to create the wall image and incorporates a table with wool on the floor, the latter being, in my view, more prosaic than the actual wall piece.
The exploration of the space itself is referenced by Katharina Grosse, who, by using spray paint is not limited to a particular area, so that the pigment itself becomes important. In this way of working adjacent areas of archtecture need to be considered in terms of relationships, not only to structure but to colour. There is a temporal feel to her work that questions the balance of time and space. She says: ..."the process of art making must lead to an image independent enough, not only from the process of its manufacture but also from the initial idea and the theory that surrounds it."