Throughout the history of civilization visual and audible experiences were considered the main senses, facilitating the spiritual link of a human with reality. Two grand areas of art were linked to vision and hearing. The one that impacted the eye became known as visual art, and the one, gratified the ear morphed into all genres of music from folk songs to Bach’s chorales and Beethoven’s symphonies.

The other senses: sense touch, smell and taste – were considered as primitive, material and Earthly, virtually incapable of inducing intellectual and spiritual experiences, thoughts and motivations, the necessary elements of creativity for inspired individuals.  

The 20th century delivered an unprecedented expansion of the art’s boundaries and conquest for the new creative frontiers. The inspirited masters of impressionism focused their creative efforts on the most delicate properties of tone and color. Later the experiments with other creative methods and devices followed.

After a short while the properties of the artwork’s surfaces gained closer attention of the artists: smoothness versus roughness, poignant versus silky or viscous… However, these properties were expected to be comprehended by vision from a distance, positively not by touch. Great Russian Avant-garde master Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1952) announced a famous slogan “The eye under control of the touch”. He constructed his famous counter-reliefs from a large variety of materials, but they were meant to be comprehended through observation.

Alex AG (Alex Garber) liberated the sense of touch from the dictate of the vision, as if the sense considered “inferior” rebelled against the “upper” sense – the vision. The discovery of the young artist was provoked by the life circumstances, where he was aiming to restore the artistic experiences to his close friend and fellow artist, who suddenly was deprived of sight.

The unusual nature of the undertaking dictated the physical properties’ logic of the new form of art: they had to be three dimensional and compact enough in size to be experienced by the palms and fingers without involvement of the vision.

The stone became Alex AG’s material of choice. Rock is a much more laborious substance, when used for small form sculpture. The small pieces of marble, granite, quartz, aventurine and serpentine became the raw stock for the sculptures.

Shortly after the artist faced the next exciting revelation: each of the shards found and collected for sculpting already contained its own image and spirit. The artist defined his task as revealing and carefully liberating these images from the stone.

Sensitivity and ability of Alex AG to collogue with his great collaborator – the Nature – ensured unique refinement of shape and exquisite tactile sensations, produced by these tiny, yet monolith sculptures.  

Alex AG quite rightfully titled this original form of art “tactylism”, precisely and comprehensively defining both artistic method and innovation of this small form sculpture.

Aleksandra Shatskikh,
Doctor of Art History,
December 2022, New York

Aleksandra Shatskikh holds a postdoctoral degree in art history. She is a major specialist in the history of the Russian avant-garde; author of numerous books and articles on the art of Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall and other Russian masters of the age of high modernism; and compiler and publisher of Collected Works of Kazimir Malevich in 5 Volumes (Volumes 1–5) (Moscow: Gilea, 1995–2004).