Kimmelman strips the poet's point of its seeming racism and restates it:
Sculpture does still bear something of the burden of its commemorative and didactic origins. It’s too literal, too direct, too steeped in religious ceremony and too complex for a historically amnesiac culture. We prefer the multicolored distractions of illusionism on flat surfaces, flickering in a movie theater or digitized on our laptops and smartphones, or painted on canvas. The marketplace ratifies our myopia, making headlines for megamillion-dollar sales of old master and Impressionist pictures but rarely for premodern sculptures.Is this true? I would think that the sculpture we love is precisely that which retains a connection to "primitive" cultures and religious tradition. Even when that stuff is kind of bad, we may feel some emotion worth experiencing. It's all that bad modern sculpture, especially the stuff that clutters our path in the real world that makes us leery of the 3D concoctions of artists. At least paintings stick to the wall.
... Barnett Newman, the Abstract Expressionist painter, notoriously derided [sculpture] as objects we bump into when backing up to look at a painting.Nowadays, we may not care about looking at the painting either. We have our own goals and destinations, and the paintings stay humbly out of the way, to be looked at if we choose, but the bold efforts of the sculptors rudely occupy our space. The problem with sculpture is not that people today reject the aura of old cults and religions, it's that we are so over the boring, outsized egos of modern artists.
(This rejection of the ego of the modern sculptor was exemplified for all time by the "Tilted Arc" that enraged New Yorkers — what? were they not sophisticated?! — back in the 1980s.)