The job of an art critic is to take perpetual inventory, constantly revising her ideas about the direction of contemporary art and the significance of the work she writes about. In these essays, which span three decades of assessment and reassessment, Rosalind Krauss considers what she has come to call the "post-medium condition"—the abandonment by contemporary art of the modernist emphasis on the medium as the source of artistic significance.
The human figure made a spectacular return in visual art and literature in the 1920s. Following modernism’s withdrawal, nonobjective painting gave way to realistic depictions of the body and experimental literary techniques were abandoned for novels with powerfully individuated characters. But the celebrated return of the human in the interwar years was not as straightforward as it may seem. In Realism after Modernism, Devin Fore challenges the widely accepted view that this period represented a return to traditional realist representation and its humanist postulates.
In a career that spanned five decades, most of them spent in San Francisco, Bruce Conner (1933–2008) produced a unique body of work that refused to be contained by medium or style. Whether making found-footage films, hallucinatory ink-blot graphics, enigmatic collages, or assemblages from castoffs, Conner took up genres as quickly as he abandoned them. His movements within San Francisco’s counter-cultural scenes were similarly free-wheeling; at home in beat poetry, punk music, and underground film circles, he never completely belonged to any of them.
In 1961, a solo exhibition by Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana met with a scathing critical response from New York art critics. Fontana (1899–1968), well known in Europe for his series of slashed monochrome paintings, offered New York ten canvases slashed and punctured, thickly painted in luridly brilliant hues and embellished with chunks of colored glass.
In postwar France, the aesthetics of appropriation and collage gave cultural form to a struggle over meaning. A new wave of avant-garde experimentation used—or stole, plagiarized, and expropriated—elements from advertising, journalism, literature, art, and other sources of common discourse (the ironically named "beautiful language" of this book's title, itself an appropriation from Guy Debord's collaged Mémoires). Redeployed, often in startling or pointed juxtapositions, these elements took on newly oppositional meanings.
In the 1920s, the European avant-garde embraced the cinema, experimenting with the medium in radical ways. Painters including Hans Richter and Fernand Leger as well as filmmakers belonging to such avant-garde movements as Dada and surrealism made some of the most enduring and fascinating films in the history of cinema.
In 1964, at age forty, Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) proclaimed that his years of writing poetry—of being "good for nothing," in his words—were over, and a brief but dazzling artistic career began. Considered a founding father of institutional critique, Broodthaers created hundreds of objects, books, films, photographs and exhibitions, including a "fictive" museum of modern art that evolved from an installation in his own home to a massive exhibition of over three hundred works representing eagles.
In Hall of Mirrors, Graham Bader traces the development of Roy Lichtenstein's art into, through, and beyond his classic pop oeuvre of the 1960s. Bader charts the trajectory of Lichtenstein's practice from his student days in the late 1940s to his mirror paintings of the 1970s, offering new readings of such canonical paintings as Look Mickey and Girl with Ball as well as examinations of lesser-known works across a range of media.
In this first book-length study of Robert Ryman, Suzanne Hudson traces the artist's production from his first paintings in the early 1950s, many of which have never been exhibited or reproduced, to his more recent gallery shows. Ryman's largely white-on-white paintings represent his careful working over of painting's conventions at their most radically reduced. Through close readings of the work, Hudson casts Ryman as a painter for whom painting was conducted as a continuous personal investigation.
The art of Louise Bourgeois stages a dynamic encounter between modern art and psychoanalysis, argues Mignon Nixon in the first full-scale critical study of the artist's work. A pivotal figure in twentieth-century art, Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911, France) emigrated to New York in 1938 and is still actively working and exhibiting today.
In her dance and performances of the 1960s, Yvonne Rainer famously transformed the performing body—stripped it of special techniques and star status, traded its costumes and leotards for T-shirts and sneakers, and asked it to haul mattresses or recite texts rather than leap or spin. Without discounting these innovations, Carrie Lambert-Beatty argues in Being Watched that the crucial site of Rainer's interventions in the 1960s was less the body of the performer than the eye of the viewer—or rather, the body as offered to the eye.
The artist Francis Picabia—notorious dandy, bon vivant, painter, poet, filmmaker, and polemicist—has emerged as the Dadaist with postmodern appeal, and one of the most enigmatic forces behind the enigma that was Dada. In this first book in English to focus on Picabia's work in Paris during the Dada years, art historian and critic George Baker reimagines Dada through Picabia's eyes.
More than thirty years after the birth of the modern women's movement and the beginnings of feminist art-making and art history, the time is ripe to examine the legacies of those revolutions. In Women Artists at the Millennium, artists, art historians, and critics examine the differences that feminist art practice and critical theory have made in late twentieth-century art and the discourses surrounding it.
How to imagine not only a new art or architecture but a new self or subject equal to them? In Prosthetic Gods, Hal Foster explores this question through the works and writings of such key modernists as Gauguin and Picasso, F. T. Marinetti and Wyndham Lewis, Adolf Loos and Max Ernst. These diverse figures were all fascinated by fictions of origin, either primordial and tribal or futuristic and technological. In this way, Foster argues, two forms came to dominate modernist art above all others: the primitive and the machine.
Decoys and Disruptions is the first comprehensive collection of writings by American artist and critic Martha Rosler. Best known for her videos and photography, Rosler has also been an original and influential cultural critic and theorist for over twenty-five years. The writings collected here address such key topics as documentary photography, feminist art, video, government patronage of the arts, censorship, and the future of digitally based photographic media.
Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important visual artists of the second half of the twentieth century. In Random Order, Branden Joseph examines Rauschenberg's work in the context of the American neo-avant-garde. One of the foundations of his study is Rauschenberg's professional relationship with experimental composer John Cage. From the moment of their encounter at Black Mountain College in 1952, Joseph argues, Rauschenberg and Cage initiated a new avant-garde project, one that approached the idea of difference not in terms of negation but as a positive force.
Some critics view the postwar avant-garde as the empty recycling of forms and strategies from the first two decades of the twentieth century. Others view it, more positively, as a new articulation of the specific conditions of cultural production in the postwar period. Benjamin Buchloh, one of the most insightful art critics and theoreticians of recent decades, argues for a dialectical approach to these positions.
Suspensions of Perception is a major historical study of human attention and its volatile role in modern Western culture. It argues that the ways in which we intently look at or listen to anything result from crucial changes in the nature of perception that can be traced back to the second half of the nineteenth century.
There is not one Marcel Duchamp, but several. Within his oeuvre Duchamp practiced a variety of modernist idioms and invented an array of contradictory personas: artist and art dealer, conceptualist and craftsman, chess champion and dreamer, dandy and recluse.
Since the 1970s Rosalind Krauss has been exploring the art of painters, sculptors, and photographers, examining the intersection of these artists' concerns with the major currents of postwar visual culture. These essays on nine women artists are framed by the question, born of feminism, "What evaluative criteria can be applied to women's art?" In the case of surrealism, in particular, some have claimed that surrealist women artists must either redraw the lines of their practice or participate in the movement's misogyny.
In The Return of the Real Hal Foster discusses the development of art and theory since 1960, and reorders the relation between prewar and postwar avant-gardes. Opposed to the assumption that contemporary art is somehow belated, he argues that the avant-garde returns to us from the future, repositioned by innovative practice in the present. And he poses this retroactive model of art and theory against the reactionary undoing of progressive culture that is pervasive today.
This expanded edition of the fall 1994 special issue of October includes new essays by Sarat Maharaj and by Molly Nesbit and Naomi Sawelson-Gorse. It also includes the transcript of an exchange between T. J. Clark and Benjamin Buchloh which presents new responses to the problems raised by this immediately popular (and now out of print) issue of the journal.