For more than four decades, the elusive but influential Los Angeles-based artist John Knight has developed a practice of site specificity that tests both architectural and ideological boundaries of the museum, gallery, and public sphere. Knight’s works defy notions of stylistic coherence, even, at times, of instant recognizability.
This October Files volume gathers essays, an interview, and a roundtable discussion on the work of Robert Morris, one of the most influential American artists of the postwar period. It includes a little-known text on dance by Morris himself and a never-before-anthologized but influential catalog essay by Annette Michelson. Often associated with minimalism, Morris (b. 1931) also created important works that involved dance, process art, and conceptualism.
Louise Lawler has devoted her art practice to investigating the life cycle of art objects. Her photographs depict art in the collector’s home, the museum, the auction house, and the commercial gallery, on loading docks, and in storage closets. Her work offers a sustained meditation on the strategies of display that shape art’s reception and distribution. The cumulative effect of Lawler’s photographs is a silent insistence that context is the primary shaper of art’s meaning.
Claes Oldenburg (born in 1929) is largely known today as a pop art sculptor. Oldenburg himself described his formless canvas and vinyl soft sculptures--gigantic hamburgers and ice cream cones, cushiony toilets and typewriters--as “objects that elude definition.” This collection of writings revisits not only Oldenburg’s soft objects from the early to mid 1960s but also his pioneering installations The Street (1960) and The Store (1961–1962) and his often overlooked multimedia performances.
John Cage (1912–1992) defined a radical practice of composition that changed the course of modern music and shaped a new conceptual horizon for postwar art. Famous for his use of chance and “silence” in musical works, a pioneer in electronic music and the nonstandard use of instruments, Cage was one of the most influential composers of the last century. This volume traces a trajectory of writings on the artist, from the earliest critical reactions to the scholarship of today.
Since the 1960s, Dan Graham’s heterogeneous practice has touched on such disparate subjects as tract housing, the Shakers, punk music, and architectural theory; he has made videos, architectural models, closed-circuit installations, and glass pavilions. Graham, who came of age during the emergence of earth art, minimalism, and conceptualism, has situated his work on the borders between these different strains of contemporary practice.
Still little-known in the United States, Richard Hamilton is a key figure in twentieth-century art. An original member of the legendary Independent Group in London in the 1950s, Hamilton organized or participated in groundbreaking exhibitions associated with the group—in particular This Is Tomorrow (1956), for which his celebrated collage Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?, crystallizing the postwar world of consumer capitalism, was made.
The contemporary painter Gerhard Richter (born in 1932) has been heralded both as modernity's last painter and as painting's modern savior, seen to represent both the end of painting and its resurrection. Richter works in a dizzying variety of styles, from abstraction to a German cool pop that combines painterly technique and appropriation; his work includes photo paintings, large abstract canvases, and stained glass windows.
Gabriel Orozco's work is sometimes considered uncategorizable; but his sculpture, photography, drawing, collage, and installations are unified by their devotion to the antispectacular, to the everyday, and to the explorations of complexities that are not immediately obvious.
Roy Lichtenstein's popular appeal—and his influence on pop culture, seen in everything from greeting cards to sitcoms—at times overshadows his importance to contemporary art. Yet, examined on its own terms, Lichtenstein's comics-inspired, deadpan artwork remains as truly unsettling to art-world orthodoxies today as when it first gained wide attention in the early 1960s. Lichtenstein (1923-1997), a central figure in Pop, consistently savaged the rules of painting—while remaining committed to the most traditional procedures and goals of the medium.
With her Untitled Film Stills of the 1970s, Cindy Sherman became one of the era's most important and influential artists. Since then, her metamorphosing self-portraits and appropriation of genres can be seen as a continuous investigation of representation and its complicated relationship to photography. Sherman and her work are often discussed in terms of postmodern theories and ideas that were coming to increasing prominence as her career began—feminism, subjectivity, mass media, new forms of mechanical reproduction, and even trauma, among others.
James Coleman has emerged in recent years as one of the most important artists of visual postmodernism. His work has transformed critical debates about the status of the image in contemporary culture and influenced an entire generation of younger artists in ways that have not yet been fully acknowledged. Until recently, Coleman has enjoyed relatively little critical attention—in part because of his refusal to comment on his projects or to allow his work to be reconstructed outside of the context of its exhibition.
From the moment art historian Leo Steinberg championed his work in opposition to Clement Greenberg's rigid formalism, Robert Rauschenberg has played a pivotal role in the development and understanding of postmodern art. Challenging nearly all the prevailing assumptions about the visual arts of his time, he pioneered the postwar revival of collage, photography, silkscreen, technology, and performance.
Eva Hesse's distinctive process-based art exerted a powerful influence on minimalist artists of the 1960s and continues to inspire artists today. Using industrial materials such as latex and fiberglass, she exploited their flexibility to produce works with an unsettling psychic and corporeal resonance. Hesse, who was born in Germany in 1936 and raised in New York City, died of cancer in New York in 1970.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), one of the most celebrated artists of the last third of the twentieth century, owes his unique place in the history of visual culture not to the mastery of a single medium but to the exercise of multiple media and roles. A legendary art world figure, he worked as an artist, filmmaker, photographer, collector, author, and designer. Beginning in the 1950s as a commercial artist, he went on to produce work for exhibition in galleries and museums. The range of his efforts soon expanded to the making of films, photography, video, and books.
Richard Serra is considered by many to be the most important sculptor of the postwar period. The essays in this volume cover the complete span of Serra's work to date—from his first experiments with materials and processes through his early films and site works to his current series of "torqued ellipses." There is a special emphasis on those moments when Serra extended aesthetic convention and/or challenged political authority, as in the famous struggle with the General Services Administration over the site-specific piece Tilted Arc.