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Criticism & Theory

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The dawn of the electronic media age in the 1960s began a cultural shift from the modernist grid and its determination of projection and representation to the fluid structures and circuits of the network, presenting art with new challenges and possibilities. This anthology considers art at the center of network theory, from the 1960s to the present.

Artists have used the “space of flows" as a basis for creating utopian scenarios, absurd yet functional propositions or holistic planetary visions. Others have explored the economies of reciprocity and the ethics of generosity, in works that address changed conditions of codependence and new sites of social negotiation. The “infra-power" of the network has been a departure point for self-organized counterculture and the creation of new types of agency. And a “poetics of connectivity" runs through a diverse range of work that addresses the social and material complexity of networks through physical structures and ambient installation, the mapping of the Internet, or the development of robots and software that take on the functions of artist or curator.

Artists surveyed include
Joseph Beuys, Ursula Biemann, Heath Bunting, Critical Art Ensemble, Fernand Deligny, Peter Fend, Gego, Jobim Jochimsen, Koncern, Christine Kozlov, Pia Lindman, Mark Lombardi, Diana McCarty, Marta Minujín, Aleksandra Mir, Tanja Ostojic, Ola Pehrson, Walid Raad, Artüras Raila, Hito Steyerl, Tomaso Tozzi, Suzanne Treister, Ultra Red, Wolf Vostell, Stephen Willats

Writers include
Jane Bennett, Hakim Bey, Luc Boltanski, Manuel Castells, ève Chiapello, Guy Debord, Umberto Eco, Okwui Enwezor, Michael Hardt, Bruno Latour, Marshall McLuhan, Marcel Mauss, Reza Negarestani, Antonio Negri, Sadie Plant, Lane Relyea, Craig Saper, Saskia Sassen, Pit Schultz, Steven Shaviro, Tiziana Terranova, Paolo Virno

Edited by Antony Hudek

Artists increasingly refer to “post-object-based" work while theorists engage with material artifacts in culture. A focus on “object-based" learning treats objects as vectors for dialogue across disciplines. Virtual imaging enables the object to be abstracted or circumvented, while immaterial forms of labor challenge materialist theories. This anthology surveys such reappraisals of what constitutes the “objectness" of production, with art as its focus.

Among the topics it examines are the relation of the object to subjectivity; distinctions between objects and things; the significance of the object’s transition from inert mass to tool or artifact; and the meanings of the everyday in the found object, repetition in the replicated or multiple object, loss in the absent object, and abjection in the formless or degraded object. It also explores artistic positions that are anti-object; theories of the experimental, liminal or mental object; and the role of objects in performance. The object becomes a prism through which to reread contemporary art and better understand its recent past.

Artists surveyed include
Georges Adéagbo, Art in Ruins, Iain Baxter, Louise Bourgeois, Pavel Büchler, Lygia Clark, Claude Closky, Brian Collier, Jimmie Durham, Fischli & Weiss, Luca Frei, Meschac Gaba, Isa Genzken, Gruppe Geflecht, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, John Latham, Antje Majewski, Gustav Metzger, Cady Noland, Gabriel Orozco, Adrian Piper, Falke Pisano, Eva Rothschild, Aura Satz, Kenneth Snelson, Hito Steyerl, Josef Strau, Alina Szapocznikow, Jo?lle Tuerlinckx, Erwin Wurm

Writers include
Homi K. Bhabha, Jack Burnham, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Lynne Cooke, Gillo Dorfles, Jean Fisher, Ferreira Gullar, Charles Harrison, Paulo Herkenhoff, Julia Kristeva, Bruno Latour, Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger, Jean-Fran?ois Lyotard, Lev Manovich, Ursula Meyer, Bruno Munari, Georges Perec, Hans-J?rg Rheinberger, Dieter Roelstraete, Howard Singerman, Nancy Spector, Marcus Steinweg, Anne Wagner, Gérard Wajcman, Slavoj ?i?ek

The Studio

Throughout his career, Philip Guston’s work metamorphosed from figural to abstract and back to figural. In the 1950s, Guston (1913–1980) produced a body of shimmering abstract paintings that made him—along with Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline—an influential abstract expressionist of the “gestural” tendency. In the late 1960s, with works like The Studio came his most radical shift. Drawing from the imagery of his early murals and from elements in his later drawings, ignoring the prevailing “coolness” of Minimalism and antiform abstraction, Guston invented for these late works a cast of cartoon-like characters to articulate a vision that was at once comic, crude, and complex. In The Studio, Guston offers a darkly comic portrait of the artist as a hooded Ku Klux Klansman, painting a self-portrait.

In this concise and generously illustrated book, Craig Burnett examines The Studio in detail. He describes the historical and personal motivations for Guston’s return to figuration and the (mostly negative) critical reaction to the work from Hilton Kramer and others. He looks closely at the structure of The Studio, and at the influence of Piero della Francesca, Manet, and Krazy Kat, among others; and he considers the importance of the column of smoke in the painting—as a compositional device and as a ghost of abstraction and metaphysics. The Studio signals not only Guston’s own artistic evolution but a broader shift, from the medium-centric and teleological claim of modernism to the discursive, carnivalesque, and mucky world of postmodernism.

Dropout Piece

The artist Lee Lozano (1930–1999) began her career as a painter; her work rapidly evolved from figuration to abstraction. In the late 1960s, she created a major series of eleven monochromatic Wave paintings, her last in the medium. Despite her achievements as a painter, Lozano is best known for two acts of refusal, both of which she undertook as artworks: Untitled (General Strike Piece), begun in 1969, in which she cut herself off from the commercial art world for a time; and the so-called Boycott Piece, which began in 1971 as a month-long experiment intended to improve communication but became a permanent hiatus from speaking to or directly interacting with women. In this book, Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer examines Lozano’s Dropout Piece, the culmination of her practice, her greatest experiment in art and endurance, encompassing all her withdrawals, and ending only with her burial in an unmarked grave.

And yet, although Dropout Piece is among Lozano’s most important works, it might not exist at all. There is no conventional artwork to be exhibited, no performance event to be documented. Lehrer-Graiwer views Dropout Piece as leveraging the artist’s entire practice and embodying her creative intelligence, her radicality, and her intensity. Combining art history, analytical inquiry, and journalistic investigation, Lehrer-Graiwer examines not only Lozano’s act of dropping out but also the evolution over time of Dropout Piece in the context of the artist’s practice in New York and her subsequent life in Dallas.

Between Utopia and Kitsch

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. One critic described the work as “halfway between constructivism and costume jewelry,” unwittingly putting his finger on the contradiction at the heart of these paintings and much of Fontana’s work: the cut canvases suggest avant-garde iconoclasm, but the glittery ornamentation evokes outmoded forms of kitsch. In Lucio Fontana, Anthony White examines a selection of the artist’s work from the 1930s to the 1960s, arguing that Fontana attacked the idealism of twentieth-century art by marrying modernist aesthetics to industrialized mass culture, and attacked modernism’s purity in a way that anticipated both pop art and postmodernism.
Fontana painted expressionist and abstract sculptures in the pinks and golds of mass-produced knick-knacks, saturated architectural installations with fluorescent paint and ultraviolet light, and encrusted candy-colored monochrome canvases with glitter. In doing so, White argues, he challenged Clement Greenberg’s dictum that avant-garde and kitsch are diametrically opposed. Relating Fontana’s art to the political and social context in which he worked, White shows how Fontana used the materials and techniques of mass culture to comment on the fate of the avant-garde under Italian fascism and the postwar “economic miracle.” At a time when Fontana’s work is commanding record prices, this new interpretation of the work assures that it has unprecedented critical relevance.

Edited by André Rottmann

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. Grounded in a sustained method of inhabiting the material, discursive and economic conditions of varied sites, his works systematically challenge notions of object, sign, context, authorship, and value, and they confront audiences not only with mailers, posters, and journals but also with carpenter levels, commemorative plates, deck chairs, bicycle bells, flower arrangements, and credit cards. This volume offers essays and interviews that trace the critical thinking on Knight, discussing the artist’s trajectory from 1969 to 2011.

These texts, by such prominent figures as Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Anne Rorimer, Alexander Alberro, and Birgit Pelzer, offer close readings of Knight’s pivotal projects in situ while also considering them in terms of such art-historical paradigms as the readymade, the anti-aesthetic, institutional critique, and the relationship between art and design as well as corporate culture at large. The book provides the first collection of these often hard-to-find texts on Knight and will serve as an essential guide for further consideration of his oeuvre.

Luc Tuymans is one of the most influential figurative painters working today. Born in 1958 and based in Antwerp, he has exhibited since 1985, emerging internationally in the early 1990s as an artist who has addressed not just the continuation of painting's relevance but subjects as difficult to represent as the long-lasting traumas of war, colonialism, and everyday violence. Tuymans has also been a filmmaker, a curator of his own art and its context, an exhibitor of other artists past and present, and an eloquent writer on his work and that of the image-makers, thinkers, and authors who affect him. His pictures are ghosted by language, always in a relationship with their precisely considered titles and the constant articulation of reflections on their themes and ideas.

Edited by the historian and publisher Peter Ruyffelaere and with an introduction by critic and curator Adrian Searle, this volume collects Tuymans’ writings on his own and others’ images, from Van Eyck, Velázquez, and El Greco to Edouard Manet, Giorgio Morandi, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Chris Marker, Neo Rauch, Paul McCarthy, and Jeff Wall. It includes dialogues with Tuymans’ artist contemporaries Ai Weiwei, Kerry James Marshall, and Wilhelm Sasnal, interviews with Daniel Birnbaum, Martin Herbert, Jean-Paul Jungo, Udo Kittelmann, Luc Lambrecht, Wim Peeters, Kara Rooney, and Yasmine Chtchourova-Van Pee, and writings on the artist’s central works and ideas by Montserrat Albores Gleason, Laura Hoptman, Joseph Leo Koerner, Takashi Murakami, Philippe Pirotte, Adrian Searle, and Pablo Sigg.

Over the past twenty years, the network has come to dominate the art world, affecting not just interaction among art professionals but the very makeup of the art object itself. The hierarchical and restrictive structure of the museum has been replaced by temporary projects scattered across the globe, staffed by free agents hired on short-term contracts, viewed by spectators defined by their predisposition to participate and make connections. In this book, Lane Relyea tries to make sense of these changes, describing a general organizational shift in the art world that affects not only material infrastructures but also conceptual categories and the construction of meaning.

Examining art practice, exhibition strategies, art criticism, and graduate education, Relyea aligns the transformation of the art world with the advent of globalization and the neoliberal economy. He analyzes the new networked, participatory art world—hailed by some as inherently democratic—in terms of the pressures of part-time temp work in a service economy, the calculated stockpiling of business contacts, and the anxious duty of being a “team player” at work. Relyea calls attention to certain networked forms of art—including relational aesthetics, multiple or fictive artist identities, and bricolaged objects—that can be seen to oppose the values of neoliberalism rather than romanticizing and idealizing them. Relyea offers a powerful answer to the claim that the interlocking functions of the network—each act of communicating, of connecting, or practice—are without political content.

Essays in Architecture

Jeffrey Kipnis’s writing, thinking, and teaching casts architecture as both an intellectual discourse and a lived, affective experience. His essays on contemporary architects are less about making critical judgments than about explication, exegesis, and provocation. In these eleven essays, written between 1990 and 2008, he considers projects, concepts, and buildings by some of the most recognized architects working today, with special attention to the productions of affect. He explores “intuition” in the work of Morphosis, “exhilaration” in Coop Himmelb(l)au, “freedom” in the work of Rem Koolhaas and OMA, “magic” in Steven Holl’s buildings, and “anxiety” in Rafael Moneo’s writing about contemporary architecture.

Kipnis’s deft integration of art, critical theory, philosophy, pop culture, classical music, and science—what the volume’s editor Alexander Maymind calls “ancillary material”—into a rigorous architectural theory and criticism makes A Question of Qualities an exemplar of a new way to write about architecture. It is also a distinct pleasure to read. Kipnis transcends the fractious intellectual climate in architecture, stepping outside the boundaries mandated by the vast specialized criteria that the discipline now claims to address. The essays in this volume demonstrate a style of writing that is not so much about architecture as it is an affect of architecture itself.

Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts

Events are always passing; to experience an event is to experience the passing. But how do we perceive an experience that encompasses the just-was and the is-about-to-be as much as what is actually present? In Semblance and Event, Brian Massumi, drawing on the work of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and others, develops the concept of “semblance” as a way to approach this question.

It is, he argues, a question of abstraction, not as the opposite of the concrete but as a dimension of it: “lived abstraction.” A semblance is a lived abstraction. Massumi uses the category of the semblance to investigate practices of art that are relational and event-oriented—variously known as interactive art, ephemeral art, performance art, art intervention—which he refers to collectively as the “occurrent arts.” Each art practice invents its own kinds of relational events of lived abstraction, to produce a signature species of semblance. The artwork’s relational engagement, Massumi continues, gives it a political valence just as necessary and immediate as the aesthetic dimension.

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