Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era / Edition 1

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“It stands to reason that art works are made by art workers, but in this searching account of artistic labor in the 1960s and 1970s, Julia Bryan-Wilson shows us that reason is supplanted by ambivalence and ambiguity as artists grappled with the massive upheavals wrought by feminism, the student movement, and the Vietnam War. The art made in the wake of these social transformations toggles between reform and revolution, and the definition of 'artist' has not been the same since.”—Helen Molesworth, Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum

“In this engaging history of the Art Workers' Coalition, Julia Bryan-Wilson considers the dilemmas and contradictions as well as the artistic innovation and activism that resulted when 'artist' and 'worker' were brought into conjunction at a volatile moment in the late 1960s. Carl Andre in blue coveralls, Robert Morris driving a forklift, Hans Haacke polling gallery-goers, Lucy Lippard delivering her art reviews right after delivering her baby—to such iconic images and moments Bryan-Wilson brings her thorough scholarship and keen analysis.”—Douglas Crimp, author of On the Museum's Ruins

“In Julia Bryan-Wilson's deeply researched and insightful Art Workers, episodes that had seemed familiar and safely filed away take on a new narrative drive, a more profound salience for contemporary art practice, and a greater weight in our historical understanding of a crucial period.”—Thomas Crow, author of The Rise of the Sixties: American and European Art in the Era of Dissent

“This brilliant, vital, and timely study opens up a view of 1960s and 1970s American art that we didn't know we needed until we had it. One by one, the remarkably perceptive chapters of Bryan-Wilson's book converge to form a volume in the best tradition of the intellectual and interdisciplinary freedoms that remain the chief legacy of the period. The political lives of makers and objects have a new champion in Bryan-Wilson.”—Darby English, author of How to See A Work of Art in Total Darkness

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

“Of immediate, practical value to young artists today who want to re-establish art as an alternative place in the culture, though her clean prose will also make the book inviting to more casual readers.”

“[A] smart new study. . . . Bryan-Wilson applies her numerous insights with care.”
Artforum - Carrie Lambert-Beatty

“A vivid picture of artistic activism, essential both for the art history of the 1960s and for today’s discourse on art and politics.”

“Highly recommended.”
Art Journal (CAA)

“Tackles the political self-identification of artists with aplomb.”
Essay & General Literature Index

“An extremely nuanced reading of the seminal company’s comedy output. . . . Reinvigorates leftist critiques of the American film industry.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520257283
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Bryan-Wilson is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Irvine.
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Table of Contents


1 From Artists to Art Workers
2 Carl Andre’s Work Ethic
3 Robert Morris’s Art Strike
4 Lucy Lippard’s Feminist Labor
5 Hans Haacke’s Paperwork

List of Illustrations

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