Artists, Critics, Context : Readings in and Around American Art since 1945 / Edition 1

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Overview

This clear, concise, and historically-rooted anthology traces the key developments in American avant-garde art from the 1940s with Abstract Expressionism and the Cold War through the late 1990s with an array of video installations and the broad cultural changes arising from far-reaching technological developments. Each movement is articulated by multiple voices—the artists, their critics, and the intellectuals beyond the art world who were helping to frame the issues of their day. Sometimes positions converge; sometimes they diverge. Always the multiplicity of voices—reprinted here in their complete, unedited form—point to the major currents affecting or being affected by the art of their time, giving a succinct, but lively account of the artistic dialog of the past fifty plus years.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130908988
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 11/15/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 516
  • Sales rank: 755,372
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Artists, Critics, Context is an anthology of readings on American art and culture that begins in the 1940s with Abstract Expressionism and the Cold War and ends in the 1990s with the ubiquity of video installations and the broad cultural changes arising from technological developments in telecommunications and biotechnology. Each chapter is divided into the three categories designated in the book's title: artists, critics, and context. This tripartite approach aims to connect the words of artists—from both their writings as well as the interviews they granted—with concurrent critical writings, exhibition reviews, and museum catalog essays. Readings from outside the visual arts have been added to connect the issues and impulses raised by the work of these artists to trends and ideas that were gaining prominence within the broader culture at the time that the art was being created. My goal was to place artistic development firmly within the context of the major political, cultural, and sociological trends and ideas that have emerged in the United States since World War II.

Rather than being an exhaustive survey of post-World War II readings about art, this collection is designated to give a clear, concise, and historically rooted sense of some of the key developments in American avant-garde art. In order to achieve this goal, I was forced to make some tough decisions and leave out many compelling voices. The voices that are heard in this anthology are unedited, however. I have made every effort to maintain the integrity of the original writings and not pare them down to their essence—which seems to be the trend in recent anthologies. Only in rare instances when the length or the format of a given piece was too cumbersome to include did I select a representational sample of the reading.

Current approaches to the study of contemporary art frequently place a tremendous amount of emphasis on criticism and theory. Although valuable, these methods tend to function outside historical analysis and, as such, can overshadow the specific historical connections between artists, art critics, galleries, and museums. Increasingly during the years following World War 11, artists attempted to engage with political or social issues that transcended the particulars of art making, yet paradoxically, many of the writings and teachings about this art have tended to treat it as an activity separate from the society as a whole.

The readings and interviews in the Artists section are generally from the time period during which the artist was first acknowledged as a strong force in the art world. In a few instances I have used articles that are a bit later in the artist's career, primarily because of the quality of the writing or interview and its lack of representation in other books of this kind. These readings have been chosen because they give a clear insight into the major issues—both cultural and formal—that the artist's work raises. In addition to providing a glimpse into the creative process, the Artists section lays the groundwork for the formation of a critical dialog between the artists' writings and the criticism that was written about the art that they created. In certain instances artists such as Donald Judd and Allan Kaprow also wrote criticism. Such writings, even if they arguably function in the realm of criticism, have been placed in the Artists section.

As with the readings in the Artists section, those in the Critics section are concurrent with the emergence of the artist or artistic trend into the cultural dialog. The readings in this section were selected based on how influential they were at the time in legitimizing the artist's work. In this section particular attention has been paid to writings for and about groundbreaking gallery and museum exhibitions, with emphasis placed decidedly on the latter. Because the history of exhibitions is an increasingly important factor in the understanding of the art that has come to represent the second half of the twentieth century, many of the readings in this section are by individuals who function more as curators than as critics in the strict sense of the word. Many of the essays in the Critics sections were initially published as part of exhibition catalogs; many of the others, although written by professional critics for art magazines and journals, were reviews of key exhibitions.

The articles in the Critics section were selected based on the dialogs that they create with the ideas presented in the Artists section. At times the reader will find real tension between what the artist says about his or her work and what is written by a curator in an exhibition essay or by a critic in one of the art magazines. This section will give the reader a clearer idea of how criticism creates a language through which emerging artistic trends are codified.

The overarching goal of the Context section was to situate artistic practice within a broad cultural framework by presenting the reader with writings from a wide variety of disciplines outside the fine arts. This section changes from chapter to chapter, depending on the issues posed by that particular set of creative practices and on how these issues converged with influential cultural ideas. For instance, to understand Pop art, it helps to be generally familiar with the developments in media theory from the 1960s. So Chapter Three includes Marshall McLuhan's groundbreaking essay "Television: The Timid Giant" from Understanding Media. Also included in this section is Norman Mailer's "Perspective from the Biltmore Balcony," which is part of his article "Superman Comes to the Supermarket." This eyewitness account of the Democratic convention held in Los Angeles in 1960 contains a superb description of how the little-known John F Kennedy was able to harness the power of image in securing the Democratic nomination for president.

The widely divergent methodologies that have set the tone for the artistic dialog of the past fifty years tend to overshadow the level to which art reflects larger societal tensions and aspirations. This book attempts to position artistic practice within a broad historical context. Although individual chapters may be characterized by broad themes, the. open-ended nature of the anthology format (in which many voices speak in turn) does not allow the dialog to be pigeonholed into a neat search for what might be perceived as the zeitgeist of a particular period or decade. Rather, the individuals speak for themselves. At times the voices in a particular chapter seem to converge around a set of issues and at other times connections are either strained or nonexistent. The picture of American art of the past fifty years is complex and our distance from this material is short. Artists, Critics, Context attempts to give the reader access to the major questions that have been raised in avant-garde American artistic practice since 1945. My hope is that this book will help expand our sense of and give further context to the historical and cultural study of contemporary art.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.

1. The American Avant-Garde.

Artists: Jackson Pollock: My Painting,1947-1948. Mark Rothko: The Romantics Were Prompted, 1947-1948. Willem de Kooning: What Abstract Art Means to Me, 1951. Critics: Clement Greenberg: Towards a Newer Laocoön, 1940. Harold Rosenberg: The American Action Painters, 1952. Alfred H. Barr Jr.: The New American Painting, 1959. Context: C. G. Jung: The Spiritual Problems of Modern Man, 1933.

2. Art and Materialism in the Beat Generation.

Artists: Claes Oldenberg: I am for an art … , 1961/1967. Allan Kaprow: Happenings in the New York Scene, 1961. Robert Rauschenberg: The Artist Speaks (Interview by Dorothy Gees Seckler), 1966. Critics: Alan Solomon: The New Art, 1963. Context: Allen Ginsberg: Howl, 1956. Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Dog, 1955. John Cage: Experimental Music, 1957.

3. Mass Culture, Mass Media, Pop Art.

Artists: Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist: What Is Pop Art? (Interviews by G. R. Swenson), 1963 and 1964. Critics: Lawrence Alloway: The Arts and Mass Media, 1958. Peter Selz with Henry Gelzahler, Hilton Kramer, Dore Ashton, Leo Steinberg, Stanley Kuntz: A Symposium on Pop Art, 1963. Context: Norman Mailer: Perspective from the Biltmore Balcony, 1960. Marshall McLuhan: Television: The Timid Giant, 1964.

4. Objectivity, Reduction, and Formalism.

Artists: Frank Stella: Painters Painting, 1970. Donald Judd: Specific Objects, 1965. Sol LeWitt: Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, 1967. Agnes Martin: Reflections, 1973. Critics: Barbara Rose: ABC Art, 1965. Clement Greenberg: Modernist Painting, 1965. Context: Alain Robbe-Grillet: A Future for the Novel, 1965.

5. Process and Materials.

Artists: Robert Morris: Anti Form, 1968. Eva Hesse: An Interview with Cindy Nemser, 1970. Bruce Nauman: An Interview with Willoughby Sharp, 1970. Richard Serra: Verb List, 1972. Critics: Marcia Tucker: Anti-Illusion: Procedures and Materials, 1969. Context: Steve Reich: Music as a Gradual Process, 1974.

6. Sculpture in the Environment.

Artists: Robert Smithson: Cultural Confinement, 1972. Nancy Holt: Sun Tunnels, 1977. Christo (Javacheff) and Jeanne-Claude: Interview with Barbaralee Diamonstein, 1979. Gordon Matta-Clark: Gordon Matta-Clark's Building Dissections: Interview with Donald Wall, 1976. Robert Irwin: On the Periphery of Knowing: Interview with Jan Butterfield, 1976. Critics: Rosalind Krauss: Sculpture in the Expanded Field, 1979. Context: Maurice Merleau-Ponty: The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences, 1964.

7. Theory, Politics, and Performance.

Artists: Hans Haacke: Interview with Robert C. Morgan, 1979. Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage, 1979. Adrian Piper: Catalysis: An Interview with Adrian Piper, 1972. Chris Burden: Untitled Statement, 1975. Critics: Lucy R. Lippard: Sexual Politics, Art, and Style, 1971. Henri Ghent: Black Creativity in Quest of an Audience, 1970. Jack Burnham: Hans Haacke's Cancelled Show at the Guggenheim, 1971. Context: Martin Luther King Jr.: I've Been to the Mountaintop, 1968. Noam Chomsky, Linguistics and Politics, 1969.

8. The Return of Painting.

Artists: Elizabeth Murray: Statement, 1980. Eric Fischl, Susan Rothenberg, Leon Golub, and Julian Schnabel: Expressionism Today: An Artist Symposium (Interviews by Carter Ratcliff, Hayden Herrera, Sarah McFadden, and Joan Simon), 1982. Critics: Barbara Rose: American Painting: The Eighties, 1980.Context:Irving Kristol: The Adversary Culture, 1979.

9. Identity and Technology.

Artists: Charles Ray: Charles Ray: A Telephone Conversation (Interview by Francesco Bonami), 1992. Carrie Mae Weems: Talking Art with Carrie Mae Weems (Interview with bell hooks), 1995. Kiki Smith: A Diary of Fluids and Fears (Interview by Francesco Bonami), 1993. Gary Hill: Interview with Gary Hill on Tall Ships (Interview by Regina Cornwell), 1993. Bill Viola: Art at the End of the Optical Age (Interview by Virginia Rutledge), 1998. Critics: Lane Relyea: Art of the Living Dead, 1992. Elisabeth Sussman: Coming Together in Parts: Positive Power in the Art of the Nineties, 1993. Eleanor Heartney: Video in Situ, 1995. Context: Jean Baudrillard: The Work of Art in the Electronic Age (Interview with La Sept), 1988. Hakim Bey: The Information War. 1995.

Bibliography.

Index.

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Preface

Artists, Critics, Context is an anthology of readings on American art and culture that begins in the 1940s with Abstract Expressionism and the Cold War and ends in the 1990s with the ubiquity of video installations and the broad cultural changes arising from technological developments in telecommunications and biotechnology. Each chapter is divided into the three categories designated in the book's title: artists, critics, and context. This tripartite approach aims to connect the words of artists—from both their writings as well as the interviews they granted—with concurrent critical writings, exhibition reviews, and museum catalog essays. Readings from outside the visual arts have been added to connect the issues and impulses raised by the work of these artists to trends and ideas that were gaining prominence within the broader culture at the time that the art was being created. My goal was to place artistic development firmly within the context of the major political, cultural, and sociological trends and ideas that have emerged in the United States since World War II.

Rather than being an exhaustive survey of post-World War II readings about art, this collection is designated to give a clear, concise, and historically rooted sense of some of the key developments in American avant-garde art. In order to achieve this goal, I was forced to make some tough decisions and leave out many compelling voices. The voices that are heard in this anthology are unedited, however. I have made every effort to maintain the integrity of the original writings and not pare them down to their essence—which seems to be the trend in recent anthologies. Only in rare instances when the length or the format of a given piece was too cumbersome to include did I select a representational sample of the reading.

Current approaches to the study of contemporary art frequently place a tremendous amount of emphasis on criticism and theory. Although valuable, these methods tend to function outside historical analysis and, as such, can overshadow the specific historical connections between artists, art critics, galleries, and museums. Increasingly during the years following World War 11, artists attempted to engage with political or social issues that transcended the particulars of art making, yet paradoxically, many of the writings and teachings about this art have tended to treat it as an activity separate from the society as a whole.

The readings and interviews in the Artists section are generally from the time period during which the artist was first acknowledged as a strong force in the art world. In a few instances I have used articles that are a bit later in the artist's career, primarily because of the quality of the writing or interview and its lack of representation in other books of this kind. These readings have been chosen because they give a clear insight into the major issues—both cultural and formal—that the artist's work raises. In addition to providing a glimpse into the creative process, the Artists section lays the groundwork for the formation of a critical dialog between the artists' writings and the criticism that was written about the art that they created. In certain instances artists such as Donald Judd and Allan Kaprow also wrote criticism. Such writings, even if they arguably function in the realm of criticism, have been placed in the Artists section.

As with the readings in the Artists section, those in the Critics section are concurrent with the emergence of the artist or artistic trend into the cultural dialog. The readings in this section were selected based on how influential they were at the time in legitimizing the artist's work. In this section particular attention has been paid to writings for and about groundbreaking gallery and museum exhibitions, with emphasis placed decidedly on the latter. Because the history of exhibitions is an increasingly important factor in the understanding of the art that has come to represent the second half of the twentieth century, many of the readings in this section are by individuals who function more as curators than as critics in the strict sense of the word. Many of the essays in the Critics sections were initially published as part of exhibition catalogs; many of the others, although written by professional critics for art magazines and journals, were reviews of key exhibitions.

The articles in the Critics section were selected based on the dialogs that they create with the ideas presented in the Artists section. At times the reader will find real tension between what the artist says about his or her work and what is written by a curator in an exhibition essay or by a critic in one of the art magazines. This section will give the reader a clearer idea of how criticism creates a language through which emerging artistic trends are codified.

The overarching goal of the Context section was to situate artistic practice within a broad cultural framework by presenting the reader with writings from a wide variety of disciplines outside the fine arts. This section changes from chapter to chapter, depending on the issues posed by that particular set of creative practices and on how these issues converged with influential cultural ideas. For instance, to understand Pop art, it helps to be generally familiar with the developments in media theory from the 1960s. So Chapter Three includes Marshall McLuhan's groundbreaking essay "Television: The Timid Giant" from Understanding Media. Also included in this section is Norman Mailer's "Perspective from the Biltmore Balcony," which is part of his article "Superman Comes to the Supermarket." This eyewitness account of the Democratic convention held in Los Angeles in 1960 contains a superb description of how the little-known John F Kennedy was able to harness the power of image in securing the Democratic nomination for president.

The widely divergent methodologies that have set the tone for the artistic dialog of the past fifty years tend to overshadow the level to which art reflects larger societal tensions and aspirations. This book attempts to position artistic practice within a broad historical context. Although individual chapters may be characterized by broad themes, the. open-ended nature of the anthology format (in which many voices speak in turn) does not allow the dialog to be pigeonholed into a neat search for what might be perceived as the zeitgeist of a particular period or decade. Rather, the individuals speak for themselves. At times the voices in a particular chapter seem to converge around a set of issues and at other times connections are either strained or nonexistent. The picture of American art of the past fifty years is complex and our distance from this material is short. Artists, Critics, Context attempts to give the reader access to the major questions that have been raised in avant-garde American artistic practice since 1945. My hope is that this book will help expand our sense of and give further context to the historical and cultural study of contemporary art.

Read More Show Less

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