The Return of the Real: Art and Theory at the End of the Century

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Overview

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.After the models of art-as-text in the 1970s and art-as-simulacrum in the 1980s; Foster suggests that we are now witness to a return to the real — to art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites: If The Return of the Real begins with a new narrative of the historical avant-garde; it concludes with an original reading of this contemporary situation — and what it portends for future practices of art and theory, culture and politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Since the late 1950s, art and critical theory have been increasingly linked, both by artists themselves and by commentators. Editor of the journal October, Foster (art history and comparative literature, Cornell Univ.) discusses here a wide range of artists (including Andy Warhol, Robert Smithson, Barbara Kruger, Mike Kelley, and Cindy Sherman) to explore his ideation of the avant-garde and the regrounding of art in materiality. Focusing on art and artists active after 1960, Foster traces the movement from "art-as-text" in the 1970s, to "art-as-simulacrum" in the 1980s, to contemporary art that is moving more toward materiality. For those not conversant with the language and ideology of contemporary critical theory, Foster's discussion of developments since 1960 will be hard to follow. Recommended only for larger academic collections.Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Lib., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262561075
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1996
  • Series: October Books
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 797,890
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Hal Foster is Townsend Martin '17 Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and the author of Prosthetic Gods (MIT Press) and other books.

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