The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism

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The lone artist is a worn cliché of art history but one that still defines how we think about the production of art. Since the 1960s, however, a number of artists have challenged this image by embarking on long-term collaborations that dramatically altered the terms of artistic identity. In The Third Hand, Charles Green offers a sustained critical examination of collaboration in international contemporary art, tracing its origins from the evolution of conceptual art in the 1960s into such stylistic labels as Earth Art, Systems Art, Body Art, and Performance Art. During this critical period, artists around the world began testing the limits of what art could be, how it might be produced, and who the artist is. Collaboration emerged as a prime way to reframe these questions.

Green looks at three distinct types of collaboration: the highly bureaucratic identities created by Joseph Kosuth, Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden and other members of Art & Language in the late 1960s; the close-knit relationships based on marriage or lifetime partnership as practiced by the Boyle Family—Anne and Patrick Poirier, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison; and couples—like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Gilbert & George, or Marina Abramovic and Ulay—who developed third identities, effacing the individual artists almost entirely. These collaborations, Green contends, resulted in new and, at times, extreme authorial models that continue to inform current thinking about artistic identity and to illuminate the origins of postmodern art, suggesting, in the process, a new genealogy for art in the twenty-first century.

About the Author:
Charles Green is an artist and a lecturer in the School of Art History and Theory at the University of New South Wales. He is the Australian correspondent for Artforum magazine and author of Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 197094 (1995).

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this scholarly study of collaborative art, Green (Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art, 1970-94), a collaborative artist and the Australian correspondent for Artforum, explores a crisis in artistic representation that has led to a reinvention of artistic identity. This is not a comprehensive study of artists who happen to work together but rather a specific, theoretically challenging look at a dozen artists whose work poses questions about authorship. These artists purposely undermine long-held assumptions about art as a record of personal expression and subjectivity. Included are Joseph Kosuth, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Gilbert & George, among a few less recognizable names. The work of each of these artists is well contextualized by Green, who is clearly an authority in this field. He testifies to the importance of these artists, who in some cases have been marginalized by critics because their work did not serve the antimodernist style championed during the height of Postmodernism. Recommended for contemporary art collections. D'Arcy Curwen, Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“This is a clearly argued, original, and highly illuminating book that provides a genuinely new way of looking at contemporary art ‘on the cusp,’ as the author puts it, between modernism and postmodernism. The decision to focus on the notion of collaboration has been used to open up a series of fascinating case studies associated with specific collaborative enterprises.” —Stephen Bann, University of Bristol

“As one of the artists Green discusses, I thought ‘Yes, this is exactly how it happened.’ Readers will be inspired to know more about each of the collaborative artists included in this exceptional book.” —Marina Abramovic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816637126
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Green is an artist and a lecturer in the School of Art History and Theory at the University of New South Wales. He is the Australian correspondent for Artforum and author of Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970-94 (1995).

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