Work Ethic

Work Ethic

by Helen Molesworth
     
 

During the 1960s, artists from Alan Kaprow and Yoko Ono to Andy Warhol and Richard Serra stopped making "art" as it has been thought of since the Renaissance. They staged performances that mixed everyday life with theater and in yet other, often ironic, ways challenged the system of marketing, display, and aesthetic discourse that ascribes exceptional

Overview

During the 1960s, artists from Alan Kaprow and Yoko Ono to Andy Warhol and Richard Serra stopped making "art" as it has been thought of since the Renaissance. They staged performances that mixed everyday life with theater and in yet other, often ironic, ways challenged the system of marketing, display, and aesthetic discourse that ascribes exceptional monetary as well as cultural value to paintings and sculpture. Work Ethic, published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art, brings together a cross section of such radical endeavors and opens a fresh perspective on their genesis and meaning. Most of the avant-garde interventions considered in Work Ethic entailed performances and other procedures generally interpreted as linking a "dematerialization" of the object with the free play of concepts.

By contrast, Helen Molesworth and her collaborators in Work Ethic set such activities in the context of the workplace and contend that they engage issues of management, production, and skill that accompanied the emergence of the information age. The result is a major breakthrough in understanding the structures and ambitions of a wide range of art-making. Work Ethic reproduces all the diverse material—Bruce Nauman videotapes to Roxy Paine’s painting machine—in the Baltimore exhibition and provides insightful discussion of each piece’s history, structure, and significance.

Four essays introduce topics, like utopian fantasies of pleasurable work, that are of general relevance to setting the material into a postindustrial context. Throughout this catalogue, there is as well a lively dialogue on the museum’s relationship to art that questions the rules of both the workplace and the art world. The exhibition, "Work Ethic," will be at The Baltimore Museum of Art from October 12, 2003, to January 11, 2004, and at the Des Moines Center for the Arts from May 15 to August 1, 2004.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Work Ethic develops a genuinely new way of looking at the proliferation of new procedures for generating art in the 1960s by focusing on the changed organization of work in society at large at the time.”

—Alex Potts, University of Michigan

Work Ethic develops a genuinely new way of looking at the proliferation of new procedures for generating art in the 1960s by focusing on the changed organization of work in society at large at the time. The new forms of artistic practice are not seen simply as reflecting broader socio-economic changes, but rather as commenting on and ironizing the pervasive restructuring of work practices that had been taking place in the capitalist West. The shift away from traditional forms of painting and sculpture is usually understood in terms of a dematerialization or negation of the art object, resulting in work that is not readily commodifiable. Here, by contrast, the focus is not on the constitution or de-constitution of the object as such, but rather on changes in processes of production and consumption occurring outside as well as inside the art world.”

—Alex Potts, University of Michigan

“This catalogue, which includes stimulating essays as well as sustained catalogue entries on exhibited artists, is ambitious indeed. It attempts nothing less than a revision of how we understand the cataclysmic changes in art production during the 1960s. Curator Helen Molesworth proposes that what has often been called the ‘dematerialization’ of the artwork should be understood as a new relationship between the artist and her or his labor. In short, with the development of a new ‘post-industrial’ economic paradigm, Molesworth argues, artists began to put pressure on the socially charged bifurcation between manager and laborer in new ways. Most interestingly, in lieu of romantic notions of singular creativity, the artist began to divide into both worker and manager, and the work of art, to some degree, became the residue of this contradiction. . . . It is laudable and significant that this catalogue includes intelligent entries on the works of important exhibiting artists.”

—David Joselit, Yale University

“The rich array of work by nearly fifty artists demonstrates how they have adopted administrative capacities and managerial identities, and favored conceptual processes over manual production, enacting modernity’s paradigmatic shifts in labor. . . . Can art ever advance work’s stoppage, or do its attempts result only in further refinements of products and markets? Leaving this question to the viewer’s labor, Work Ethic succeeded in comprehending a significant field of recent artistic practice, casting an extremely diverse grouping of work within a unified but effectively complicated logic.”

—T. J. Demos, Artforum

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271023342
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2003
Pages:
248
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.81(d)

Meet the Author

Helen Molesworth is Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Darsie Alexander is Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photography at The Baltimore Museum of Art.Chris Gilbert is Associate Curator at the Des Moines Center for the Arts.

Miwon Kwon is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >