Emerging from New York’s East Village art scene of the 1980s, the so-called neo-geo artists were a loosely associated group that included the painters Ashley Bickerton, Peter Halley, Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Philip Taaffe, and Meyer Vaisman and the sculptors Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach. Labeled neo-geo for the abstract geometric motifs that characterized only some of their work, the movement was also known variously as simulationism, neoconceptualism, neo-pop, neominimalism, and postabstraction. In this, the first in-depth study of the group, Amy Brandt argues that neoconceptualism is the most precise name for their work. Brandt sees it as an art about art history, characterized by ironic adaptations of past artistic movements and styles, a tendency toward visual interplay, and a theoretical impulse driven by postmodern concerns with intertextuality, deconstruction, and poststructuralism.
Brandt investigates the East Village art scene of the 1980s and argues that the neoconceptualists’ theoretical orientation distinguished them from other artists of the era. She traces the divergence in art critics’ responses to the group’s work and charts their market success. Brandt examines in detail the references to art history found in the work; she explores the group’s formal connections to pop, minimalism, and conceptualism; and she investigates the relationships between the neoconceptual artists and another loosely connected group of artists, the Pictures generation.
About the Author
Amy L. Brandt is the McKinnon Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. She received a PhD from The Graduate Center, City University of New York; an M.A. from Tufts University; and a License in art history from the University of Paris, Sorbonne.
“Brandt…provides a critical reevaluation (and renaming) of neoconceptual artists, typically called neo-geo, in New York City during the 1980s. By closely examining the work of Jeff Koons, Peter Halley, Philip Taafe, Haim Steinbach, Sherrie Levine, Ashley Bickerton, and many others, Brandt demolishes the Neo Geo pejorative (think bright colors and geometric forms) and arrives at a much more convincing and meaningful analysis based on the artists' theoretical underpinnings.”—ARLIS/NA
“Replacing the usual misnomer 'neo-geo,' Amy Brandt's 'neoconceptualism,' another period term for the 1980s-era art she investigates, focuses on a highly formal inversion of 1960s and '70s conceptual art, predicated on French poststructuralist theories and an awareness of late capitalist and emerging global economies. Her book provides a needed perspective on a highly important, yet far too little researched and understood period in the 1980s when high art, popular culture, commodification, and politics were inextricably linked together.”
—Robert Hobbs, The Rhoda Thalhimer Endowed Chair of American Art, Virginia Commonwealth University
“Interplay is the definitive guide to the movement formerly known as neo-geo. Amy Brandt traces the development of neoconceptual art across the 1980s with a combination of critical rigor and pleasurable accessibility. Interplay is a must-read for anyone who cares about contemporary art and its history.”
—Richard Meyer, author of What Was Contemporary Art?
“Brandt’s study of 'neoconceptual art' has the benefit of hindsight, nudging now decades-past theoretical terms and artistic practices into new proximity. Her portrayal of the East Village 1980s art world posits that scene as uncannily prescient of today’s, but also insists that critics missed plenty in their first assessments. Unexpectedly optimistic, Interplay argues that every 'movement' has consequences beyond its time.”
—Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement, New Museum, New York; editor of Cindy Sherman
“This book offers a wealth of information and ideas to anyone interested in the art of 1980s New York, and in particular in the East Village gallery scene, and the impact of French theory on both artists and critics. Brandt’s judicious selection of artists on which to concentrate provides a thoughtful examination of a complex moment.”
—Michael Archer, Professor of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London; author of Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank