In 1961, a solo exhibition by Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana met with a scathing critical response from New York art critics. Fontana (1899–1968), well known in Europe for his series of slashed monochrome paintings, offered New York ten canvases slashed and punctured, thickly painted in luridly brilliant hues and embellished with chunks of colored glass.
“Happenings” have pop connotations that conjure up 1960s youth culture and hippies in public, joyful rebellion. Scholars, meanwhile, locate happenings in a genealogy of avant-garde performance that descends from futurism, surrealism, and Dada through the action painting of the 1950s. In Radical Prototypes, Judith Rodenbeck argues for a more complex etiology. Allan Kaprow coined the term in 1958 to name a new collage form of performance, calling happenings “radical prototypes” of performance art. Rodenbeck offers a rigorous art historical reading of Kaprow’s project and related artworks.
For more than four decades, the elusive but influential Los Angeles-based artist John Knight has developed a practice of site specificity that tests both architectural and ideological boundaries of the museum, gallery, and public sphere. Knight’s works defy notions of stylistic coherence, even, at times, of instant recognizability.
Asked to sum up her artistic pursuit, the American artist Elaine Sturtevant once replied: “I create vertigo.” Since the mid-1960s, Sturtevant has been using repetition to change the way art is understood. In 1965, what seemed to be a group show by then “hot” artists (Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, George Segal, and James Rosenquist, among others) was in fact Sturtevant’s first solo exhibit, every work in it created by herself.
In Relive, leading historians of the media arts grapple with this dilemma: how can we speak of “new media” and at the same time write the histories of these arts? These scholars and practitioners redefine the nature of the field, focusing on the materials of history—the materials through which the past is mediated. Drawing on the tools of media archaeology and the history and philosophy of media, they propose a new materialist media art history.
Brazilian avant-garde artists of the postwar era worked from a fundamental but productive out-of-jointness. They were modernist but distant from modernism. Europeans and North Americans may feel a similar displacement when viewing Brazilian avant-garde art; the unexpected familiarity of the works serves to make them unfamiliar. In Constructing an Avant-Garde, Sérgio Martins seizes on this uncanny obliqueness and uses it as the basis for a reconfigured account of the history of Brazil’s avant-garde.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a group of “unofficial” artists in Moscow—artists not recognized by the state, not covered by state-controlled media, and cut off from wider audiences—created artworks that gave artistic form to a certain historical moment: the experience of Soviet socialism. The Moscow conceptualists not only reflected and analyzed by artistic means a spectacle of Soviet life but also preserved its memory for a future that turned out to be different from the officially predicted one.
This October Files volume gathers essays, an interview, and a roundtable discussion on the work of Robert Morris, one of the most influential American artists of the postwar period. It includes a little-known text on dance by Morris himself and a never-before-anthologized but influential catalog essay by Annette Michelson. Often associated with minimalism, Morris (b. 1931) also created important works that involved dance, process art, and conceptualism.
Light Show explores the experiential and sculptural nature of light, tracing a historical trajectory of artwork that uses light to create specific conditions of viewership. The book, which accompanies an exhibition originating at the Hayward Gallery, London, showcases more than twenty dramatic installations and sculptures from the 1960s to the present, pictured in 150 illustrations, most in color.
Louise Lawler has devoted her art practice to investigating the life cycle of art objects. Her photographs depict art in the collector’s home, the museum, the auction house, and the commercial gallery, on loading docks, and in storage closets. Her work offers a sustained meditation on the strategies of display that shape art’s reception and distribution. The cumulative effect of Lawler’s photographs is a silent insistence that context is the primary shaper of art’s meaning.