How did a small art college in Nova Scotia become the epicenter of art education--and to a large extent of the postmimimalist and conceptual art world itself--in the 1960s and 1970s? Like the unorthodox experiments and rich human resources that made Black Mountain College an improbable center of art a generation earlier, the activities and artists at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (aka NSCAD) in the 1970s redefined the means and methods of art education and the shape of art far beyond Halifax.
Michael Asher (born in 1943), one of the foremost installation artists of the Conceptual art period, is a founder of site-specific practice. Considered a progenitor of institutional critique, he spearheaded the creation of artworks imbued with a self-conscious awareness of their dependence on the conditions of their exhibition context.
Almost a half-century after Yayoi Kusama debuted her landmark installation Infinity Mirror Room--Phalli’s Field (1965) in New York, the work remains challenging and unclassifiable. Shifting between the Pop-like and the Surreal, the Minimal and the metaphorical, the figurative and the abstract, the psychotic and the erotic, with references to “free love” and psychedelia, it seemed to embody all that the 1960s was about, while at the same time denying the prevailing aesthetics of its time.
Claes Oldenburg (born in 1929) is largely known today as a pop art sculptor. Oldenburg himself described his formless canvas and vinyl soft sculptures--gigantic hamburgers and ice cream cones, cushiony toilets and typewriters--as “objects that elude definition.” This collection of writings revisits not only Oldenburg’s soft objects from the early to mid 1960s but also his pioneering installations The Street (1960) and The Store (1961–1962) and his often overlooked multimedia performances.
One of the defining paintings of British Pop art, Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London 67 (f) depicts two men--Mick Jagger and Hamilton’s art dealer Robert Fraser--handcuffed together in the back of a police van. The image is taken from a newspaper photograph that shows the two being driven from Lewes prison to Chichester Magistrates Court following their June 1967 arrest for possession of drugs.
Rembrandt’s famous painting of an anatomy lesson, the shrunken head of an Australian indigenous leader, an aerial view of Paris from a balloon: all are windows to enchantment, curiosities that illuminate something shadowy and forgotten lurking behind the neat facade of a rational world. In Curious Visions of Modernity, David Martin unpacks a collection of artifacts from the visual and historical archives of modernity, finding in each a slippage of scientific rationality--a repressed heterogeneity within the homogenized structures of post-Enlightenment knowledge.
As a neurasthenic, kleptomaniac, man-chasing proto-punk poet and artist, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven left in her wake a ripple that is becoming a rip--one hundred years after she exploded onto the New York art scene. As an agent provocateur within New York’s modernist revolution, "the first American Dada" not only dressed and behaved with purposeful outrageousness, but she set an example that went well beyond the eccentric divas of the twenty-first century, including her conceptual descendant, Lady Gaga.
"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.
When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris--but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde. Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Philip K. Dick, Paul McCartney, DJ Spooky, Peter Greenaway, and J. G. Ballard are among his many admirers.
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.