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.
For more than half a century, Erwin Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form has dominated studies of visual representation. Despite the hegemony of central projection, or perspective, other equally important methods of representation have much to tell us. Parallel projection can be found on classical Greek vases, in Pompeiian frescoes, in Byzantine mosaics; it returned in works of the historical avant-garde, and remains the dominant form of representation in China.
The human figure made a spectacular return in visual art and literature in the 1920s. Following modernism’s withdrawal, nonobjective painting gave way to realistic depictions of the body and experimental literary techniques were abandoned for novels with powerfully individuated characters. But the celebrated return of the human in the interwar years was not as straightforward as it may seem. In Realism after Modernism, Devin Fore challenges the widely accepted view that this period represented a return to traditional realist representation and its humanist postulates.
Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion (1982–1984) is a video essay populated by punk and rock performers (Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Eddie Cochran) and historical figures (including Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers). It represented a coming together of narrative voice-overs, singing and shouting voices, and jarring sounds and overlaid texts that proposed a historical genealogy of rock music and an ambitious thesis about the origins of North America’s popular culture.
In The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974–1975) Martha Rosler bridged the concerns of conceptual art with those of political documentary. The work, a series of twenty-one black-and-white photographs, twenty-four text panels and three blank panels, embraces the codes of the photo-text experiments of the late 1960s and applies them to the social reality of New York’s Lower East Side. The prevailing critical view of The Bowery focuses on its implicit rejection, or critique, of established modes of documentary.
From late medieval reenactments of the Deposition from the Cross to Sol Lewitt’s Buried Cube, Depositions is about taking down images and about images that anticipate being taken down. Foretelling their own depositions, as well as their re-elevations in contexts far from those in which they were made, the images studied in this book reveal themselves to be untimely--no truer to their first appearance than to their later reappearances.
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.
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.