As the American environmental movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, ecological perspectives also emerged in art. But ecological artworks were not limited to conventional understandings of environmental art as something that had to be located outdoors or made of organic materials. Created in a range of media, they reflected a widespread reconceptualization of the material world and a sense of the interconnectedness of all things.
The dawn of the electronic media age in the 1960s began a cultural shift from the modernist grid and its determination of projection and representation to the fluid structures and circuits of the network, presenting art with new challenges and possibilities. This anthology considers art at the center of network theory, from the 1960s to the present.
Artists increasingly refer to “post-object-based" work while theorists engage with material artifacts in culture. A focus on “object-based" learning treats objects as vectors for dialogue across disciplines. Virtual imaging enables the object to be abstracted or circumvented, while immaterial forms of labor challenge materialist theories. This anthology surveys such reappraisals of what constitutes the “objectness" of production, with art as its focus.
This book offers the first career retrospective of Brian Weil (1954–1996), an artist whose photographs pushed viewers into a deeply unsteadying engagement with insular communities and subcultures. A younger contemporary of such participant-observer photographers as Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, Weil took photographs that foreground the complex relationships between photographer and subject, and between photograph and viewer.
The artist Lee Lozano (1930–1999) began her career as a painter; her work rapidly evolved from figuration to abstraction. In the late 1960s, she created a major series of eleven monochromatic Wave paintings, her last in the medium.
Throughout his career, Philip Guston’s work metamorphosed from figural to abstract and back to figural. In the 1950s, Guston (1913–1980) produced a body of shimmering abstract paintings that made him—along with Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline—an influential abstract expressionist of the “gestural” tendency. In the late 1960s, with works like The Studio came his most radical shift.
In 1964, Robert Rauschenberg, already a frequent transatlantic traveler, became even more peripatetic, joining the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as costume and set designer for its first world tour. Rauschenberg and the company visited thirty cities in fourteen countries throughout Europe and Asia. During the tour, he not only devised sets and costumes but also enacted his own performances and created works of art, often using local materials and collaborating with local art communities.
Michael Asher doesn’t make typical installations. Instead, he extracts his art from the institutions in which it is shown, culling it from collections, histories, or museums’ own walls. Since the late 1960s, Asher has been creating situations that have not only taught us about the conditions and contexts of contemporary art, but have worked to define it.