Selected Writings by Michael Asher
264 pp., 7 x 9 in, 27 b&w photos, 14 figures
- Published: October 15, 2019
Writings by the conceptual artist Michael Asher—including notes, proposals, exhibition statements, and letters to curators and critics—most published here for the first time.
The California conceptual artist Michael Asher (1943–2012) was known for rigorous site specificity and pioneering institutional critique. His decades of teaching at CalArts influenced generations of artists. Much of Asher's artistic practice was devoted to creating works that had no lasting material presence and often responded to the material, social, or ideological context of a situation. Because most of Asher's artworks have ceased to exist, his writings about them have special significance. Public Knowledge collects writings by Asher about his work—including preliminary notes and ideas, project proposals, exhibition statements, and letters to curators and critics—most of which have never been previously published.
Asher gave few interviews, didn't write art criticism, and rarely published extensive accounts of his own work. Yet writing was central to his artistic practice, serving as a tool for working out ideas, negotiating institutional parameters, and describing thought processes. In these texts, he considers writing and documentation, discusses artistic practice, offers notes for gallery and museum talks, presents artist statements for exhibition-goers, describes individual works and their situational context, and reflects on teaching and art education. Among other things, Asher provides his definition of site specificity, addresses the function of art in public space, and analyzes the intersection of teaching art and institutional models of education. Readers will see an artist at work, formulating ethical and political strategies for making art in a situational world.
Michael Asher was one of the finest artists working in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and in these writings and documents he maps the shifting terrain of modern and contemporary art with subtle, critical intelligence.
Alexander Alberro, Professor of Art History at Barnard College, Columbia University