Essays on Art and Language
326 pp., 7 x 10 in, 148 illus., 23 color
- Published: September 12, 2003
- Published: December 21, 2001
Critical and theoretical essays by a long-time participant in the Art & Language movement.
These essays by art historian and critic Charles Harrison are based on the premise that making art and talking about art are related enterprises. They are written from the point of view of Art & Language, the artistic movement based in England—and briefly in the United States—with which Harrison has been associated for thirty years. Harrison uses the work of Art & Language as a central case study to discuss developments in art from the 1950s through the 1980s. According to Harrison, the strongest motivation for writing about art is that it brings us closer to that which is other than ourselves. In seeing how a work is done, we learn about its achieved identity: we see, for example, that a drip on a Pollock is integral to its technical character, whereas a drip on a Mondrian would not be. Throughout the book, Harrison uses specific examples to address a range of questions about the history, theory, and making of modern art—questions about the conditions of its making and the nature of its public, about the problems and priorities of criticism, and about the relations between interpretation and judgment.
I do not know of any other art critic whose writing comprehends so masterfully the relations among the materiality and sociality of artistic practices, the historical development of artistic thought, and the position of the critic as witness, negotiator, and participant in artistic processes.
W. J. T. Mitchell, University of Chicago