Jack Burnham

Jack Burnham is an artist, art critic, and theorist known for his application of systems theory to art history and theory. On the faculty of Northwestern University from 1962 to 1982 and later at the University of Maryland and an inaugural fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies in 1968–1969, Burnham is the author of three books of criticism.

  • Dissolve into Comprehension

    Dissolve into Comprehension

    Writings and Interviews, 1964-2004

    Jack Burnham and Melissa Ragain

    Influential writings by the legendary art critic and theorist Jack Burnham—a pioneer in new media systems aesthetics and an early advocate of conceptualism.

    Jack Burnham is one of the few critics and theorists alive today who can claim to have radically altered the way we think about works of art. Burnham's use of the term “system” (borrowed from theoretical biology) in his 1968 essay “System Aesthetics” announced the relational character of conceptual art and newer research-based projects. Trained as an art historian, Burnham was also a sculptor. His first book, Beyond Modern Sculpture (1968), established him as a leading commentator on art and technology. A postformalist pioneer, an influential figure in new media art history, an early champion of conceptual and ecological art, and the curator of the first exhibition of digital art, Burnham is long overdue for reevaluation. This book offers that opportunity by collecting a substantial and varied selection of his hard-to-find texts, some published here for the first time.

    Although Burnham left the art world abruptly in the 1990s, his visionary theoretical ideas have only become more relevant in recent years. This collection seeks to restore Burnham to his rightful place in art criticism and theory, reestablishing his voice as crucial to critical conversations of the period. It gathers his early writing on sculpture, his essays on systems art and conceptualism, his views of the New York art world, and his later occult work—including an unorthodox interpretation of Marcel Duchamp's work that draws on the Kabbalah.

    • Hardcover $35.95 £28.00

Contributor

  • Hans Haacke

    Hans Haacke

    Rachel Churner

    Critical texts that span almost fifty years, mapping Haacke's progression from engagement with biological systems to interrogation of the social and economic underpinnings of art.

    For five decades, the artist Hans Haacke (b. 1936) has created works that explore the social, political, and economic underpinnings of the production of art. His works make plain the hidden and not-so-hidden agendas of those—from Cartier to David Koch—who support art in the service of industry; they expose such inconvenient social and economic truths as the real estate holdings of Manhattan slumlords, and the attempts to whitewash support for the Nazi regime, apartheid, or the war on terror through museum donations.

    This book gathers interviews, difficult-to-find essays, cornerstones of institutional critique, and new critical approaches by writers that include Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Jack Burnham, Rosalyn Deutsche, and Leo Steinberg. Haacke's 1971 Guggenheim exhibition was famously canceled when the artist refused to withdraw several proposed works, including one exposing the business dealings of a Manhattan real estate company. This volume includes Edward Fry's catalog text for that show, as well as Walter Grasskamp's “An Unpublished Text for an Unpainted Picture,” redacted from an exhibition catalog in 1984 because of statements about the German collector Peter Ludwig. Other essays consider such topics as Haacke's controversial commission for the Reichstag; the activation of the spectator, from Condensation Cube to the Polls; the conceptual continuity of his practice with regard to General Systems Theory; and his delayed and problematic reception in both the United States and Europe. With contemporary essays and scholarly reassessments, this collection serves as an essential guide to critical thinking on Haacke's artistic practice, from the works of the 1960s that engage with physical and biological systems to his later interrogations of the social and economic underpinnings of art.

    Contributors Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Jack Burnham, Douglas Crimp, Rosalyn Deutsche, Sam Durant, Edward F. Fry, Walter Grasskamp, Rosalind Krauss, Jack McGrath, Luke Skrebowski, Leo Steinberg

    • Hardcover $35.00 £27.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99