Pamela M. Lee

Pamela M. Lee is Carnegie Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Yale University and the author of Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark, Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s, Forgetting the Art World (all published by the MIT Press) and The Glen Park Library: A Fairy Tale (no place press).

  • Think Tank Aesthetics

    Think Tank Aesthetics

    Midcentury Modernism, the Cold War, and the Neoliberal Present

    Pamela M. Lee

    How the approaches and methods of think tanks—including systems theory, operational research, and cybernetics—paved the way for a peculiar genre of midcentury modernism.

    In Think Tank Aesthetics, Pamela Lee traces the complex encounters between Cold War think tanks and the art of that era. Lee shows how the approaches and methods of think tanks—including systems theory, operations research, and cybernetics—paved the way for a peculiar genre of midcentury modernism and set the terms for contemporary neoliberalism. Lee casts these shadowy institutions as sites of radical creativity and interdisciplinary practice in the service of defense strategy. Describing the distinctive aesthetics that emerged from such institutions as the RAND Corporation, she maps the multiple and overlapping networks that connected nuclear strategists, mathematicians, economists, anthropologists, artists, designers, and art historians.

    Lee recounts, among other things, the decades-long colloquy between Albert Wohlstetter, a RAND analyst, and his former professor, the famous art historian Meyer Schapiro; the anthropologist Margaret Mead's deployment of innovative visual aids that recall midcentury abstract art; and the combination of cybernetics and modernist design in an “Opsroom” for the short-lived socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1970s Chile (and its restaging many years later as a work of art). Lee suggests that we think of these connections less as disciplinary border crossings than as colonization of the specific interests of arts by the approaches and methods of the sciences. Hearing the echoes of think tank aesthetics in today's pursuit of the interdisciplinary and in academia's science-infused justification of the humanities, Lee wonders what territory has been ceded in a laboratory approach to the arts.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00
  • The Glen Park Library

    The Glen Park Library

    A Fairy Tale of Disruption

    Pamela M. Lee

    How Silicon Valley, the dark net, and digital culture have affected our relationship to knowledge, history, language, aesthetics, reading, and truth.

    In October 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Ross William Ulbricht was arrested at the Glen Park Public Branch Library in San Francisco, accused of being the “Dread Pirate Roberts” and mastermind of a dark net drug marketplace known as Silk Road. Ulbricht was an ardent libertarian who believed Silk Road—described by the New York Times as “the largest, most sophisticated criminal enterprise the internet has ever seen”—was battling the forces of big government. He was convicted two years later of money laundering, computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics and sentenced to life in prison.

    Art historian Pamela Lee reads this event as a fairy tale of disruption rather than an isolated episode in the history of the dark net, Silicon Valley, and the relationship between public libraries and digital culture. Lee argues that the notion of “disruptive” technology in contemporary culture has radically affected our relationship to knowledge, history, language, aesthetics, reading, and truth. Against the backdrop of her account of Ulbricht and his exploits, Lee provides original readings of five women artists—Gretchen Bender, Cecile B. Evans, Josephine Pryde, Carissa Rodriguez, and Martine Syms—who weigh in, either explicitly or inadvertently, on the nature of contemporary media and technology. Written as a work of experimental art criticism, The Glen Park Library is both a homage to the Bay Area and an excoriation of the ethos of Silicon Valley. As with all fairy tales, the book's ultimate subjects are much greater, however, and Lee casts a critical eye on collisions between privacy and publicity, knowledge and information, and the past and future that are enabled by the technocratic worldview.

    • Hardcover $30.00 £25.00
  • Forgetting the Art World

    Forgetting the Art World

    Pamela M. Lee

    The work of art's mattering and materialization in a globalized world, with close readings of works by Takahashi Murakami, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Hirschhorn, and others.

    It may be time to forget the art world—or at least to recognize that a certain historical notion of the art world is in eclipse. Today, the art world spins on its axis so quickly that its maps can no longer be read; its borders blur. In Forgetting the Art World, Pamela Lee connects the current state of this world to globalization and its attendant controversies. Contemporary art has responded to globalization with images of movement and migration, borders and multitudes, but Lee looks beyond iconography to view globalization as a world process. Rather than think about the “global art world” as a socioeconomic phenomenon, or in terms of the imagery it stages and sponsors, Lee considers “the work of art's world” as a medium through which globalization takes place. She argues that the work of art is itself both object and agent of globalization.

    Lee explores the ways that art actualizes, iterates, or enables the processes of globalization, offering close readings of works by artists who have come to prominence in the last two decades. She examines the “just in time” managerial ethos of Takahashi Murakami; the production of ethereal spaces in Andreas Gursky's images of contemporary markets and manufacture; the logic of immanent cause dramatized in Thomas Hirschhorn's mixed-media displays; and the “pseudo-collectivism” in the contemporary practice of the Atlas Group, the Raqs Media Collective, and others.

    To speak of “the work of art's world,” Lee says, is to point to both the work of art's mattering and its materialization, to understand the activity performed by the object as utterly continuous with the world it at once inhabits and creates.

    • Hardcover $44.95 £38.00
    • Paperback $29.95 £25.00
  • Chronophobia

    Chronophobia

    On Time in the Art of the 1960s

    Pamela M. Lee

    An examination of the pervasive anxiety about and fixation with time seen in 1960s art.

    In the 1960s art fell out of time; both artists and critics lost their temporal bearings in response to what E. M. Cioran called "not being entitled to time." This anxiety and uneasiness about time, which Pamela Lee calls "chronophobia," cut across movements, media, and genres, and was figured in works ranging from kinetic sculptures to Andy Warhol films. Despite its pervasiveness, the subject of time and 1960s art has gone largely unexamined in historical accounts of the period. Chronophobia is the first critical attempt to define this obsession and analyze it in relation to art and technology.

    Lee discusses the chronophobia of art relative to the emergence of the Information Age in postwar culture. The accompanying rapid technological transformations, including the advent of computers and automation processes, produced for many an acute sense of historical unknowing; the seemingly accelerated pace of life began to outstrip any attempts to make sense of the present. Lee sees the attitude of 1960s art to time as a historical prelude to our current fixation on time and speed within digital culture. Reflecting upon the 1960s cultural anxiety about temporality, she argues, helps us historicize our current relation to technology and time.

    After an introductory framing of terms, Lee discusses such topics as "presentness" with repect to the interest in systems theory in 1960s art; kinetic sculpture and new forms of global media; the temporality of the body and the spatialization of the visual image in the paintings of Bridget Riley and the performance art of Carolee Schneemann; Robert Smithson's interest in seriality and futurity, considered in light of his reading of George Kubler's important work The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things and Norbert Wiener's discussion of cybernetics; and the endless belaboring of the present in sixties art, as seen in Warhol's Empire and the work of On Kawara.

    • Hardcover $34.95 £28.00
    • Paperback $49.95 £40.00
  • Object to Be Destroyed

    Object to Be Destroyed

    The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark

    Pamela M. Lee

    In this first critical account of Matta-Clark's work, Pamela M. Lee considers it in the context of the art of the 1970s—particularly site-specific, conceptual, and minimalist practices—and its confrontation with issues of community, property, the alienation of urban space, the "right to the city," and the ideologies of progress that have defined modern building programs.

    Although highly regarded during his short life—and honored by artists and architects today—the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-78) has been largely ignored within the history of art. Matta-Clark is best remembered for site-specific projects known as "building cuts." Sculptural transformations of architecture produced through direct cuts into buildings scheduled for demolition, these works now exist only as sculptural fragments, photographs, and film and video documentations. Matta-Clark is also remembered as a catalytic force in the creation of SoHo in the early 1970s. Through loft activities, site projects at the exhibition space 112 Greene Street, and his work at the restaurant Food, he participated in the production of a new social and artistic space.

    Have art historians written so little about Matta-Clark's work because of its ephemerality, or, as Pamela M. Lee argues, because of its historiographic, political, and social dimensions? What did the activity of carving up a building-in anticipation of its destruction—suggest about the conditions of art making, architecture, and urbanism in the 1970s? What was one to make of the paradox attendant on its making—that the production of the object was contingent upon its ruination? How do these projects address the very writing of history, a history that imagines itself building toward an ideal work in the service of progress?

    In this first critical account of Matta-Clark's work, Lee considers it in the context of the art of the 1970s—particularly site-specific, conceptual, and minimalist practices—and its confrontation with issues of community, property, the alienation of urban space, the "right to the city," and the ideologies of progress that have defined modern building programs.

    • Hardcover $60.00 £50.00
    • Paperback $34.95 £28.00

Contributor

  • Isa Genzken

    Isa Genzken

    Lisa Lee

    Generously illustrated essays consider Isa Genzken's remarkable body of work, from her early elegant floor pieces to her later explosive assemblages.

    Since the late 1970s, the Berlin-based contemporary artist Isa Genzken (b. 1948) has produced a body of work that is remarkable for its formal and material inventiveness. In her sculptural practice, Genzken has developed an expanded material repertoire that includes plaster, concrete, epoxy resin, and mass-produced objects that range from action figures to discarded pizza boxes. Her heterogeneous assemblages, a New York Times critic observes, are “brash, improvisational, full of searing color and attitude.” Genzken, the recent subject of a major retrospective at MoMA, offers a highly original interpretation of modernist, avant-garde, and postminimalist practices even as she engages pressing sociopolitics and economic issues of the present.

    These illustrated essays address the full span of Genzken's work, from the elegant floor sculptures with which she began her career to the assemblages, bursting with color and bristling with bric-a-brac, that she has produced since the beginning of the millennium. The texts, by writers including Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, and the artist herself, consider her formation in the West German milieu; her critique of conventions of architecture, reconstruction, and memorialization; her sympathy with mass culture; and her ongoing interrogation of public and private spheres. Two texts appear in English for the first time, including a quasi-autobiographical screenplay written by Genzken in 1993.

    Contributors Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Diedrich Diederichsen, Hal Foster, Isa Genzken, Isabelle Graw, Lisa Lee, Pamela M. Lee, Birgit Pelzer, Juliane Rebentisch, Josef Strau, Wolfgang Tillmans, Lawrence Weiner

    Contents Isa Genzken: Two Exercises (1974) • Birgit Pelzer: Axiomatics Subject to Withdrawal (1979) • Benjamin H. D. Buchloh: Isa Genzken: The Fragment as Model (1992) • Benjamin H. D. Buchloh: Isa Genzken: Fuck the Bauhaus. Architecture, Design, and Photography in Reverse (2014) • Isa Genzken: Sketches for a Feature Film (1993) • Isabelle Graw: Free to Be Dependent: Concessions in the Work of Isa Genzken (1996) • Diedrich Diederichsen: Subjects at the End of the Flagpole (2000) • Pamela M. Lee: The Skyscraper at Ear Level (2003) • Benjamin H. D. Buchloh: All Things Being Equal (2005) • Wolfgang Tillmans: Isa Genzken: A Conversation with Wolfgang Tillmans (2003) • Diedrich Diederichsen: Diedrich Diederichsen in Conversation with Isa Genzken (2006) • Lisa Lee: “Make Life Beautiful!” The Diabolic in the Work of Isa Genzken (A Tour Through Berlin, Paris, and New York) (2007) • Lawrence Weiner: Isa Genzken Again (2010) • Juliane Rebentisch: The Dialectic of Beauty: On the Work of Isa Genzken (2007) • Yve-Alain Bois: The Bum and the Architect (2007) • Josef Strau: Isa Genzken: Sculpture as Narrative Urbanism (2009) • Hal Foster: Fantastic Destruction (2014)

    • Hardcover $19.75 £15.99
    • Paperback $19.95 £15.99