Contemporary art in the early twenty-first century is often discussed as if the very idea of art that is contemporary is new. Yet all works of art were once contemporary. In What Was Contemporary Art? Richard Meyer reclaims the contemporary from historical amnesia, and gives the contemporary its own art history.
Celebrated nineteenth-century photographer—and writer, actor, caricaturist, inventor, and balloonist—Félix Nadar published this memoir of his photographic life in 1900 at the age of eighty. Composed as a series of vignettes (we might view them as a series of “written photographs”), this intelligent and witty book offers stories of Nadar’s experiences in the early years of photography, memorable character sketches, and meditations on history. It is a classic work, cited by writers from Walter Benjamin to Rosalind Krauss. This is its first and only complete English translation.
This book is the generously illustrated, lavishly documented, critically narrated story of one of the most significant art collectives of the late twentieth century.
In 1984, three groups of artists in post-Tito Yugoslavia—the music and multimedia group Laibach, the visual arts group Irwin, and the theater group Scipion Nasice Sisters Theater—came together to form the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) art collective.
This anthology examines the expanded field of the moving image in recent art, tracing the genealogies of contemporary moving image work in performance, body art, experimental film, installation, and site-specific art from the 1960s to the present day. Contextualizing new developments made possible by advances in digital and networked technology, it locates contemporary practice within a global framework.
Materiality has reappeared as a highly contested topic in recent art. Modernist criticism tended to privilege form over matter—considering material as the essentialized basis of medium specificity—and technically based approaches in art history reinforced connoisseurship through the science of artistic materials. But in order to engage critically with the meaning, for example, of hair in David Hammons’s installations, milk in the work of Dieter Roth, or latex in the sculptures of Eva Hesse, we need a very different set of methodological tools.
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.
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.
Yayoi Kusama is the most famous artist to emerge from Japan in the period following World War II. Part of a burgeoning international art scene in the early 1960s, she exhibited in New York with Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, and other Pop and Minimalist luminaries, and in Europe with the Dutch Nul and the German Zero artist groups. Known for repetitive patterns, sewn soft sculptures, naked performance, and suggestive content, Kusama’s work anticipated the politically charged feminist art of the 1970s.
When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris—but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde.
During the 1960s and 1970s, magazines became an important new site of artistic practice, functioning as an alternative exhibition space for the dematerialized practices of conceptual art. Artists created works expressly for these mass-produced, hand-editioned pages, using the ephemerality and the materiality of the magazine to challenge the conventions of both artistic medium and gallery.