Skip navigation

Art History

  • Page 2 of 18
A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels

Light is the condition of all vision, and the visual media are our most important explorations of this condition. The history of visual technologies reveals a centuries-long project aimed at controlling light. In this book, Sean Cubitt traces a genealogy of the dominant visual media of the twenty-first century—digital video, film, and photography—through a history of materials and practices that begins with the inventions of intaglio printing and oil painting. Attending to the specificities of inks and pigments, cathode ray tubes, color film, lenses, screens, and chips, Cubitt argues that we have moved from a hierarchical visual culture focused on semantic values to a more democratic but value-free numerical commodity.

Cubitt begins with the invisibility of black, then builds from line to surface to volume and space. He describes Rembrandt’s attempts to achieve pure black by tricking the viewer and the rise of geometry as a governing principle in visual technology, seen in Dürer, Hogarth, and Disney, among others. He finds the origins of central features of digital imaging in nineteenth-century printmaking; examines the clash between the physics and psychology of color; explores the representation of space in shadows, layers, and projection; discusses modes of temporal order in still photography, cinema, television, and digital video; and considers the implications of a political aesthetics of visual technology.

The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara, one of the most important figures in the twentieth century’s most famous avant-garde movements, was born Samuel Rosenstock (or Samueli Rosenstok) in a provincial Romanian town, on April 16 (or 17, or 14, or 28) in 1896. Tzara became Tzara twenty years later at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, when he and others (including Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Hans Arp) invented Dada with a series of chaotic performances including multilingual (and nonlingual) shouting, music, drumming, and calisthenics. Within a few years, Dada (largely driven by Tzara) became an international artistic movement, a rallying point for young artists in Paris, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. With TaTa Dada, Marius Hentea offers the first English-language biography of this influential artist.

As the leader of Dada, Tzara created “the moment art changed forever.” But, Hentea shows, Tzara and Dada were not coterminous. Tzara went on to publish more than fifty books; he wrote one of the great poems of surrealism; he became a recognized expert on primitive art; he was an active antifascist, a communist, and (after the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Revolution) a former communist. Hentea offers a detailed exploration of Tzara’s early life in Romania, neglected by other scholars; a scrupulous assessment of the Dada years; and an original examination of Tzara’s life and works after Dada. The one thing that remained constant through all of Tzara’s artistic and political metamorphoses, Hentea tells us, was a desire to unlock the secrets and mysteries of language.

Neoconceptual Art of the 1980s

Emerging from New York’s East Village art scene of the 1980s, the so-called neo-geo artists were a loosely associated group that included the painters Ashley Bickerton, Peter Halley, Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Philip Taaffe, and Meyer Vaisman and the sculptors Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach. Labeled neo-geo for the abstract geometric motifs that characterized only some of their work, the movement was also known variously as simulationism, neoconceptualism, neo-pop, neominimalism, and postabstraction. In this, the first in-depth study of the group, Amy Brandt argues that neoconceptualism is the most precise name for their work. Brandt sees it as an art about art history, characterized by ironic adaptations of past artistic movements and styles, a tendency toward visual interplay, and a theoretical impulse driven by postmodern concerns with intertextuality, deconstruction, and poststructuralism.

Brandt investigates the East Village art scene of the 1980s and argues that the neoconceptualists’ theoretical orientation distinguished them from other artists of the era. She traces the divergence in art critics’ responses to the group’s work and charts their market success. Brandt examines in detail the references to art history found in the work; she explores the group’s formal connections to pop, minimalism, and conceptualism; and she investigates the relationships between the neoconceptual artists and another loosely connected group of artists, the Pictures generation.

Edited by Amelia Jones

It has been argued, most notably in psychoanalytic and modernist art discourse, that the production of works of art is fundamentally driven by sexual desire. It has been further argued, particularly since the early 1970s, that sexual drives and desires also condition the distribution, display and reception of art.

This anthology traces how and why this identification of art with sexual expression or repression arose and how the terms have shifted in tandem with artistic and theoretical debates, from the era of the rights movements to the present. Among the subjects it discusses are abjection and the “informe,” or formless; pornography and the obscene; the performativity of gender and sexuality; and the role of sexuality in forging radical art or curatorial practices in response to such issues as state-sponsored repression and anti-feminism in the broader social realm.

Artists surveyed include
Vito Acconci, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Gerard Byrne, George Chakravarthi, Judy Chicago, Vaginal Davis, Wim Delvoye, Elmgreen & Dragset, Valie Export, Félix González-Torres, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Harmony Hammond, Claudette Johnson, Mary Kelly, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Legorreta, Paul McCarthy, Sarah Maple, Shirin Neshat, Lorraine O’Grady, Yoko Ono, Catherine Opie, Orlan, William Pope.L, Miriam Schapiro, Carolee Schneemann, Joan Semmel, Barbara Smith, Annie Sprinkle, Alina Szapocznikow, Del LaGrace Volcano, Hannah Wilke, David Wojnarowicz

Writers include
Malek Alloula, Norman O. Brown, Judith Butler, Douglas Crimp, Angela Dimitrakaki, Michel Foucault, Daniel Guérin, Eleanor Heartney, Jonathan D. Katz, Rosalind Krauss, Julia Kristeva, Paweł Leszkowicz, Herbert Marcuse, Kobena Mercer, Laura Mulvey, Lawrence Rinder, Jacqueline Rose, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Stephen Whittle

As the American environmental movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, ecological perspectives also emerged in art. But ecological artworks were not limited to conventional understandings of environmental art as something that had to be located outdoors or made of organic materials. Created in a range of media, they reflected a widespread reconceptualization of the material world and a sense of the interconnectedness of all things. In this book, James Nisbet investigates the many levels of intersection between ecology and art in the 1960s and 1970s, examining a series of works that served as sensory interfaces to ecological concepts and reflected the shifting notions of ecology during the period.

Nisbet first examines practices of land art that sought to revise the relationship of art to the biological world. He explores the all-but-forgotten genre of Environments, founded by Allan Kaprow, which produced both closed environments bounded by the gallery’s walls and psychedelic multimedia environments; and he examines the transition between minimalism and land art, considering the “planetary visions" that cast singular objects within holistic ecosystems—a sensibility that infused such canonical earthworks as Michael Heizer’s Double Negative and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Nisbet then turns to work informed by the language of energy and the ecological notion that all matter is in process, including Robert Barry’s radio wave installations and Simone Forti’s performances. Finally, he considers Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, finding in it a reflection of the conflicts within ecological thinking of the 1970s. Offering a radically new view of environmental art, Nisbet traces a cultural turn from an art that addresses artificially confined environments and simplified allegories of the planet to one that increasingly takes on the “unruly complexities" of global ecologies.

Edited by Antony Hudek

Artists increasingly refer to “post-object-based" work while theorists engage with material artifacts in culture. A focus on “object-based" learning treats objects as vectors for dialogue across disciplines. Virtual imaging enables the object to be abstracted or circumvented, while immaterial forms of labor challenge materialist theories. This anthology surveys such reappraisals of what constitutes the “objectness" of production, with art as its focus.

Among the topics it examines are the relation of the object to subjectivity; distinctions between objects and things; the significance of the object’s transition from inert mass to tool or artifact; and the meanings of the everyday in the found object, repetition in the replicated or multiple object, loss in the absent object, and abjection in the formless or degraded object. It also explores artistic positions that are anti-object; theories of the experimental, liminal or mental object; and the role of objects in performance. The object becomes a prism through which to reread contemporary art and better understand its recent past.

Artists surveyed include
Georges Adéagbo, Art in Ruins, Iain Baxter, Louise Bourgeois, Pavel Büchler, Lygia Clark, Claude Closky, Brian Collier, Jimmie Durham, Fischli & Weiss, Luca Frei, Meschac Gaba, Isa Genzken, Gruppe Geflecht, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, John Latham, Antje Majewski, Gustav Metzger, Cady Noland, Gabriel Orozco, Adrian Piper, Falke Pisano, Eva Rothschild, Aura Satz, Kenneth Snelson, Hito Steyerl, Josef Strau, Alina Szapocznikow, Jo?lle Tuerlinckx, Erwin Wurm

Writers include
Homi K. Bhabha, Jack Burnham, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Lynne Cooke, Gillo Dorfles, Jean Fisher, Ferreira Gullar, Charles Harrison, Paulo Herkenhoff, Julia Kristeva, Bruno Latour, Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger, Jean-Fran?ois Lyotard, Lev Manovich, Ursula Meyer, Bruno Munari, Georges Perec, Hans-J?rg Rheinberger, Dieter Roelstraete, Howard Singerman, Nancy Spector, Marcus Steinweg, Anne Wagner, Gérard Wajcman, Slavoj ?i?ek

The dawn of the electronic media age in the 1960s began a cultural shift from the modernist grid and its determination of projection and representation to the fluid structures and circuits of the network, presenting art with new challenges and possibilities. This anthology considers art at the center of network theory, from the 1960s to the present.

Artists have used the “space of flows" as a basis for creating utopian scenarios, absurd yet functional propositions or holistic planetary visions. Others have explored the economies of reciprocity and the ethics of generosity, in works that address changed conditions of codependence and new sites of social negotiation. The “infra-power" of the network has been a departure point for self-organized counterculture and the creation of new types of agency. And a “poetics of connectivity" runs through a diverse range of work that addresses the social and material complexity of networks through physical structures and ambient installation, the mapping of the Internet, or the development of robots and software that take on the functions of artist or curator.

Artists surveyed include
Joseph Beuys, Ursula Biemann, Heath Bunting, Critical Art Ensemble, Fernand Deligny, Peter Fend, Gego, Jobim Jochimsen, Koncern, Christine Kozlov, Pia Lindman, Mark Lombardi, Diana McCarty, Marta Minujín, Aleksandra Mir, Tanja Ostojic, Ola Pehrson, Walid Raad, Artüras Raila, Hito Steyerl, Tomaso Tozzi, Suzanne Treister, Ultra Red, Wolf Vostell, Stephen Willats

Writers include
Jane Bennett, Hakim Bey, Luc Boltanski, Manuel Castells, ève Chiapello, Guy Debord, Umberto Eco, Okwui Enwezor, Michael Hardt, Bruno Latour, Marshall McLuhan, Marcel Mauss, Reza Negarestani, Antonio Negri, Sadie Plant, Lane Relyea, Craig Saper, Saskia Sassen, Pit Schultz, Steven Shaviro, Tiziana Terranova, Paolo Virno

The Studio

Throughout his career, Philip Guston’s work metamorphosed from figural to abstract and back to figural. In the 1950s, Guston (1913–1980) produced a body of shimmering abstract paintings that made him—along with Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline—an influential abstract expressionist of the “gestural” tendency. In the late 1960s, with works like The Studio came his most radical shift. Drawing from the imagery of his early murals and from elements in his later drawings, ignoring the prevailing “coolness” of Minimalism and antiform abstraction, Guston invented for these late works a cast of cartoon-like characters to articulate a vision that was at once comic, crude, and complex. In The Studio, Guston offers a darkly comic portrait of the artist as a hooded Ku Klux Klansman, painting a self-portrait.

In this concise and generously illustrated book, Craig Burnett examines The Studio in detail. He describes the historical and personal motivations for Guston’s return to figuration and the (mostly negative) critical reaction to the work from Hilton Kramer and others. He looks closely at the structure of The Studio, and at the influence of Piero della Francesca, Manet, and Krazy Kat, among others; and he considers the importance of the column of smoke in the painting—as a compositional device and as a ghost of abstraction and metaphysics. The Studio signals not only Guston’s own artistic evolution but a broader shift, from the medium-centric and teleological claim of modernism to the discursive, carnivalesque, and mucky world of postmodernism.

Dropout Piece

The artist Lee Lozano (1930–1999) began her career as a painter; her work rapidly evolved from figuration to abstraction. In the late 1960s, she created a major series of eleven monochromatic Wave paintings, her last in the medium. Despite her achievements as a painter, Lozano is best known for two acts of refusal, both of which she undertook as artworks: Untitled (General Strike Piece), begun in 1969, in which she cut herself off from the commercial art world for a time; and the so-called Boycott Piece, which began in 1971 as a month-long experiment intended to improve communication but became a permanent hiatus from speaking to or directly interacting with women. In this book, Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer examines Lozano’s Dropout Piece, the culmination of her practice, her greatest experiment in art and endurance, encompassing all her withdrawals, and ending only with her burial in an unmarked grave.

And yet, although Dropout Piece is among Lozano’s most important works, it might not exist at all. There is no conventional artwork to be exhibited, no performance event to be documented. Lehrer-Graiwer views Dropout Piece as leveraging the artist’s entire practice and embodying her creative intelligence, her radicality, and her intensity. Combining art history, analytical inquiry, and journalistic investigation, Lehrer-Graiwer examines not only Lozano’s act of dropping out but also the evolution over time of Dropout Piece in the context of the artist’s practice in New York and her subsequent life in Dallas.

Robert Rauschenberg and the Global Rise of American Art

In 1964, Robert Rauschenberg, already a frequent transatlantic traveler, became even more peripatetic, joining the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as costume and set designer for its first world tour. Rauschenberg and the company visited thirty cities in fourteen countries throughout Europe and Asia. During the tour, he not only devised sets and costumes but also enacted his own performances and created works of art, often using local materials and collaborating with local art communities. In The Great Migrator, Hiroko Ikegami examines Rauschenberg’s activities abroad and charts the increasing international dominance of American art during that period. Unlike other writers, who have viewed the export of American art during the 1950s and 1960s as another form of Cold War propagandizing (and famous American artists as cultural imperialists), Ikegami sees the global rise of American art as a cross-cultural phenomenon in which each art community Rauschenberg visited was searching in different ways for cultural and artistic identity in the midst of Americanization. Rauschenberg’s travels and collaborations established a new kind of transnational network for the postwar art world--prefiguring the globalization of art before the era of globalization. Ikegami focuses on Rauschenberg’s stops in four cities: Paris, Venice (where he became the first American to win the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale), Stockholm, and Tokyo. In each city, she tells us, Rauschenberg’s work encountered both enthusiasm and resistance (which was often a reaction against American power). Ikegami’s account offers a fresh, nonbinary perspective on the global and the local.

  • Page 2 of 18