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The Arts

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Writings and Interviews, 1964-2004

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.

The Little Screens

Lee Friedlander’s The Little Screens first appeared as a 1963 photo-essay in Harper’s Bazaar, with commentary by Walker Evans. Six untitled photographs show television screens broadcasting eerily glowing images of faces and figures into unoccupied rooms in homes and motels across America. As distinctive a portrait of an era as Robert Frank’s The Americans, The Little Screens grew in number and was not brought together in its entirety until a 2001 exhibition at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.

A History of Computer Animation

Computer graphics (or CG) has changed the way we experience the art of moving images. Computer graphics is the difference between Steamboat Willie and Buzz Lightyear, between ping pong and PONG. It began in 1963 when an MIT graduate student named Ivan Sutherland created Sketchpad, the first true computer animation program. Sutherland noted: “Since motion can be put into Sketchpad drawings, it might be exciting to try making cartoons.” This book, the first full-length history of CG, shows us how Sutherland’s seemingly offhand idea grew into a multibillion dollar industry.

Art and Conflict in the 21st Century
Edited by Peter Weibel

Today political protest often takes the form of spontaneous, noninstitutional, mass action. Mass protests during the Arab Spring showed that established systems of power—in that case, the reciprocal support among Arab dictators and Western democracies—can be interrupted, at least for a short moment in history. These new activist movements often use online media to spread their message. Mass demonstrations from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Taksim Square in Istanbul show the power of networked communication to fuel “performative democracy”—at the center of which stands the global citizen.

Inventing the Singular

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.

A Pataphysical Life

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.

Since the 1960s, artworks that involve the participation of the spectator have received extensive scholarly attention. Yet interactive artworks using digital media still present a challenge for academic art history. In this book, Katja Kwastek argues that the particular aesthetic experience enabled by these new media works can open up new perspectives for our understanding of art and media alike.

Art after New Media

As curator Steve Dietz has observed, new media art is like contemporary art—but different. New media art involves interactivity, networks, and computation and is often about process rather than objects. New media artworks are difficult to classify according to the traditional art museum categories determined by medium, geography, and chronology and present the curator with novel challenges involving interpretation, exhibition, and dissemination. This book views these challenges as opportunities to rethink curatorial practice.

The Art of Pierre Huyghe

Over the past two decades, French artist Pierre Huyghe has produced an extraordinary body of work in constant dialogue with temporality. Investigating the possibility of a hypothetical mode of timekeeping—“parallel presents”—Huyghe has researched the architecture of the incomplete, directed a puppet opera, founded a temporary school, established a pirate television station, staged celebrations, scripted scenarios, and journeyed to Antarctica in search of a mythological penguin.

An Alternative Space for Art

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.

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