In No Medium, Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent, writing critically and substantively about works for which there would seem to be not only nothing to see but nothing to say. Examined closely, these ostensibly contentless works of art, literature, and music point to a new understanding of media and the limits of the artistic object.
As Hollis Frampton’s photographs and celebrated experimental films were testing the boundaries of “the camera arts” in the 1960s and 1970s, his provocative and highly literate writings were attempting to establish an intellectually resonant form of discourse for these critically underexplored fields. It was a time when artists working in diverse disciplines were beginning to pick up cameras and produce films and videotapes, well before these practices were understood or embraced by institutions of contemporary art.
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.
Expansion, convergence, adjacency, projection, rapport, and intersection are a few of the terms used to redraw the boundaries between art and architecture during the last thirty-five years. If modernists invented the model of an ostensible “synthesis of the arts,” their postmodern progeny promoted the semblance of pluralist fusion.
The choreographic stages a conversation in which artwork is not only looked at but looks back; it is about contact that touches even across distance. The choreographic moves between the corporeal and cerebral to tell the stories of these encounters as dance trespasses into the discourse and disciplines of visual art and philosophy through a series of stutters, steps, trembles, and spasms.
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.
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.
In 1961, a solo exhibition by Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana met with a scathing critical response from New York art critics. Fontana (1899–1968), well known in Europe for his series of slashed monochrome paintings, offered New York ten canvases slashed and punctured, thickly painted in luridly brilliant hues and embellished with chunks of colored glass.
For more than four decades, the elusive but influential Los Angeles-based artist John Knight has developed a practice of site specificity that tests both architectural and ideological boundaries of the museum, gallery, and public sphere. Knight’s works defy notions of stylistic coherence, even, at times, of instant recognizability.
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.