In Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965–1975, David J. Getsy, professor of art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has anthologized Burton’s eclectic criticism of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Before Burton received recognition for his sculpture and public works, he was a prolific critic of art and performance, as well as a curator and editor for ARTnews and Art in America. Continue reading
Following The New Earthwork: Art, Action, Agency, published last year by ISC Press, Artists Reclaim the Commons makes the case for art as a driving force behind efforts to reimagine human relationships and the built environment. Far from advocating any one genre of public art, this book features a range of project types, from innovative campus programs and biennials to participatory performances and political protests. Art can take to the streets in any number of ways—regardless of approach, the selected projects all share a willingness to work outside of and/or across discrete public art typologies, using institutional frameworks at will, for instance, or blending high-profile status with small-scale, local activism. Continue reading
Silence, edited by Toby Kamps, curator of modern and contemporary art at The Menil Collection, accompanied an exhibition of the same name that explored the paradoxical nature of silence, a phenomenon which exists only in the vacuum of deep space. This means that, for us, true silence exists only in the imagination, since even in deafness we are plagued the incessant clamor of our own consciousness. The catalogue includes a forward by Josef Helfenstein, director of The Menil, and Lawrence Rider, director of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, as well as essays by Kamps, Jenny Sorkin (assistant professor of contemporary art and critical studies at the University of Houston), and Steve Seid (video curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive). Continue reading
Historically, art-making has been associated with individual expression and artists have been seen as creative geniuses isolated from mainstream society, attempting to communicate creatively through visual means. In the aftermath of World War II, after having experienced the dire consequences of staunch individualism (i.e., nationalism), keeping the peace through cooperation arose in all spheres of human experience, including the arts. Rather than Dadaist (or other) approaches to the horrors of war, postwar art brought about a more forward-looking optimism. Artists became drawn to collaboration, and the collective was born.
The preface of Claes Oldenburg, published by the editors of the October journal, reads less like an introduction and more like a warning label, an Intellectually Explicit Advisory: prepare yourself, reader, for “a critical literature that is serious, sophisticated, and sustained.” It comes as no surprise that the essays at hand require a seriously sophisticated, sustained effort to read. They were not compiled for the casual fan or the easily concussed. Rather, they are “intended as primers in signal practices of art and criticism alike, and they are offered in resistance to the amnesiac and antitheoretical tendencies of our time.” While the intellectual intentions are clear, the subject, Claes Oldenburg, remains elusive. As Donald Judd admitted in a review in 1964, “I think Oldenburg’s work is profound. I think it’s very hard to explain how.” Without sacrificing the difficulty, Claes Oldenburg at least tries.
Art has always had an evasive relationship with self-definition. Artists have never liked being pigeonholed into a single art movement or category and, in an attempt to prove the critics wrong, they develop styles and ideas that continually push the boundaries of definition. Never has this been truer than in what we like to call “contemporary art,” a category that itself defies definition through a slippery vagueness of terms. Not only are all styles and media included in this classification, it doesn’t even set a temporal boundary. If we take “contemporary” to mean the present and recent past, as Phaidon did for its latest survey, 25 years seems about right, so since 1986. Taking into account this dilemma of definition and categorization, Defining Contemporary Art presents a history of recent art not in the traditional style of overarching trends but as specific moments in time and the pivotal artworks that resulted.
This week, an unconventional book review. Culture Beyond Oil is really more like a compilation of short essays and manifestos, all addressing the fact that unethical oil companies should not be allowed to sponsor cultural institutions, with BP’s ongoing sponsorship of the Tate as the point of departure. The publication is a call to arms for artists and arts administrators to remove themselves from the grasp of Big Oil.