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Week 12 Lecture, 20th Century
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Week 12 Lecture, 20th Century


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  • The late 1960s was a turbulent time in the U.S. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the Vietnam War raged on, “Tricky Dick” (Richard Nixon) was elected in 1968 with a promise to end the war, and organized protests in resistance to war occurred, with at least one ending tragically. In response, movements for peace and love emerged, culminating in Woodstock in 1969. It was also during this period and throughout the 70s that avant-garde art became radicalized. Centuries of preconceptions about the nature of art were challenged. In an effort to deconstruct the history of illusionism, some artists dealt with the most basic geometric and organic forms in large-scale sculptures. Others rejected making objects altogether and either used their bodies as canvas or reached out into the “expanded field,” making art environments indoor and out. If 50s mainstream culture championed the commodified art object (particularly abstract painting) and individual, subjective expression, then much 60s and 70s avant-garde art was not easily bought and sold and was either made collectively or meant to be more communal in nature (about the relationship between the viewer and the art work). While it might not look like typical art for the people (a public mural, for example), 60s art often is. Let’s see why that is.
  • Russian Constructivism lasted from around 1913 - 1940. It advocated an art for the people and directed towards social good. In the work of a number of avant-garde artists (such as Tatlin, El Lizzitsky, and Alexander Rodchenko), there is an interest in revealing the material structure of objects and their presence in space by creating constructions that resist illusionism or manipulation. Objects are presented in their most basic forms, often in an orderly fashion (to reflect social harmony and cooperation). Much Constructivist art consists of geometric abstractions and industrial materials, since these artists and their sympathizers believed in the promise of modernity as made possible by the industrial revolution and by populist movements which advocated for the worker and common man.
  • If conceptual art is a critique of modernism from within, what characterizes modernism? -visual primacy -physical concreteness, the object -aesthetic autonomy -self-reflexiveness -artisanal competence and manual virtuosity
  • Transcript

    • 1. History of 20 th Century Art 1965 - 70
    • 2. 1965 - 70 Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968 “ It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence.” -MLK Jr., from I’ve Been to the Mountaintop , read on April 3, 1968 John Filo, Kent State University, May 4, 1970 Woodstock festival, August 1969
    • 3. Abstract Expressionism vs. Minimalism Vs. Donald Judd, Untitled , 1965 Mark Rothko, No. 3/No.13 (Magenta, Black Green and Orange) , 1949
    • 4. Minimalism – “Just one thing after another” (Donald Judd)
      • Like in painting (the figure & ground), artists desired to dismantle illusionism in sculpture
      • To resist the figurative and Surrealist qualities of 40s and 50s sculpture
      • Inspired by previous styles and movements, including the Readymade and Russian Constructivism
      • The Readymade (the florescent light tube) multiplied to create a “near-serial generation of structures”
      • Flavin assembled these in a pyramidal structure to pay homage to Vladimir Tatlin & his Monument for the Third International (a Russian Constructivist monument to modernity and industry ca. 1920)
      • Flavin’s Catholic background adds a spiritual component to his sculptures (as cathedrals bathed in light?)
      • The material and the immaterial
      Dan Flavin Monument for V.Tatlin , 1969 Chartres Cathedral ca. 1200
    • 5. Vladimir Tatlin, Monument for the 3rd International , 1919-20 Duchamp, Fountain , 1917, Readymade From the Constructed Object to the Found Object
    • 6.
      • Sculptor Carl Andre also interested in Constructivist transparency of materials
      • Sculpture as place
      • To resist composition by arranging objects in a logical, orderly fashion as dictated by their inherent properties
      • Flavin and Andre (also Judd, Morris & LeWiit) included in Primary Structures , an seminal Minimalist exhibition in 1966 at Jewish Museum in New York
      • Reflected a continued movement away from illusionism, spiritual transcendence, and beauty in art
      • A move away from “heroic scale, anguished decisions, historicizing narrative, valuable artifact” (Robert Morris), all pertinent to Abstract Expressionism
      Minimalism – “Just one thing after another” (Donald Judd) Carl Andre, Equivalent VIII , 1978 Brancusi, Endless Column , 1937-38
    • 7. Minimalism – “Being in the World” (Merleau-Ponty)
      • To reject art made from an “a priori system” (Judd’s term for a preconceived idea or concept)
      • To “present” not represent
      • Tenets of Minimalism outlined by Donald Judd & Robert Morris
      Characteristics of Minimalism 1) radical simplification of shapes 2) abandonment of pedestal 3) “death of the author” – impersonal quality (no “innerness”) 4) Industrialized, serialized character (plywood, plexiglas sometimes forged in a metal shop, acc. to artist’s instructions 5) No “original” (endlessly reproducible simulacrum) 6) No distinction between painting and sculpture (anti-Greenbergian) 7) Anti-illusionist and anti-compositional 8) Context/site important Donald Judd, Untitled, 1963 Judd Untitled 1982 Marfa Texas
    • 8. Minimalism – “Being in the World” (Merleau-Ponty) Gestalt : a configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.
      • 3 L’s placed 3 different ways
      • Meaning and form are relative, different depending on placement & perspective (of viewer)
      • “ Quality of unitariness”
      Robert Morris Untitled (L-Beams) 1965-67
    • 9.
      • Lucy Lippard’s Eccentric Abstraction exhibition opened in 1966 (same yr. as Primary Structures)
      • More interested in the inherent properties of materials (industrial and organic) than in abstract forms
      • Allowing the forms to be what they want to be (succumb to gravity/chance)
      • Process important
      • An “emotive or erotic alternative to minimalism”? (in the way they echo the body)
      • As masculine or feminine? (e.g. Serra’s aggressive, labor-oriented works)
      Post-Minimalism Richard Serra, Splash Piece: Casting , 1969 Serra, One Ton Prop (House of Cards) , 1969 Sculpture as building
    • 10.
      • Hesse also a sculptor
      • Worked with inflexible, geometric and organic, soft materials (cheesecloth, latex, fiberglass)
      • Her anthropomorphic forms seen as expressive of the human body
      • Works read as clever comments on artistic conventions and on manifestations of erotic desire and longing
      • Inspired later Feminist art
      Post-Minimalism Hesse Hang-Up 1965-66 Mel Bochner, Portrait of Eva Hesse , 1966
    • 11. Conceptual Art – Duchamp’s Last Word Duchamp, Etant Donnés ( Given: #1 The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas ), 1946-66, Philadelphia Museum of Art
    • 12.
      • Thought to have given up art for chess
      • Resurgence in popularity in 1960s (major retrospective at Pasadena Art Museum in 1963)
      • Secretly made this assemblage over 20 yr. period; intended for it to be unveiled in Philadelphia one yr. after his death (in 1968)
      • Elaborately crafted (consists of brick wall, mannequin, motorized waterfall, gas lamp, assorted twigs, hand-painted background)
      • Result of numerous drawn and sculpted studies
      • A commentary on the historical nature of art (the Renaissance window) and its relationship with its viewer
      • Viewer can’t be a detached observer, but a voyeur (must stare into peephole like peeping tom)
      • Viewer’s gaze aligns with female genitalia (vanishing point)
      Conceptual Art: Duchamp’s Last Word Duchamp, Etant Donnés ( Given: #1 The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas ), 1946-66, Philadelphia Museum of Art
    • 13. “ Caught in the Act” Durer, from Four Books on Human Proportions , 1528 Gazing at Manet’s Olympia , Musee d’Orsay
    • 14. Minimalism vs. Conceptual Art Judd, Untitled, 1982, Marfa, Texas Vs. Sol Lewitt, Five Modular Units , 1971
    • 15.
      • In 1968, first conceptual art exhibitions organized by Seth Siegelaub including the first “official” generation of conceptual artists
      • Inspired by Duchamp & the Readymade (idea over aesthetic), Johns, Warhol
      • The serial image and object (“just one thing after another”—Donald Judd)
      • Not interested in uniqueness, favored mass-production
      • Artist-book and text-based works
      • Sol Lewitt (father of conceptual art) used the serial object in his modular grids
      • Work as set of guidelines anyone can follow (no artist as auteur)
      Conceptual Art – Art as Idea “ What the work of art looks like isn’t too important…The idea becomes a machine that makes the art…“It is the objective of the artist who is concerned with conceptual art to make his work mentally interesting to the spectator, and therefore usually he would want it to become Emotionally dry.” – Sol Lewitt, Paragraphs on Conceptual Art , 1967 Sol Lewitt, Five Modular Units , 1971 Ruscha, from Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations 1963 http://
    • 16. Conceptual Art – The Spectator Becomes Reader Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Red, Black Blue and Grey , 1920 Lewitt, Red Square, White Letters , 1963
      • 60s Conceptual art was inherently self-referential—critiquing its own history, process, and form
    • 17.
      • Signed, legally notarized statement next to an object in relief
      • Refers to small sculpture called Litanies , which he had sold to architect Philip Johnson, who had not paid him for the work
      • Statement says that he is then withdrawing all “aesthetic content” from the work
      • Challenges the traditional definitions of art
      • Art as no longer self-contained and autonomous
      Conceptual Art – Art as Idea Robert Morris, Statement of Aesthetic Withdrawal , 1963
    • 18.
      • Photo-conceptualism
      • Image and text combined
      • Shows single-family homes in American suburbs
      • First exhibited in 1966 as slideshow
      • Then combined with text in his “Homes for America” article, published in 1966 in Arts Magazine
      • Examined various combinations in style and color of row houses
      • Serial object as mass subject during dawn of suburban sprawl
      • Deskilling
      Conceptual Art – Art as Idea Dan Graham, Homes for America, from Arts Magazine , 1966
    • 19. Site-Specific Art – Being in the “Expanded Field”
      • Earthworks a type of site-specific
      • art
      • Took the Minimalist concept of the “expanded field” into nature
      • Challenged the limits of the art market
      • Explored boundaries between public and private realms
      • Primarily concerned with the “law of entropy”
      • Akin to Pollock’s drip process on a large scale extended into the landscape
      Robert Smithson, Asphalt Rundown , 1969 http:// =5AmpyiR6kj8
    • 20.
      • Matta-Clark also interested in entropy
      • Encountered Smithson’s work at “Earth Art” exhibition at Cornell in 1969 while architecture student
      • Aggression toward the built environment?
      • Anarchitecture
      Site-Specific Art – Being in the “Expanded Field” http:// Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting , 1974 Gordon Matta-Clark, Office Baroque
    • 21.
      • Month-long installation at Pomona College Art Gallery
      • Transformed main exhibition space, including lobby and front doors into two isosceles triangles connected by 2’ passageway
      • Ceiling lowered from 12’ to 6’10”
      • Doors became opening onto street accessible 24 hrs. a day
      • Site-specificity as an extension of Minimalism
      • Extends interrelationships between the object, the viewer, and the environment
      • Critiques Minimalism because it resists becoming a commodity
      • Institutional critique?
      Site-Specific Art – Being in the “Expanded Field” Michael Asher, Pomona College Project , 1970
    • 22.
      • 1500’ long, 15’ wide spiral made of black basalt and earth extending counterclockwise into reddish hued Great Salt Lake, Utah
      • To introduce entropy into Minimalism in the “expanded field” (reclaimed by lake, periodically reemerges)
      • Anti-monument
      • Reflects artists connection with nature (likened to cosmos)
      • Cyclical nature of time & history (return to primordial beginnings)
      • Reflects Earthwork artists interest in American Southwest as canvas
      • Difficult to access (pilgrimage)
      • Now owned by Dia Art Foundation; efforts to protect it from nearby exploratory drilling (oil), which would alter nature of work
      Site-Specific Art – Earthworks Hikmet Loe, Spiral Jetty , 2002 Smithson, Spiral Jetty , 1969-70 http:// =vCfm95GyZt4&feature=related
    • 23. Site-Specific Art – Earthworks Nancy Holt, Sun Tunnels , 1973-76 James Turrell, Roden Crater , ca. 1970-present Arizona Andy Goldsworthy