United States Arts
From the mid-seventies to the early nineties in the field of visual arts in the US there were two substantial changes in climate. The seventies were configured, at first, as a heterogeneous decade, devoid of the cohesion ensured by a predominant movement: after the critical hegemony and commercial success of pop art and minimalism, strongly anti- commercial attitudes and a new spirit of heterodoxy emerged. Painting, in particular formal abstraction, assumed a subordinate position with respect to both the eccentric elaboration of objects (process art) and art ” without object ” (conceptual art, performance, video, installations, land art,). At the end of the decade, however, there was a return to painting and neo-expressionism quickly took over as the dominant style, re-proposing heroic dimensions, literary and almost autobiographical themes, as well as a violent treatment of the pictorial surface, a conventional characteristic of subjectivity. These trends were ratified by a boom in the art market, fueled by the new fortunes born in the Reagan period. However, once again, on the threshold of the nineties, the pre-eminent orientation of American art underwent a change of course, returning to a colder attitude, with a new conceptual art, focused on language and mass media., contrary to painting, considered a privileged vehicle for the expression of individual feelings, and committed to denouncing the commercialization of art, an instrument of late capitalism. In contrast to the dramatic contrasts emerging from this cyclical reading, three salient aspects of the artistic culture of the US must be noted that have unified the period in question: the emergence and affirmation of a feminist project, the critical role played by photography and the wide-ranging discourse conducted by artists and critics on the vitality of modernism and the avant-garde as a model of cultural change. These three factors shaped the attempt to articulate a theory of postmodernism in the visual arts. In 1977 the critic R. Pincus-Witten popularized the term post-minimalism to define the plurality of research aimed at a liberating overcoming of the formalism of the 1960s: noting the rebellious spirit fueled in the US by post-Vietnam and post-Watergate politics and by the emergence of the feminist movement, Pincus-Witten described post-Vietnam art minimalist of 1966-76 as “a multitude of stylistic solutions preceded and sprung from an apparently fruitful style”. Three vital tendencies arose from the whip inexpressiveness of minimalism: the initiatory, colorful, ” pictorial ” sculpture of the exponents of process art, such as E. Hesse, L. Benglis, B. Le Va, K. Sonnier; epistemological research on language and information by conceptual artists, such as S. LeWitt, M. Bochner, D. Rockburne; and, finally, the revival with ontological inflections of Dada principles in the performances and body art of L. Benglis, C. Burden, D. Oppenheim, V. Acconci. The axiom of the heterogeneity of the art of the seventies has not remained uncontested, however: already in the spring 1977 issue of October, R. Krauss affirmed that the widespread use of photography – as an autonomous means of expression; as a tool and data source for painting, in the narrative form of video; and, again, as a documentation of other artistic forms, for example. there performance – constituted the unifying element of the entire decade, subverting among other things the central promise of modern art of non-mediated presence, by presenting instead a language full of aesthetic conventions.
In these preliminary considerations on the collapse of the unity of avant-garde movements and on the role of photography in cultural production, the foundations of the subsequent debate on postmodernism were contained in a nutshell. These implications, however, were initially overshadowed by the prevailing preoccupation with what appeared to be the drama’s great absentee, painting. One of the few points of agreement in the American art scene of the mid-1970s was that the minimalist solutions of formalist abstraction (with the prestigious support of the writings of C. Greenberg, M. Fried and B. Rose) and anti-asceticism object of conceptual art had led painting to a state of weary inconsistency. In an issue of Artforummagazinededicated to the crisis of painting (September 1975) M. Kozloff observed that, insisting on the specificity of painting, “the interest in narration, the complexity of the forms, the political commitment, the decorative presence, the elaboration autographic and many other possibilities “.
Among these ” possibilities ” the first to take shape was the Pattern and Decoration movement, many exponents of which had previously worked with the essential languages of geometric abstraction and field painting. His first expressions were developed at the University of California in San Diego, where in the early 1970s the critic A. Goldin and the artists M. Schapiro, R. Zakanitch, K. MacConnel and R. Kushner were located. In 1975 Schapiro and Zakanitch organized the Pattern and Decoration Artists Group in New York which was joined by J. Kaufman, V. Jaudon, J. Kozloff, T. Robbin, A. Slavin, G. Sugarman, J. Torreano and B. Zucker. Two exhibitions testified to the wide spread of the movement: Pattern painting, organized in 1977 by the critic J. Perreault in the alternative space PS1 on Long Island, and Decorative impulse, curated by J. Kardon at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1979. The group, at first, also held exhibitions in the Alexandra Gallery and the Holly Solomon Gallery, both located in Soho, in southern Manhattan, helping to launch this alternative area of galleries, which in the late 1970s and early 1980s would equal the influence of the commercial establishment of the central districts.
Pattern and Decoration controversially attacked both aesthetics and politics: condemning the avant-garde in vogue because it was Eurocentric, authoritarian and puritanical, the movement advocated visual enjoyment, tactility and complexity, as “ pre-industrial ” values and essentially not – Westerners. Challenging Western art’s traditional contempt for applied art, with its connotations of anonymous, feminine and utilitarian work, she sought inspiration precisely in the decorative arts, from wallpaper and textile designs to oriental rugs. As if reliving Matisse’s challenge to the cerebral monochrome of Cubism, the artists of Pattern and Decoration they employed opulent colors in an open tribute to luxury; while maintaining the monumental dimensions of post-war painting, they preferred the soft contours of the draped fabric to the rigidity of the canvases; the formalist purity of the materials replaced collages of fabrics, the framed edge with seams; the geometry imposed by hard edge painting was replaced by the infinitely repeatable organic-inspired designs of woven fabrics and ceramic tiles.
Schapiro was the most passionate in enhancing the traditionally ” feminine ” realm of handmade work: she replaced painting with monumental assemblages, whose forms derived from the familiar ones of fans, hearts, kimonos and represented a ‘domestic’ iconography ” of houses, gates, bouquets of flowers, clothes and eggs; made with silk, lace, embroidered handkerchiefs, buttons, sequins and the like, his femmages (femme + image / hommage) were proposed as alternatives to assemblages of impersonal urban waste created by his male predecessors (P. Picasso, K. Schwitters, R. Rauschenberg, R. Stanckiewicz). Kozloff was inspired by folk art and architectural ornaments studied in his travels to Mexico and Morocco: the use of fabrics, tiles and glass and the practice of ornamental art as a social and not private expression, led her from painting to creation of installations in galleries and public spaces. Among the artists who used textiles, Kushner was the one who most ardently emphasized the spirituality of non-Western ornaments, creating collages of draped and painted fabric and mixing painting, performance and costume design in ritualistic gallery displays, during which she wore each piece before solemnly attaching it to the wall. MacConnel found a less exotic inspiration in inexpensive commercial fabrics which he painted, overlaid with large pop-style motifs, and hung in collages in the shape of a flag, consisting of irregular vertical stripes. Zakanitch composed wall-sized works of acrylic on canvas, in which he inserted the redundant but inherently flat vocabulary of wallpaper designs into the modernist infrastructure of iteration and grid: images of flowers, leaves and vine leaves were neatly defined by struts that they resembled garden racks, while the interior decorator’s attractive palette was used with the lively spontaneity inherited from action painting. Jaudon’s work, on the other hand, remained closer to the objectless language of hard edge painting, while modifying it with allusions to the decorative arts and architecture: his canvases painted with angular or curved interlacing of colored ribbons recalled the Protractor series by F. Stella, but the disciplining influence of the drafting machine was replaced by a richness and complexity inspired by Islamic and Celtic art.
In an attempt to situate Pattern and Decoration in a historical continuum, Perreault (Artforum, September 1977) observed that ” pattern painting can be considered a product of allover painting (Jackson Pollock) and grid painting (Agnes Martin), which in turn they represented a break in the relational composition (Picasso, Mondrian) “. C. Rickey (Arts, January 1978) underlined the paradoxical heterogeneity of the group, whose reference to non-Western sources could be read in an erudite or anti-imperialist key, and whose compositions could appear absolutely chaotic or more akin to a systematic painting, generated by a formula repeated exponentially. Pattern and Decoration was a transitional movement, which achieved variable success: its permissiveness helped to erode the hermeticism of American abstraction, but its artisanal and multi-material connotations meant that it did not pose a serious threat to the supporters of pure painting. Furthermore, although the artists in the group introduced provocative figurative elements, their repetition made them abstract and subordinate to the consistent flatness of the drawing. As Perreault noted, pattern painting, as well as geometric abstraction and field painting before it, was “two-dimensional, non-hierarchical, allover, acentric and aniconic”.
Pattern and Decoration’s critique of the patriarchal attitude of modernism was one of the earliest expressions of the feminist movement in American art. The challenge to sex-driven ideology in the art world, which sprang from the anti- establishment activism of the 1960s, first manifested itself in an attempt to rediscover the stories of female artists, whose accomplishments had been invalidated by the male-dominated prejudices of the art world. dominant criticism. The effort to revise the established canons drew consistency from the success of the important exhibition Women artists: 1550-1950, held in 1976 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and curated by AS Harris and L. Nochlin. Parallel to this search for documentation of a specifically female voice in the art of the past, essentialist investigations were carried out, with the affirmation of a specific and biologically determined feminine nature and imagination. In 1971 J. Chicago and M. Schapiro founded the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. In collaboration with a group of students they created Womanhouse, an exclusively female environment housed in an abandoned Hollywood building, including in the project works of art, performances and installations on the theme of women’s interests and fantasies. Artist In Residence (AIR), the gallery founded in New York in 1972 by a cooperative of women, provided exhibition spaces for artists who, refusing the authority of masterpieces, investigated the biological foundation of female creativity.
Here were exhibited reproductions of the drawings of Ingres burned and stained by D. Attie, the male nudes of S. Sleigh, the sculptures in ceramic and latex in the shape of a vagina by H. Wilke, the gouaches of words and erotic images inspired by the poems by A. Artaud by N. Spero, soft doll-shaped sculptures and masks by F. Ringgold. The feminist movement of the seventies also carried out a clearly committed activity of performance, video and body art with works by, among others, E. Antin, N. Buchanan, L. Labowitz, S. Lacy, A. Mendieta, L. Montano, R. Rosenthal, M. Rosler, C. Schneemann, H. Wilke, M. Wilson. A sort of summa represented the Dinner Party in 1979by J. Chicago, an installation dedicated to the rediscovery of the lost history of women, which brought together the work of dozens of weavers, embroiderers and potters in a tribute, which became famous, to the underrated “ feminine ” activities of nourishing, and collective work.
- Lippard (Art Journal, Fall-Winter 1980) summarized the contribution of feminism to 1970s art, noting that feminist artists, like some of their male counterparts, had opposed the prevailing trend with pluralistic openness, collaboration and a new respect for the public, they had introduced emotion and autobiography in the field of performances, videos, body art and art books and had tried to “reintegrate the social self and the aesthetic self” by engaging in collective creations. With considerable insight, given the central role that feminism played in subsequent postmodern critique, Lippard observed that “the greatest contribution made by feminism to the future of lack of contribution to modernism “.
Dopo Pattern and Decoration a new and more decisive break in the realm of formalist painting was provoked by a group of artists who set out to re-attribute narrative and psychological power to figurative art. The new trend was anticipated by the occurrence of two controversial ” desertions ” in the New York art world. In 1970 Ph. Guston declared that he had abandoned abstract expressionism, which he practiced with considerable refinement, to return to figurativism and narration: through a personal and obsessive vocabulary of symbols (watches, whips, light bulbs, dustbins, boots, cigarettes, hooded men of the Ku Klux Klan) began to convey a tormented vision of life and death set in a nightmare city and in the painter’s studio, resembling a cell; characterized by a raw and thick mark,Depression-era comics when Guston was young. Shortly after 1970 M. Morley, English by birth, passed from photorealism to an eccentric pictorialism, centering his works, roughly painted, on the human figure and inserting a critique of British colonialism in a climate that is, moreover, politically indifferent like that of New York painting. Among the first to enter into a relationship with this new iconoclasm was the director of the New Museum in New York, M. Tucker, who in 1978 organized the exhibition ironically entitled Bad painting. Bringing together the works of fourteen artists from all parts of the US (J. Albertson, J. Brown, E. Carrillo, J. Chatelain, W. Copley, C. Garabedian, RC Hendon, J. Hilton, N. Jenney, J. Linhares, PW Siler, E. Staley, S. Urquhart, W. Wegman), Tucker presented an anarchist movement that defied all the conventions of fine art and good taste that formal classicism of minimalist art and photorealism respected.
The exhibit identified a group of visual artists whose themes ranged from the domestic to the mythical and the monstrous, and whose temperament was alternately touching and violent. Not all of them, however, were conventional painters: Wegman, already known as the author of performances and conceptual-oriented videos, was represented by schematic drawings, while Urquhart’s means of expression were figured tapestries. Flaunting a romantic and expressionistic character, Bad painting, with its direct frankness, with the deliberate clumsiness of execution and with the marked diversity of sources, which ranged from respectable precedents in art history (Italian primitives, Mexican and Indian folk art, Byzantine art, German expressionism) to kitsch and to the layman (comics, calendar illustrations, pornography, tattoos), he affirmed the relativity of any critical judgment. Tucker likened the movement to the anti-rationalistic and subversive Dada spirit, but perhaps hit the mark more when he observed that Bad painting artists had revived the intentional lack of elegance and anti-intellectualism of 1930s American painting. A more immediate and significant antecedent, however, was the work of crudely figurative painters such as those of Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s, known by the names of Monster Roster and Hairy Who, who had challenged the recently established authority of abstraction of the New York School.
One of the older and more witty comic painters featured in Bad painting, Garabedian, specialized in voluminous archaic nudes and thickened pictorial renditions of squat arcaded temples. Brown, who had been one of the famous visual artists of the San Francisco Bay Area since the late 1960s, painted personal themes – self-portraits, family members, animals, domestic scenes – with a powerfully naïve flatness . Similarly, exploiting the tension between pictorial figurativeness and the flat field of formalism, Jenney painted childlike objects and figures on thick and gestural monochrome surfaces: the enigmatic juxtapositions, together with the detailed descriptive titles engraved on the heavy wooden frames of the works, they hinted at an absence of an explanatory nature of the narrative (the exhibition did not include Jenney’s contemporary paintings of landscapes and skies, which testified to her mastery of illusionism and the widest possibilities of a new figuration and thematic representation). Bad painting therefore, by identifying a number of positions of independence and dissent, he highlighted the lack of an official and coherent style: in addition to its decentralized perspective, which favored the growing interest in the regional figurative schools that flourished outside New York, in Chicago , Houston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the most significant aspect was the irreverent and retrospective character of the approach to figurativism, which constituted a clear repudiation of the revolutionary imperative of modernism. As Tucker wrote: “the freedom with which these artists mix classical and popular art sources, kitsch and traditional images, archetypal and personal fantasies constitutes in itself a rejection of the concept of progress”.
In the late 1970s, the reintroduction of the figure took place in a less openly brazen way, by other painters who retained strong but now paradoxical traces of a once purely abstract style. These artists, gathered under the name New image painting, presented the image as a decontextualized sign, an immediate symbol of reality – a horse, a head, a doll, a boat, etc. – whose invitation to interpretation contrasted with the conventionally significant surrounding monochrome field of pure art. In the New Image Painting exhibition, from which the movement took its name, held in 1978-79 at the Whitney Museum, curator R. Marshall introduced ten of these painters: N. Africano, J. Bartlett, D. Green, M. Hurson, N. Jenney, L Lane, R. Moskowitz, S. Rothenberg, D. True, J. Zucker. Showing the same distrust of orthodoxy that had characterized Tucker’s approach to the new figuration, Marshall described these artists as “free to manipulate the image on the canvas so that it can be experienced as a physical object, an abstract configuration, a ‘psychological association, a receptacle for applied painting, an exercise in analytic accommodation, an ambiguous quasi-narrative, a specifically non-specific experience, a vehicle for formal explorations or as a combination of these various aspects “. Although the
Professionally the eldest of the group was Moskowitz, who had previously created abstract paintings, neo-dada assemblages and a series of monochrome paintings, with hints of architectural angles, which explored the tension between illusionistic linear drawing and minimalist flat field; starting from the mid-seventies he intensified the presence of the iconic image in the monochrome field in a series of silhouette paintings, in which the enlarged, simplified and cut-off forms recalled the profile of mills, skyscrapers, lighthouses, and of well-known sculptures by Rodin, Giacometti, Brancusi and others. Rothenberg too investigated the tension between the symbolism of the forms and the formalism of the background, creating large fields of thick paint on which primitive-looking horses, heads and hands were outlined; the immediate power of the images and the assumed expressive meaning of the gesture of the brushstroke were used against the indifferent flatness of the monochrome surface, the flatness of which was highlighted by lines and bars. Africano painted large monochrome surfaces on which he placed miniature figures in bas-relief that seemed to stage dramas of loss, confrontation and estrangement, representing synthetically and ironically moments of the everyday at the same time pathetic and comic. Bartlett’s starting point, on the other hand, was the grid of conceptual art, which the artist used for unusual narrative purposes, painting simple images similar to hieroglyphs (houses, trees, boats, circles, squares) in enamel on square plates. of steel, arranged in wall-sized grids: his work was a challenge to systemic art and its serial research of the logical and inexpressive mutations of the sign, through the bold affirmation of the artist’s hand on the image and the demonstration that a narration is the inevitable result of repetition, succession and human desire to to communicate.
From the mid-seventies, abstract painting underwent a change as important as the restoration of figuration had been, a change announced in other ways by an excellent ” conversion ” in the world of art, that of F. Stella. After the 1970 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art celebrating her role as a leading star of minimalism, Stella replaced rigid canvases and painted stripes with relief paintings made of mixed materials, such as wood, cardboard and honeycomb aluminum. bee, and began to produce works of unprecedented visual complexity, rich in color and illusionism and aggressive in the physical immediacy with which the pieces arranged in layers projected from the wall. All ‘ at the beginning of the following decade Stella had become one of the most eloquent critics of the sterility of abstract painting of the 1970s; in a volume that collected some of his lectures and which was widely distributed (Working space, 1986) argued that the figurative art of the past, especially that of Caravaggio, could guide contemporary abstraction to develop what it appeared to lack: pictoriality, illusionistic contrast, structural inventiveness and spatial fullness. not compromised by decoration or illustration. Abstract artists who claimed these new possibilities of physical immediacy, formal complexity and associative richness were documented by the Three dimensional painting exhibition, held in 1980 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Its curator, J. Tannenbaum, presented Stella along with nine other artists (L. Benglis, S. Diamond, R. Gorchov, R. Humphrey, M. Lenkowsky, J. Obuck, E. Phelan, B. Schwartz, J. Torreano) who had broken the boundary between painting and sculpture, interpreting the basic pictorial elements in a literal sense and projecting painting into real space through the use of heterogeneous materials and complex structures. The works of these artists remained essentially limited by the wall, frontal and abstract, but departed from the immaculate and literal presence of formalist painting for their compositional eccentricity, the sign of the artist’s hand and the role of allusive forms. After working on mural reliefs in mixed media, J. Pfaff in the early 1980s got rid of the wall in a series of impressive installations. The gallery space was invaded by a multitude of components of various materials in combinations often characterized as action paintings a tre dimensioni.
The tendency towards complexity and figurativism within an essentially abstract practice found an authoritative expression in the dynamic painting of E. Murray, who in 1980 began to combine segmented canvases into works with an eccentric shape, rich in metamorphic images inspired by the events of his life with enthusiastic references to the biomorphic abstraction of Arp and Miró and to the burlesque characters of American comics; the shaped canvases, once an emblem of the iron logic of systemic painting, now they obeyed the unpredictable demands of expressive design. In the catalog of an exhibition by Murray at the Dallas Museum of Art (1987) R. Smith defined the artist as an example of the widespread “post-formalist rejuvenation or the return to psychological themes of abstract painting”. Few painters, however, risked Murray’s self-involvement. T. Winters’ paintings were based on the visual display of the empirical knowledge typical of scientific diagrams: in dense, protoplasmic fields of pigment, Winters arranged forms that recalled specimens of insects, botanical structures and crystals, avoiding subjective composition with the imposition of a non-hierarchical and conventional system, rooted however in natural observation and not in the definition of painting as a two-dimensional medium. The fat, pulsating forms of C. Dunham’s paintings shared the optimistic energy of Murray’s work, but the fact of displaying the paintings’ strong wooden supports and the precautionary evidence of the underlying charcoal and graphite design ruled out any attempt to read the paintings. works as uncensored improvisations of an erotic imagination. G. Stephan’s paintings reactivated the pictorial space as a field of fantastic and vaguely disturbing visual effects; Stephan created powerful but ultimately indeterminate compositions through the manipulation of metamorphic forms and ambiguity between figures and background. B. Marden and R. Mangold, avoiding absolute figurativism, achieved a more subtle transformation of formalist abstraction: with bright colors and configurations that evoked portals and altars, sublime by B. Newman), while Mangold’s compositions, sectioned canvases and segmented geometric shapes, replaced the holistic field of minimalism with internal references full of ambiguity and surprise.
A reassertion of figurativism, supported by a spirit of permissiveness and irony, ended up transforming sculpture from the mid-seventies to the eighties. Critical recognition came more slowly and, eventually, the works were absorbed into the category of New Image Art, which was initially conceived for painting. Sculptors (including S. Burton, D. Butterfield, J. Duff, N. Graves, B. Hunt, J. Shapiro, J. Surls) reinvented much of what had been discredited and condemned in the 1960s, not least the theme of the work. Common features were the heterogeneity of materials and techniques (notable the revival bronze casting, patination and painted sculpture); the eccentricity of forms and structures; a preference for metaphor and allusion; finally, tolerance for all that was lacking in the puritan minimalist reworking of industrial aesthetics, namely instability, excess, vernacular and historical references, emotion. The New Image sculpture also responded to the inherent passivity, albeit controversial, of the manipulation of the materials of the process art advocates through the aggressive imposition of the sculptural form through modeling, cutting, building and melting. A first experimental documentation of the broad horizon of post-minimalist research was offered by the exhibition, held in 1981 at the Whitney Museum in New York, Developments in recent sculpture, curated by R. Marshall, and which brought together works by L. Benglis, S. Burton, D. Dennis, J. Duff and A. Saret. Subsequently, group exhibitions shed light on the new complexity of recent sculpture (Metaphor: New projects by contemporary sculptors, curated by HN Fox at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, with projects by V. Acconci, S. Armajani, A. Aycock, L. Ewing, R. Morris and D. Oppenheim) and on a series of artists, belonging to different generations and nationalities, who used the new materials in an unconventional way (6 in bronze, curated by P. Tuchman at Williams College Art Museum, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1984, with the participation of N. Graves, B. Hunt, G. Segal, the South African-born I. Witkin together with the British A. Cairo and all Italian S. Chia).
Like Moskowitz in painting, Shapiro and Burton had the most provocative attitude in both preserving and subverting the severity and serialization of minimalism. Shapiro animated the solid geometry of primary forms with primitive images of houses and human figures in cast bronze, cast iron and wood. The very small-scale houses evoked the vulnerability of childhood, intimacy and a painful nostalgia: they were presented directly on the floor or attached to the wall, creating a metaphorical theater foreign to the precisely delimited space of minimalism. After producing a series of running little men in the mid-1970s, around 1980 Shapiro introduced large, generic, erect figures assembled from geometric solids that parodied Cubi’s vertical compositions.produced by D. Smith in the 1960s. The human body served both as a measure and as an absent image in Burton’s ” artistic décor ”, who set out to take sculpture, in his words, “from a hermetic, hieratic, introverted” to a more civic “attitude. and extroverted, less presumptuous “. Using a virtuoso range of both natural and industrial materials (granite, wood, marble, onyx, bronze, steel, preformed concrete, formica, acrylic, rubber) Burton designed chairs, benches and tables that could be mass-produced or as one-of-a-kind objects. ; in addition to the admiration for the elementary elegance and the reworking of the pedestal in the manner of a pedestal typical of Brancusi, Burton referred to de stijl and constructivism as precedents of his work which included sculptures for public places and furnishings for parks as well as study objects. Completely abandoning the legacy of minimalism, Surls and Butterfield created figurative works using materials found in nature. Surls modeled both erect and suspended sculptures from branches, shoots and roots collected in the woods: his skeletal and jagged humanoids looked like demons of popular legends, but in their sophisticated linearity they clearly invited comparison with the much earlier works of A. Giacometti, T Roszak and D. Smith. Butterfield, like Rothenberg, revived the image of the horse in sculptures made first with sticks and clay and then with metal and tar, pathos and dramatic presence.
The boldest innovations in image and structure are found in Graves and Hunt’s sculpture. Inspired by fossils, skeletons, animal and plant forms, Graves made bronze castings of objets trouvés, both organic and manufactured, amalgamated in complex structures capable of supporting themselves, enriched by a polychrome chemical coating; lace-like, angular and unpredictable, the works flaunted their structural eccentricity and aimed to achieve flashy grandeur. Hunt redefined the range of forms deemed appropriate or even achievable in three dimensions with works inspired by architectural monuments or landscape elements: after a group of sculptures representing architecture or engineering works, he devoted himself to a series of lakes and waterfalls in cast bronze that were opposed to the ” literality ” of earthworks: the lakes, whose contours were derived from geographical maps, with the surface moved by ” pictorial ” ripples, rested directly on the ground, as in response to the usual arrangement of minimalist modular pieces on the floor; the waterfalls, with their suggestive all-round representation, were sinuous castings of bronze in which the exposed armor provided a linear complement to the pleasant liquid form.
The newly discovered subjectivity of sculpture was conducted at the Gesamtkunstwerk levelby J. Borofsky, who, starting in 1975, expressed fears, dreams and memories in extensive installations that incorporated paintings, objects, drawings, photographs, photocopies, videos, sound recordings, gigantic motorized figures made of cut-out flat shapes, and written texts by hand. His production was placed at the confluence of the archetype and the narcissistic, developing a lexicon of mythically resonant symbols, which the artist declared to be all self-portraits. The works were numbered, but unsigned, to record their position in an infinite inner monologue of counting, a process of subjective definition of time that largely reached seven-digit numbers. The images were rendered in the summary manner of Bad painting, but without its ironic distance. In fact, Borofsky’s dreamlike, coercive and anxious dramas would have led him into the orbit of the most expressionist artists in the 1980s.
In the second half of the 1970s photography, like painting and sculpture, began to show the decline of the authority of formalism, which had narrowed the boundaries of each artistic medium to the exploration of its intrinsic properties. Until that moment, photography had been dominated by the purist aesthetic of the ” beautiful print ”, understood as the documentary truthfulness of black and white images, achieved through the technical mastery of the darkroom. Now photographers were claiming the freedom to invent, rather than simply record reality, and to exhibit the complicity of photography in spreading the clichés of the mass media, rather than perpetuating its role as a single truthful medium. AD Coleman (in Artforum, September 1976) coined the name directorial mode for the new photography of clearly staged situations, while others preferred to borrow the term auteur (author photography) by the contemporary film critic. Significant precedents existed in conceptual photography (J. Dibbets, E. Ruscha, J. Baldessari, D. Michals), in which artists photographed prearranged paintings, and the prevalence of multiple frames and serial works challenged the traditional self-sufficiency of single printing. But compared to those earlier, cold and circumspect works, late 1970s photography enjoyed melodrama, complexity, humor, and an overt artificiality that was achieved by retreating into the controlled environment of a studio. Color printing, which the formalists had disdained, came to the fore with the help of the Polaroid Corporation, which in 1978 made the use of the large format (20 × 24 inches) available to artists; L’
Many photographers thought of putting under control everything that came within the field of vision of the camera and of making this control the real subject of the art. S. Skoglund photographed room-sized installations, constructed with props and colors manipulated in such a way as to suggest the idea of a fatal catastrophe of the natural world: his brilliant Cibachrome prints seemed to parody the hyperbolic seriousness of science fiction even when they relied on the credibility of the photographic medium to shock the viewer. The colored works as cartoons by N. Nicosia presented models that with rigid woodiness staged contemporary debates or domestic dramas set in schematically constructed rooms. B. Kasten, working in a more abstract vein that alluded to constructivism, photographed elaborate assemblages of industrial materials and mirrors: space, size and even the number of components were all questioned in these illusions staged without a link. Interest in invention and manipulation prompted other photographers to investigate mass media practices. JA Callis photographed tableaux with figures, furniture and other props: objectively the images were devoid of any action or event, but their undeniable emotional impact was derived from the film world, whose conventions in terms of staging, lighting and camera angle had supplanted those of straight photography. J. Golden used herself as a model in photos in which she wore a series of fascinating masks: each identity became an obvious charade, yet conformed to a type so well known through the mass media that familiarity itself gave a certain ” truthfulness ” to the image. Undoubtedly, the most successful in popularizing the new photography and sabotaging any possible residue of documentary seriousness was W. Wegman who staged a series of compositions starring his dog, Man Ray, in a great variety of costumes and masks; the comic futility of Wegman’s efforts to completely transform his model amounted to a transfer of power from the master to the dog and thus, subtly, the presumption of artistic ” mastery ” was also overturned.
In the late 1970s, critics struggled to assess the ultimate result of a decade that had undermined the authority of modernism without offering the advantage of stylistic coherence enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s. In an article saying “goodbye to modernism” (in Arts Magazine, October 1979) K. Levin defined the 1970s as a hybrid and transitional period and, describing “a distrust in the whole world created by man, in the civilization of consumption and in the claimed objectivity of the sciences” that went far beyond the specific field of art, asserted that postmodernism “began with a return to nature”. Paradoxically, the many new alternatives for art that might have been recognized were initially eclipsed by the easy equation between postmodernism and the death of the imperative of progress through abstraction, and by the erroneous idea that postmodernism would turn its back on technological culture. rather than subversively criticizing it from within. Painting,and of the quotation, consolidated the advantage acquired in the late seventies and was the first to claim the banner of postmodernism with a wave of expressionist figurative art. Along with the triumphal return of painting to the fore, perhaps the most profound change was the end of the haughty isolation in which American art was. C. Ratcliff, in a critique of the New York exhibitions of the Italians S. Chia and F. Clemente and of the German R. Fetting (in Saturday Review, September 1981) announced “the end of the American era”, meaning the end of that American dominance on the avant-garde scene which had been established since the end of the Second World War; moreover, it is significant that Ratcliff did not question whether that dominance had really been as total and widespread as Americans liked to believe. Whatever the case, the criticisms and the language of the art market were overwhelmed by the Italian Transavantgarde and Die neue Wilden fromGermany. For the first time, the magazine Art in America dedicated an entire issue (September 1982) to the new European art, while European periodicals such as Flash Art they enjoyed unprecedented authority in the US. Far from grieving the loss of a hegemony they had never personally exercised, younger US artists enthusiastically welcomed the news from abroad as if they were the long-awaited obituary of dying US formalism and felt supported. from the new international discourse in their rediscovery of the subject of the work, of the strong sentiment and of history. The exhibition A new spirit in painting (curated by CM Joachimides, N. Rosenthal and N. Serota at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 1981) was the first of several international exhibitions that played a leading role in recontextualizing American art and establishing the credentials of new authority figures. The curators, bringing together works by abstract and figurative artists of three generations, characterized the painting of the seventies as a “ stealth ” practice (and respect for tradition was defined an act of resistance), which was ready to affirm the experience individual and expressive diversity as touchstone attributes in 1980s art. Among the 38 painters were the Americans W. de Kooning, P. Guston, C. Twombly, A. Warhol, R. Ryman, B. Marden, M. Morley, F. Stella and,
The following year in Berlin Joachimides and Rosenthal curated a larger international exhibition, Zeitgeist, which featured more young artists and proposed a narrower definition of the ‘new spirit’ of painting as a Dionysian wave of neo-expressionism. which rehabilitated “subjectivity, visionary, myth, suffering and grace”. Together with Morley, Schnabel, Stella, Twombly and Warhol already present in the London exhibition, Zeitgeist it included the Americans J. Borofsky, JL Byars, B. McLean, R. Morris, S. Rothenberg and D. Salle. In the catalog, the historian R. Rosenblum noted that a by-product of neo-expressionism was the redemption of the New York School from a formalist interpretation thanks to the rediscovery of spiritualism and the researches of the first production of Pollock, Gottlieb and Rothko. American scholars had already embarked on the work of revising abstract expressionism and museum structures soon proceeded to redefine the role of the US among the protagonists of the international art scene. In 1984, for example, the Museum of Modern Art in New York inaugurated the new rooms with an exhibition focusing on the renewed power of image and sentiment in Western art (An international survey of recent painting and sculpture, curated by K. McShine). The US pavilion at the 1984 Venice Biennale could be considered as the official recognition of the changed face of American art at home and abroad: Commissioner Tucker, who had launched Bad painting, presented 24 painters of human figures, landscapes and animals, many of whom worked outside New York, and in open defiance with it. With the Miltonian title Paradise lost, Paradise regained, the melancholic and ironic works presented themselves as signs of US participation in the cross-cultural search for new values in a world dominated by anxiety.
Champions of neo-expressionism in the US were D. Kuspit, T. McEvilley, R. Ricard and P. Schjeldahl; in the meantime, however, a heated critical debate had developed on the authenticity of the movement. B. Buchloch (in October, spring 1981) denounced the international return to figurativism as a manifestation of regression and repression, a masquerade of individualism and irrationality that was erasing the progressive rationalism of modernism. C. Owens (in Art in America, January 1983) analyzed the ambivalence and helplessness of a movement that resurrected and at the same time parodied the modernist artist-hero and that nullified the radically disruptive intentions of authentic modernist practice, giving authority to a series of resurrected conventions. For many US Neo-Expressionism was largely a projection of the market, which enjoyed unprecedented success in the fascination for art, with the proliferation of new galleries, a massive influx of international capital, and the emergence of two superstars., Schnabel and Salle. Both repudiated the hermeticism of recent modernism with monumental paintings that presented myths of male experience as their main subjects. Schnabel produced the most theatrical works, gaudy gestural paintings on canvas, wood and tarpaulin on which he glued pieces of terracotta, horns and animal skins to obtain an irregular and impure surface. If Schnabel seemed to lean towards an influence of action painting, Salle was prepared to probe the entire history of modernism in search of discredited styles and mannerisms. In single canvases and diptychs whose panels seemed arbitrarily paired, he combined references to ‘major’ art (de stijl, pop and color field), mass media, matchboxes and sex manuals. Provocatively Salle revived the style of the last Picabia, hitherto despised by art historians, partially obscuring the images painted with superimposed linear drawings. The results were unrelated, irritating, and pornographic, and it soon became clear that the theoretical underpinnings of neo-expressionism, i.e. historicism, figurativeness, and subjectivity, were not sufficient to justify Salle’s calculated transgressions.
Critics who supported Neo-Expressionism soon included the work of the painter New Image Rothenberg in this movement, although her contemplative explorations of sign and surface contradicted the declared neo-expressionist purpose of an emotional and extroverted art, made up of narration, illusion and confession.. Similarly, E. Fischl was counted among the neo-expressionists, considered by many to be one of the most capable figurative painters emerging at the time; however Fischl, who portrayed the tensions and embarrassments of suburban American life seen from the anxious perspective of a voyeur adolescent, he preferred to be considered simply a “ storyteller ” in the line of the American narrative pictorial tradition. More easily attributable to the bed of neo-expressionism was the most recent production of Morris, who at the beginning of the Eighties, after having contributed significantly to minimalism, performance and land art, exhibited a distressing series of reliefs and paintings that evoked the total devastation of the nuclear holocaust: such visualizations of a universal cataclysm recalled Leonardo and Turner, while the disproportionate relief moldings that framed the larger works assumed the function of proscenium in compositions that combined painting, sculpture and architecture, in an exhibition of Baroque theatricality. Among the other artists whose work was considered testimony of the new passionate pictorial sensitivity were J. Alexander, G. Amenoff, R. Bosman, P. Dean, M. Diamond, L. Fishman, L. Golub, B. Jensen, K. Porter, P. Wofford, F. Young: considered globally, their production covered a wide range of figurative and landscape investigations, united by a psychological urgency and a
Just as the return of traditional painting was being hailed in the early 1980s, a vital subculture of street art was establishing itself on the margins of ” major ” art. Its preeminent visual form, graffiti, was soon domesticated to satisfy the growing desire for rawness and immediacy that was manifesting itself in the artistic world. Graffiti had flourished on the walls and on the cars of the New York subway since the late 1960s as an expression of urban hip-hop culture and as a sign of identification of the territories of the various gangs. ; young people armed with spray paint cans performed them or ” wrote ” them, inspired by both the images of advertising and the stereotypes of the masterpieces reported in textbooks. In the early 1970s what began as a manifestation of civic decay began to receive consideration from art magazines, until graffiti entered the periphery of the art world through artists’ cooperatives, one of which, Fashion South Bronx fashion, in 1980 organized the Graffiti art success exhibition . The comic inflections of the graffiti language and their transgressive mystique attracted numerous expert painters who along with some original ” writers ”: In a former massage parlor in the heart of New York’s rundown commercial district, a loosely organized cooperative called Collaborative Projects, Inc. (CoLab), with Fashion Moda and others, put together an outdoor exhibit of a hundred artists and not artists of different races, who exhibited a varying series of objects, performances, films and videos. The spirit was provocatively scruffy and politically rebellious, anti-artistic and anti-commercial, but already the following year ‘street’ art moved comfortably indoors when the Brooke Alexander Gallery presented some of the attendees of the Times Square show (J. Ahearn, R. Bosman, M. Glier, K. Haring, J. Holzer, R. Longo, R. Miller, P. Nadin, J. Rifka, W. Robinson) in the exhibition Represent / Representation / Representative. The popular success of graffiti and other forms of street art was one factor in the brief period of commercial flourishing of New York’s East Village art scene in the early 1980s: openly entrepreneurial bohemian, East Village, at the time of most successful, it boasted more than two dozen galleries.
The artists of the East Village (M. Bidlo, D. Birnbaum, G. Bender, G. Condo, RA Greenblatt, J. Otterson, J. Rifka, P. Schuyff, K. Smith, M. Vaisman, D. Wojnarowicz) produced a crude mixture of graffiti, neo-surrealism, videos, cartoons and some of the earliest manifestations of ” appropriation ”. The most controversial painter to emerge from this milieu was perhaps JM Basquiat, who was first noted as a graffiti ” writer ” with the Samo signature. Basquiat combined an obvious knowledge of artistic primitivism with a gestural mastery of drawing and primal symbols in a notation style that was touted as a natural product of New York’s ethnic diversity. Depending on the side of the critic on duty, Basquiat or embodied the
Although graffiti was initially interpreted as one of the more subterranean manifestations of the vast eruption of intuitive painting, it was soon inserted into the wider debate on the significance of the clash between ” major ” art and popular culture in the late 20th century. But over time, the first naive identification of postmodernism as the love of revival within a climate of permissive and ironic eclecticism it was supplanted by a more consistent and penetrating critique of the position of art in a society shaped by mass communication and electronic information. European criticism, from the Frankfurt School to French post-structuralism and postmodernism, played a decisive role in the attack made by American artists and writers both on the last vestiges of critical formalism and on the nostalgia of “ authentic ” expressive painting and, following this course, the foundations of a new conceptual art were laid. Stimulated by the insights of W. Benjamin, T. Adorno, R. Barthes, J. Derrida, M. Foucault, J. Lacan, F. Lyotard, G. Debord and J. Baudrillard, simulacra had replaced the direct experience of an original. The exploitation of reproductions of works of art in order to assert cultural authority and the consequent fetishization of the absent original work were examined as examples of a more widespread process, for which the commercial dissemination of images and the manipulation of collective desire they served to reinforce the existing structures of political and economic power. The artists questioned the originality, immanence and transcendence attributed to the highest art using, in the words of SR Suleiman, “appropriation, misappropriation, montage, collage, Hybridization and in general the mixture of texts and verbal and visual discourses, derived from all periods of the past as many social and linguistic fields of this. “This criticism was accompanied by a renewed admiration for the transgressions dada (assembly and the readymade) and pop art (the image taken from mass culture), from the recognition of the new critical relevance of photography and from the reconsideration of the calculated use of second-hand images in the melodramatic works of Longo, Salle and others. of a valid avant-garde practice in a culture overwhelmed by clichés of the media was the subject of heated debate: either the avant-garde had degenerated into a well-shrewd arena in the market to take anti-system stances or the artists’ efforts to denounce the coercive power of images constituted a reincarnation of the original offensive moved against political repression by the 19th century vanguard. The most persuasive reason of postmodernism to demand valid political credentials was seen in its usefulness for those who had never determined or held any political and cultural influence. C. Owens pointed to the intersection between “the feminist critique of patriarchy and the postmodern critique of figurativity”; A. Huyssen described a “postmodernism of resistance” that embraced the ecological movement,
The new cold and youthful neo-conceptualism became the object of critical and public attention during the 1980s, promoted by an avalanche of critical writings and with the backing of presentation exhibitions such as A forest of signs: art in the crisis of representation (Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, 1989, curated by A. Goldstein and MJ Jacob). The first significant production, however, appeared in the mid-1970s – that is, at the same time as the re-emergence of painting – supported by critics R. Krauss, D. Crimp, H. Foster and C. Owens. In 1977 Crimp curated the Pictures exhibition(Artists Space of New York) presenting T. Brauntuch, J. Goldstein, S. Levine, R. Longo and P. Smith. In the following years C. Sherman, L. Simmons, R. Prince, J. Holzer, B. Kruger, L. Lawler and A. McCollum joined this first group of artists who wanted to investigate the formation of consciousness through images. Levine reproduced recognizable or “ standard ” works by early twentieth century artists (Evans, Schiele, Mondrian, Kandinskij, Miró) and claimed them as his own: like Duchamp’s bottle rack and bicycle wheel, these iconic images of modernism became his readymades, products of mass culture to be manipulated in a strategy aimed at undermining the fictions of the individual creative genius and the unique object. Lawler dispassionately photographed and commented on exhibits in museums, business headquarters and private homes to argue that objects serve primarily as trophies of authority and privilege. Sherman’s photographs showed pre-existing typical images (film stills, fashion models, fairy tale illustrations) that conveyed stereotypical and predominantly male visions of women; the strong emotional impact of each image was a patent artifice, since it was ” perceived ” through a process of decoding already known signs used in the media to indicate the anxiety, loneliness, helplessness of the woman. In these staging of stereotypical emotions Sherman acted as an artist and as a model, thus dramatizing the falsification of subjectivity in representation. The denunciation of the imposition of female identity through clichés it was also the basis of Simmons’ work, which photographed tiny domestic scenes personified as dolls. Like Sherman’s, Simmons’ works parodied the photographers-directors of the 1970s who aspired to the (illusory) autonomy and transcendence assured to painting. Simmons’ next series investigated the issues of power and identity through images of ventriloquists and their puppets photographed against projected backdrops. Holzer and Kruger took the critique of power and the massification of images out of the galleries, bringing it into public spaces. Holzer invented aphorisms and slogans in an anonymous “ voice ” that alternated with statements of male authority and female resistance: his short texts appeared stealthily at first in stickers and posters, then in a more energetic medium, the electronic sign. Referring to the tradition of photomontage dada Kruger, on the other hand, he glued fragments of images taken from the mass media and superimposed on them high-sounding statements printed in the brutal graphic language of magazines: the works, presented in the form of advertising spaces, proclaimed a general condemnation of capitalist manipulation, together with the specific accuses capitalism of having women as its main victims.
As neoconceptualism advanced into the 1980s, the critique of figurativeness and the combative attitude that had accompanied it gave way to a more dispassionate investigation of art as a paradigmatic expression of late capitalist production and consumption. The transformation was documented in the important exhibition Art and its double (Fundacio Caixa des Pensions, Barcelona and Madrid, 1986), edited by D. Cameron, with works by A. Bickerton, S. Charlesworth, R. Gober, P. Halley, J. Holzer, J. Koons, B. Kruger, L. Lawler, S. Levine, M. Mullican, T. Rollins and KOS, P. Schuyff, C. Sherman, H. Steinbach and P. Taaffe. Under the heavy influence of Debord and Baudrillard’s pessimism as it was captured in the writings of the painter Halley, who briefly exerted a notable influence, art was presented as one of the manifestations of an unstoppable process of complete commercialization. The art object appeared as a consumer product, a simulacrum disguised as an original expression, while the viewer / consumer responded to the dictates of the manipulated desire. It was also argued that artistic dissent was inevitably absorbed in complicity: in fact, artists who claimed to denounce the system aimed at their commercial success as tautological proof of their intuitions on the commercialization of art. While the term “ simulationism ” was attributed to development as a whole, painters operating under the neo-geo label recycled the non-objective art styles of the past with the ease of fashion changes.
Halley used the once liberating modernist language of geometric abstraction in pictorial ” representations ” of authoritarian systems of control. Both R. Bleckner, Schuyff, and Taaffe painted appropriately in multiple non-figurative styles to globally deny their authenticity.
Commodity sculpture authors provided the boldest claims around conformism and trade in art. Steinbach exhibited obsolete household products and kitschy decorative objects on Formica shelves, always presenting more than one of each type. McCollum brought the abundance of the assembly line into the gallery with his ” surrogates ” and ” vehicles ”, endless repetitions of vase-like shapes and framed silhouettes. Bickerton created aggressive wall constructions by featuring oversized hardware, metallic paint and collages of company logos; the works had incorporated upholstery and padded handles, to allude to their being ready for shipment and trade. Koons, with burlesque allusions to the art of the past, from Brancusi’s bronzes to minimalism, featured electrical appliances in display cases, basketballs suspended in aquariums, figurative sculptures in the shape of stainless steel jugs, and porcelain figurines of symbols of pop culture: his research on the absorption of every experience in the forms of commercial exchange led him to almost pornographic representations of the artist and his model in polychrome wood sculptures and photographs retouched with the airbrush.
Along with the brutal cynicism of commodity sculpture in the 1980s, there also emerged an opposing and vigorous effort to affirm the persistent vitality of sculpture as a vehicle for individual expression. As in the 1970s, critics and exhibition curators resorted to the concept of ‘pluralism’ to accommodate a wide range of formal and technical research. The sculptor W. Saunders (Art in America, November 1985) described a generation of artists, between the ages of thirty and fifty, who were engaged in exploring figurativeness and quotation in the realm of abstraction, personal imprinting and small-scale production in studio, sensuality and improvisation, informality and irony. Saunders cited the works of T. Butter, RM Fischer, J. Fisher, J. Giegerich, R. Horn, B. Hunt, M. Kendrick, D. Lipski, R. Lobe, J. Newman, as characteristics of this shared sensitivity. T. Otterness, J. Pfaff, J. Shea, and R. Therrien. The exhibition Sculpture inside outside (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1988, curated by M. Friedman) sought to establish a lineage from international modernism for the achievements of seventeen sculptors (P. Adams, T. Butter, R. Gober, B. Hatcher, J. Highstein, JS Kim, D. Lipski, R. Lobe, W. Martin, J. Newman, M. Puryear, J. Shea, P. Shelton, M. Singer, R. Therrien, M. Webster, S. Woodward) who operated with organic and architectural abstractions, figurative representations and the creation of assemblages and environments. More aimed at underlining the renewed vigor of symbolic representation was the exhibition Structure to resemblance: works by eight American sculptors (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1987, edited by M. Auping, with works by L. Benglis, J. Chamberlain, J. Fisher, N. Graves, M. Puryear, J. Shea, J. Surls and R. Therrien). From the New image art of the seventies, this sculpture retained the interest in traditional materials (stone, bronze, wood, cast iron), the attractiveness of images and symbolic quotes and the desire to probe the boundaries between recognizable form and non-objectivity.. Original qualities of many of these works were the study of a private and even cryptic presence compared to the more overtly narrative impulse of New image art, the respect for craftsmanship that canceled out both the heroic attitudes and the impersonal rhetoric of commercial manufacturing, a new cult for the eloquent simplicity of minimalist art after the complexity in vogue in the seventies and the readiness to mix materials and techniques.
One of the most admired sculptors was Puryear, who invented forms characterized by the sober elegance of the geometry and by an attenuated biomorphism: inspired by the traditional carpentry of Sierra Leone and Sweden, Puryear worked mainly with jointed and folded wood, as well as with carved stone, cross-linked of wire, bronze, clay and tar. The invention of simple abstract forms took on a more eccentric trend in Adams’ work, which combined separately cast bronze elements and individually painted or coated in compositions on the theme of movement and suspension. Therrien’s reliefs and all-round works, in bronze, wood, wax, lacquer and other materials, presented familiar shapes radically reduced to elementary profiles and unfolded surfaces. The sculptures repeated the outlines of church spiers, snowmen, keystones, chests, and trumpets, all recognizable and prosaic, yet endowed with an essential iconic presence that both invites and frustrates interpretation. Shea pursued a more deliberately figurative expression in sculptures that featured drapery and clothing without content, as a substitute for the absent human figure; other life-size works in cast iron and bronze showed trunks and other parts of the body, often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art. and trumpets, all recognizable and prosaic, yet endowed with an essential iconic presence that both invited and frustrated interpretation. Shea pursued a more deliberately figurative expression in sculptures that featured drapery and clothing without content, as a substitute for the absent human figure; other life-size works in cast iron and bronze showed trunks and other parts of the body, often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art. and trumpets, all recognizable and prosaic, yet endowed with an essential iconic presence that both invited and frustrated interpretation. Shea pursued a more deliberately figurative expression in sculptures that featured drapery and clothing without content, as a substitute for the absent human figure; other life-size works in cast iron and bronze showed trunks and other parts of the body, often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art. interpretation. Shea pursued a more deliberately figurative expression in sculptures that featured drapery and clothing without content, as a substitute for the absent human figure; other life-size works in cast iron and bronze showed trunks and other parts of the body, often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art. interpretation. Shea pursued a more deliberately figurative expression in sculptures that featured drapery and clothing without content, as a substitute for the absent human figure; other life-size works in cast iron and bronze showed trunks and other parts of the body, often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art. often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art. often in tacit communion with geometric or architectural elements. The reference to mannequins and Hellenistic sculpture and the juxtaposition of figurative and geometric components took up some of the enigmatic and melancholy spirit of metaphysical art.
At the end of the 1980s, the political and social issue once again became the protagonist of American art. Neo-expressionism and simulationism appeared to be the two sides of the same coin spent by supercapitalism. In the post-Reagan climate there was a new austerity born of the recession, the reduction of private and public subsidies to art, the collapse of the contemporary art market, the re-emergence of censorship, and the terrible toll paid by the art world to AIDS.. With the arrival of the last decade of the century, the myth of the ” melting pot of races ” collapsed in the face of the reality of a nation in crisis, fragmented and multicultural. It seemed that art could no longer afford to to indulge in works that parodied or falsified subjectivity, and the focus was on artists who investigated the processes of collective and individual self-definition. The new spirit was summed up by The decade show: frameworks of identity, a collaboration created in New York in 1990 between the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art; the exhibition offered a review of artists who had struggled with problems of race, gender and cultural identity in the 1980s. Museums, galleries and magazines were beginning to give greater recognition to the achievements of African American artists, both emerging and the previous generation (D. Hammons, M. Hassinger, J. Lewis, H. Pindell, A. Piper, F. Ringgold, BL Robinson, A. & B. Saar, J. Scott, L. Simpson, PW Williams, F. Wilson), of American Aboriginal artists (J. Durham, E. Heap of Birds) and of Hispanic American artists (LC Azaceta, J. Baca, R. Garcia, CL Garza, G. Gomez-Peña, L. Jimenez, G. Lujan, JB Moroles, R. Trejo, J. Valadez).
The rise in American culture of a current so rich in voices and rebelliousness and the simultaneous decline of the market for high-priced objects were the two factors that contributed to the reinvigoration of electronic art, installations and art. specifically linked to a place. D. Adams, D. Birnbaum, D. Graham, D. Hall, L. Hershman, G. Hill, J. Massey, A. Piper, B. Viola and J. Wall were among those who made use of video images, electronic and projected, in works that have often examined social ills. The effects of social tensions and the economic crisis have been captured by critics in the black humor of installations such as those of the Americans M. Barney, D. Hammons, Z. Leonard, B. Nauman and C. Noland present at Documenta 9 (Kassel, 1992, curator J. Hoet). An important trend change in installations and other forms of art linked to the place, it was possible to perceive in the fact that the sensitivity for the natural and architectural environments that had characterized the production in the seventies has given way to a more attentive practice to history and local institutions as crucial contexts for art. Significant examples in this direction could be found both in the visual arts exhibition at the 1991 Spoleto Festival (Places with a past: new site-specific art in Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, curated by MJ Jacob, with important works by A. Hamilton, D. Hammons and J. Scott), and in the exhibition Art at the Armory: occupied territory, sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and organized by BJ Wright in 1992-93 (with works by D. Birnbaum, A. Crane, V. Fisher, D. Hall, L. Hershmann, G. Hill, T. Hoang, JS Kim, EA Laramée, T. Miyajima, E. Newman, M. Shaughnessy, F. Torres, B. Viola, and of the groups Diller + Scofidio, Haha, Lazaretto Collaborative and TODT). The primacy of installations in the most important institutions was established by the Dislocations exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1991-92 (curated by R. Storr), which presented seven installations with works, among others, by Burden, Hammons, Nauman and Piper.
The tendency to move away from painting and the fascination it had exercised in the 1980s was ratified by the list of artists chosen for the 1993 Biennale at the Whitney Museum in New York. This review, condemned for a decade as a mere barometer of market trends, was largely dedicated to installations, films, videos focusing on problems of race, class, poverty, sex and AIDS. Evidently it will be the examinations of conscience and the acts of repentance and protest – and not the decline and self-reflexion – that characterize the American fin-de-siècle.