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Michael Fried's "Art and Objecthood"

Michael Fried's "Art and Objecthood"

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Michael Fried much discussed seminal critique. Download courtesy of:
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Published by: Night Owl on Nov 19, 2009
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Inthis esslyMichaelFri€d criticLe,,MinimatArt- or 6 heca sir."literalisC'lrt-forwhathedesoibesas its inhercnt theatricrlitv.At tlrqmFume.Ie Jrgucsthdt ticmodemisr !rt!.iactudingpainingrr"l! ulpture.l,avecomc incrFasinglyo dependfor 6eir very conrjnua,r,on theiribilityto d4par rh".be.Friedcharacteria rh; |-hqtrical ,,,remsot apgticularrebtion bcr$een thebeholdFr6 $b/?ct and t1.,.wtk .itoqict- archtion tbat lalesplaceinrime, rhat bsduratiu,,Wh6e6defcltingtheatree',raihdeferringorsuspending ot-hbiecthoo,tFriedwasborn in t\'ew YorkCity in1939. }le took hisB.A. arhincetonUdversity.mdwas aRhodes Sc.holarat MertoD Colteg€,Or.f.rd.He isa ContrihurDs Edrtortor Alrlorun.ud heorgan;ed rt,TItr.Ahccan Paintcruexhibirionat the Fogg Arr Vuse;,HdN,.,,lUni\F6it).in 1985.HciscurendyaJunio;-FeIowinrhe H.w3,,l
Edwards'stoumalsfrequendyexploedand tested ameditation h.seldomallowcdto reachprint;ifall the world wereannibilated, h{,wote. . . and anew world werefreshlycreated, though it werc toexistin ev€ryparticularin thesarnemanneras this Eorl4 itllr'ouftlnot be thesame. Ther€fore,becauethere is conriDuity, which istnne, it isccrtain with methat tle worldedsrs anewevery mo-ment; tlatthe existenceof things everymoment c€asesand is evcrymoment rcnewcd.'The abidiDgassunnceis that'weever).momentsee }lesameproofof aGod as weshould haveseenfwe had seenHim createthc rvorldat6rst."-Perryl{iller,IoruttunEd.wadsIThe enterpriseknown variouslyas MinimalArt, ABC Arq PrirnaryStructues,and SpcciffcObjects islargely ideologcal.It seeks todeclareand occupy iposition--,onethat can be formulatedinrReprintedrom Artlrmrr,Iurc,196'7.ond Obiecthood
and in fact basbeenIormulat€d by someof itsleadingprac-If thisdistinguishesit from modemistpaiDtingandsculp-onthe one haad,it also marl$ animportastdifierenc€ betweenArt----or, asIprefe.to callit, litetarit afi----andPop orOPon the other.Fromits inception,literalist aftLas amountdtomore tla!an episod€ in th€history oftaste. It belongsto thebitory-almostttre nattrdl history-ofsensibility;andis not anisolated episodebut tbe expressionofageneralandcotrdition.Its seiousnesss vouched forby the{act that itinrelatiod both tomodemistpaintingand modemistsculptureliteralist art defles orlocat€s thepositioDitaspnes to occupyis, I suggest, iswhat makeswhat it declaressom-ethinghattobe ca[ed aposition.)Speciffcally,literalistart conceivetofitsef asneitbs on€nor tle otherj on theconEary,it is mothat€d!yspeciGceservations,or worse, about both;andit aspir€s,Perhapslotexacdy, ornot immediately,to disPlace them,butin any cosetoestablishtself as anind€p€ndentart on fl footing$'itl either.Theliteralist caseagainstpainting rests mainlyon two counts:theioral character ofalmost allpainting; and theubiquitousness,the virtueliDescapability,ofpicto al illusion-In Donaldwheryoustart relatingparts,in theffIstPlac€,you'rcassumingyouhavea vaguervhole-the rectangle ofthe canvas----ande6-nitepans,which is a[soewed up, bccauseyoushouldheveadefnite il)holsend maybenoparts,or veryfewlrThisMs saldbyJuddD an int€triw withBtucecloser,edit€dbv LucvLr,ippardmdpublisheds 'Questionso StellaandJudd,"AtNeod, VollXV,No.tS6"t@bs1966.The ItlrELrothibut€dn thepres€nt ssovo
Juddrnd Moris lEvc hettaLeo trem tb& intewiNfr@Judds65av SDe-cGc Obiets. Attt fqrbook.No. 8. 1965, orfr@Roberr Nlorb.sesvs."Not6d Solpturc' @d"Notemsoipturc, Patt2,"publish€d in Att',orn,vol IV, No. O, f€bmey1966, snd Vol. 5,No. 2, Octobd1966' re{Ec-nve&-(1hlG also talaore lfut by Motisf!@ihe ataloguc iothelrhibitiotr-!:iahtSolpto^:tlFAmbieuous Imsge, heldal theW,lker ArtCentd. Odob;FDce;bs1966.r I'houldadd that inlaving oulshat seosto @ iheposiHonluddand Mordhotd in comon I}av€ ieloredvdloujdifieMc betweenth@. andhav€ ued eenain lennrlsin contdtsfo. ivhichtheymay Dot hove bee! ilt€nd€d.Mor€ove., Ilave not alwavsildicatedwhichofthm achDlly soid dwt€ apdtidlarphdse;lhe altenativevould havebe€ntolitterthe lextvith f@rnotcs.
liichoel Friedll8Themore the sbapeof thespport is emphasized,asin rcccrrlmodcmistpainting, the tightsthe situation b€.Dmes:The etements nsidethercctangle are broadand simpleaDd correspondclosely tothe rcctangle.The shapesand su ac€are onl)thosc thatcan occulplausibll' s'ithin and ona rettangularplancTheparsare fervand so s"bordimlclo unityrs Dot o beprrt\jnen ordinarysense.Apa'nting is rcarly anentity, onething.and not tbe hdefiDablesum of a$oupof entitiesand rcferenccs.The one thing overpowe$the earlierpainting. It alsoestablishr'siherect:tngte asa dcffnite{olm: itjsno longcr a fairlyneutiillimit. A form canbeused only tu somany waysThe rectau-gu)arp)aneitgiven a life span.The simplicityrequiredto enphasjzehc rectangleimits heanangementsossiblcvithiniLPabting is here seenas an attoD the vcrgeof exhausuon,oneitrwhich thcrangc of acceptabtesolutionsto abasicproblem-howtirorg&nize hesurfac€of thepictuFis severelycstricted The useolshaped rather tbanrectangularsupportscan, frcm theliteralistpoiltofview, merelyprolongtheagony. The obr-iousresponseb to8i\(upworking on a singl€plane in favor of tlreedim€nsions.That,moreo\,cr.automaticallYgctsrid oftheproblem of ilusionismand ofliteral space,sPacerrand aroundmarksand colors-rvhic.his riddanc€of one oIth.salientand mostobjectionablerelics of Euopeanart. Theseverallimits ofprintingareno longerFesent.Avo.k can be aspowcr-fttl rs it canbc tloughtto bc. ActualspacesinirinsicallymorcpoNerfulnndspcciGc hanpaintoD aflat sudace.Theliterrtist attitudetoward sculptureismore ambiguorrs.Judd.for c'xuryrle,s€emi tothink o{what h€ callsSpecific Objectsassomcthig othcr thnnsculpture, whileRobertMoris c'onceivesolhis ownunmistrkablytiteralist work asrcsuming rhelapseil tradi-tion o{Constructivistsculptureestablishedby Tatlin,Rodchenko,Cabo,Pevsner, andVantongerlooBut thisand other disagreementsare less mpoltantthnD the viervsJuddandl{orris holdin commonAbove all thcyareopposed tosculpture that,like mostpainting' is"madepartbypnrt. by addition,composed"and in wbich'specifcelcments. . . separatefrom tbe$'hole, thus settingup relationships9tle rvorlc"(Theywould includethe \r"orkof Dayid SmirhAnthony Carcuiler tlis description.)It is worth r€marki:rgthe'part-hy-part"and"rclational"characterof mo$tsculptureMonisdevotesconsiderableaftcnrionto'ltheuse of strunggestaltor of unitary-type fomsto avoiddivisiveness";whilcJuddischieflylnterested n the *indof wholenesshat canbe achievedtbroueh therepetitionof identicalunits. Theorder at workin hispieces.-oseonc€ remarkedot ltral inStelta's b'ipepaintings.issimply order.like that of continuity,onet}ing afteranother." ForbothJuddandMords, however,the citicalfactm issrkp?. Morris's "unitaryforms"lrepolyLedronstlat resistbeinggraspedotherthan as a singleshape:the gestaltsimplyir the'oonstan!knol'nshape." Andshapeitsef4in his system, -thenostimportantsculptural value."Simi-larly,qeakingof his ow'n work,Juddhas remarkedthatrhe bigFoblemis that anythingthat is notabsolutelyplainbe-gilsto havepartsitr some *ay.The thingis to be abletoworkand do difierentthings aad yetnot breakup the wholenesshat apiecehas. Tome thepiecewith thebr3ss and the ffve verticalsiselnve allthatshaoe.associatedbyluddwit]lwhat hecalls anthrcnomowhtcm:'Atlrusts; apieceofironfollolvsagesture;togethcr they form anaturalistic and antlropomorphicimage.The spacecorresponils."such'multipart,infl€cted'sculptureJuddand Monis assetvalues of *'holeness,singlen€ss,and indivisibility---o{a work'sas nearlyaspossible, "onething,"a single "SpecificObjecr."sbape e theobject: at any mte,what secureshe wholenessofobject is the siDglenessf theshape. t is,I believ€, thisempha-sisonshape thatacoDunts orthe impression,which numerouscrit-ics have mentioned,ttratJudds and Moris'spiecesarchollou,
Shapehas also beencenhal to th€most impotantpaintingof thePastseveralyears.In sev€ral recentessays2 bavetried to show
"'Shapeas Fom:rraDk srelaiNspainringr,,,Arrl@D, Vol,V, No. 3,ov@bar968j"Jur6Olftski," tbe@t losue iDrroductionro anerhibition ofIn; wqk atthe Cd@mcaltery, wshinsron,D.C., April-Jue,l967j and"Bolald Davis: sulhedd m6id,"A'rtoM,Vol. V, No. 8, April1967.
120ho{,in the wor} of:iotaDd,Olitski. andSieltr. a conflicthasgradu-ally emcrgedbcNeenshapcasafundanrcntatropertyofobjccl\and sLapcasa'ncdiunofpaintilg. Roughh,thesuccessrfrilurcofagi\€n paintinghascomc to depeDdon iis abilityto holdorstamptsel{out or compelconvntion asshape-tl)it,or somcho$ostaveoSor eludc hequcstionof *hethcr orrot it doesso. Olitsli\early spraypaiDtnrgsre hepurcsterampleofpaintings hat cithfrhold orfait toholdas shapcs;Nhilc in hismore rccentpi.turcs, tt\rvell asnthc bestofNoland's rndstelh'srecent rork, thcdenran(]that agilen pichre hold 1lsh.rpesstavedofi or eludednvariorr\rvays. \4ratisat stakcn this confictis $hcthcrthepaintings orobjcctsnqucstionarcexpericnced spaintnrgsor asobjccts:arwhatdeciclcs hejr idcntit)as|ditirtrgis thcir conlrontingofthfdemandhat thcy l,old asshaPesOthenviserey are erlerienccdrsnothingore than objc.is.This crn bcsun rcd up b)'savingthrtmodemistp^intingh.rsconeto 6nd itimperatir.c batit defeatorsuspendts ownobjecthood,nd that the crucialactornthis undcftaking s sliape, utshrpethatmustbelong o/tdinting-itmust !'pictolirl, not, or notmerel),, itcralWhercrs litcralistartstakcsevcrythingon shapeasagiven propert!ofobiccts, fnot, ind.o(].as akind of obicct inits o$'t) right. Irrspircs, not todefcat olsuspendts o$nobiecthood,butonthe contrar)'todiscover:rn(lpmjectobjectlroodssuch.In his essay lcccntnessof Sclllphre"Cleme:rtCreenberg discusseshc cf(ict ofp'cr€n.{],wl)ich, ronr thcstart,has beenassociatedwith ljtcnlist$ork.3 This cornesup in conncctionNith thcsrcrk of Arno Truitt.m artist Creenbergbclicvesanticipated))('literalistsh. crlls tldr\ Iinnn.lists :Truiit s irt(li(lllirt with t}c look ofnon-alt, andher 1963sho$was tbc firslir \lhiclr I roti(c'd ho$thislookcorldconfcrrlcfectofp,r'v,ir. TlatprcseDcc s achicved hroughsize$riacstheticrlh(\lnntous,I alrcadl'lncs'. Thatpresence r\achieYedhroruhthc lool' of nonart slls likesiseaestheticill\
3PubLish.dnr tlr car,Ll,)(ur,, the LosAnseles Count-w 'l$emof r\n'rxl'ibition,.ADeriQn sculphtuoIile Sixti6.,'lhcverbproiEftuIhr!'jlrturd itistrkrnfronr(irq)hrJrssratementTheosrensibleaim of 1lrNlinimalhhisblrojectol)j,dsN(l d,semblesofobjoch th.t arcjustnuds,AnrhonyCoro, Benni^st6h.1964- $eelpdintedblock. 3'4" x 13'x ll'.ln rhe.olrectionof lulesOlitski, Phorosrdph ourt€ryot AndreEmmeri(hGolery, NewAnrhonyCoro; Flox. 1966.Sreelpoinredblue. 2'1" r 6'9" x 5'4". In the .ollectionolMr. ond Mre, fienry Feiwe . Photosroph.ouesy of Andre EmmerichGollery,

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