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1. BL;RE:"
n,ide (Cen/reoi

on cknh. 65' 7'f " x z':! ' 9'/.
120 x 9.1 m). lnstatled al the
5oIomon R. GuggenhE'im
lntemational Exhinitioo,
1971, for ore day befo-e rbe
opening.Coecnon otbe
artl<.t .
Tradition and
Avant- Carde
s the rwcn ti et h cc nrury has un fol ded. t he t ension
betwccn tr adition and avanr- gardc art has taken man)'
forms. Thc particular rebellion which seo the scene fc r
rhi s book began in rhe later 19505 and conrinucd rhrough the
19605. culminaring wi rh an explosi n of dssen r among younger
errisrs around 1968. Throughou r this period, a min ori ry of artis ts
in Europe and North Americe began to sense thar thc visual cul-
ture of thc modem world. S prcsentcd by [he maj or art muse-
ums and a significant number of profcssional crirics , was heb>1 n-
nin g ro appear as so many for ms of indivi dual (usually male)
"expression ." Succcssive movcments in modero art wcre becom-
ing routinely scen as mere formal uovcltics. cach 011(' more auda-
cously li bcrating than the ones befa re, whle evol ving out of,
hence rcplacing. thosc forcrurmers. Accordng to this ortbodoxy
- deneificd in the pagcs rhat follow as Modemism - mdem art
since lmprcssionism was an ourpouring uf the (malc) arrisr' s ere-
ative pcrsona lit y, whi le tending progr essivcly hur uexorabl y
towards abstracrion. It then loo kcd for a sympathetic response to
that outpouring in thc culrivatcd and art-loving obscrvcr.
Modcmis m in this sense. rhcn. was not mcrely a ser of ar t
objects. hut an historical and crit ica] fr amewor k within which
mosr mdem en cou ld be convcnrionally "understood." In rhc
years after World War 11, it was chieflv idcnrified in Amrica
with Abstraer Exprcsviouism. mosr famously exemplificd by the
paint ings of j ackscn Polloek and his school, and by the art criti -
cism of Clcment Grccnberg and those who followed him.
In rhc late 19Sfk and early 1960s, howcvcr, artists who rould
be called avanr -gardc in Europc and Ameri ce had alrcady bcgun
ro challengc bo eh Abstraer Exprcssionise painr ing and rhe orrho-
to have OCCI!. al bca. a ground..clearing excrcse coincidenr wi th
a wider mood of disaffccricn or, at wo rst . an embar rassrnen t
whose ti me had passed. By rhe early 1980s rhe almosr abandoned
practl ccs of painting and sculprure were bei ng ushered back
onto cent re stagc in an effort tu reassure an expanding public for
new art rhat social rcvolution was no longer on rhe agenda. and
that older traditionv, parricul arly fmm the Euro pean pasto were
fit to be rcsumcd. In such aclimate the conti nued exisrence of an
avaut-gardc could by no mcans he taken for gran red.
111C conjuncrion which rcsulred, of a hugely expended public
intcrcu in contemporary art s at a time of relntive polieical and
social rcacrion. is a theme with many variations. Ir s over-simple
to scc thc Wcstern politiral retrenchmcnr after 1979-80 - Reagan-
ism in Amc rica and Thar chcri sm in Grear Brirain - as being
cnrircly coin ciden! with capit ulation to the capitalisr market.
lndec d, relarionv bet ween avant-garde ambtion and rhe marker
in thc l?HOs preved ro he infinitely worrisome and complexo l-or
cxamplc. rhe conservat ivo "return" ro painring ran parallel ro
and part ially r rmcealed a ser of more challengi ng arti stic project s
t hat cffccrivcly fo rm a major part of rhis book: art now rumed
back LO t he povcihilir ies of the Ducha mpian ready- made (rhe
"found" nr "cncountered" obj ecr): it proposcd a dialogue abour
the concepr and purp mes of t he phorograph; and it declared a
rctum ro an opcnl y narrativo or srory- rellng method. Such con-
cerne, whic h secmed suddenly be1eagu red in th e day s of thc
painring "r evival." han' come in the last fifeecn or twenry yean
lo constitu tc the bese new art of our ti me.
A parall el developmenr since the earl y 19705 has been the
growth of a new public and a new mar ket for contemporary arto
Thiv expandcd constituency has posed altogether differenr qucs-
rions aOOuI rhe relarionsbip beeween puhlic culture and disscnt.
The rwenrierh-cenrurv avant-garde from Cubism and Surrcalism
onward has, on rhe whole, fined easily into a public and COIl1-
merr-ial cult ure. Vd hand-in-hand wirh the expan sin of the art
network has gone a rapid growth in thc training of art hi stori-
anv, criti rs, and curator s whose undcrstandug of eontemporary
3rt fl'sulted in a professionalisatioll and imtit ut iollalisation of
Ihe attitude itsrl f. By tbis !ogi e. the cmbalming of
what purports to be avant-garde art in museum colleetiom, sur-
vey l'xhihirions. and popular books has had the etfcct of dcpri\"-
ing it of the very resistam and cri tical qualities by whicb it often
carne iuto being. The twist wi[hin this paradox is th... t lh e
museum ap parat us is, ostensibly at least. nccessar)' l O making
new art "i sible to a substancial i1ucfCSled public.
10 T rtl dilillll tllld Al'tlll /-Carde
Lint"<l / unga 'vt('fri 11.60,
1959. Ink un paper in
cyli ndrical cardbo ard
container, 7,/, x2'/3
(20 x 6 cm).
dox Modcmist lens through which ir was seen. Among those
who pioncered this challcngc wcre thc American ar tists Roben
Rauschcnbcr g. Jasper johns, and Larry Rivcrs. alongsidc British
co unr crparrs such as Pcter Blakc and Richard Hamilton, who
dcvclopcd informal, collagc-like di scontiuuities in works that
wcre generall y receptivo to mass-mcda imagcry. At the same
time. the movc into performance, "happcni ngs," and installati on
on the par t of American ar tivt s Allan Kapro w, Jim Vine, and
Clac, Oldenhurg hclpcd generare the Europcan-ccntrcd Huxus
group, who sc r no st pr ominent rucr nbcr, thc Germn ar tist
j oscp b Bcuys. pronounced a vir tua l mor ator ium 0 11 painr ing,
while making a vpecialit y of installations and lccur rc-cvcncs in
which the social and psychological dimensions of art wcrc incor-
porared into rhe vee)' work.
Pioncer dissenters such as rhc Italians Lucio f ontana and
Piero Manzoni had airead)' contested th e dominancc of painrng
as the central mainstay of modern visual culture: thc lattcr had
resorted by t he early 1960s to produc ing mechanically drawn
Incs, rollcd tl p in a rube in or der not ro he seen, but only known
(mi. 2). A later formation, arte popera. or poor art , arme in Italy
in thc latcr 1960s around jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Michel-
angelo Pistol ctto, and others, in which animal , vegetabl c, and
mineral material was uscd to evok e a sense of the "dull absur-
dit y" o" contcmporary rcaliry. Punher north, the Darush painter
Asgcr j orn, affilia rcd ro a group known as the Situanonist Inter-
nauonal , rcpain tcd low- qualir y genre paintings in a spirit of
irony, oc rcbcllio n, or both. AlI thcsc cxamplcs. from the dccadc
Icading lo 1968, cmbodicd a potcnr mixt ure of j okcs . rcfusals,
and the open j uxtaposition of dissona nt styles, arranged in n011-
or thodox arrangcmc nts and dcploying a motl ey of low cultural
resounxs such as media imagcry, fo und objecrs, and ur ban detri-
tus. trearcd with thc rank bad marinees and extravaga nt nihilism
of a dsaffected minorit y cul ture.
\Vh;H followcd dirccrly " pon the hccls of these provocativo
early avant - gardcs wcrc rwo tcnd encies rhar wcrc ro peo ve
important in the dccadcs th at foll owcd. Amer ican Minimal
art ists of rhe mid- 1960s enactcd anot hcr form of escape from
orthodox Modemism by constructing simple, hlank, gcomctrical
obj ecrs that were characterised by for mal 'ymmetey. absence of
rraditional composition. and li[[le eolom. These "simple ohjerts"
were und erst ood at the time t o challenge che dominance of
Modernist painting from another angle: existing between paint-
ing aud sculp tur e, they purported to make the vieweeself-con-
,cious of his or hee perceptual assumptions, cultural expectations
8 T, adiliol1 (md AVimt-C,n Je
and art istic vales. ,\ t thc same ti me rhcy clcvatcd iudustrially
madc forms. often used repctirively, inro rhc cult ure of art (nc. 3).
In the later 1960s. a generation of so-call ed Concept ual arusrs
across an intemarional spectrum begao ro resume [he carhcr ten-
deucy ro expcrimenr wi rh fou nd materialv, phot ogr aphy, and
ordi nar y ephemera . By shifting artention systcmatically awa)"
from rhe incffable visual experi ence of art objccts and rowards the
anirudes and p r o e e s ~ s of concciving dn-m or making thcm, Con-
ceptualists soughr (O OCcupY a 'Opae," oUlsidl' rhe dominam cultural
conventions govcmi ug the prod uction and consumption of art.
Un e result of all these forms of avant-garde activi ty was that
by the early 1970s it was no longcr m' n' S'i.1ry for pain rings te be
primarily colourcd, or flat o llor for sculpturev to be upright or
havc volume. l ollovving in rhe footsecpcof [he French art ist-icon-
oclasr, ,\ la rcel Ducha mp. arri sts proclaimcd that anyr hing in or
OUl of thc gallery - Jines drawn on the gro und, a ser of pilot o-
copicd docume ms. a f ilng cabner. a sheet ofnstrncrionv a J;.Ilk ry
per for mance - could undcr certain condrions of producrion and
display qualify as "a rt." The intended rcsult was ro frustrare [he
market mcchanism hy making arr objects which were resistant ro
bcug sol d, collccted . and cvaluarcd hy r onventi onal rneans.
\VhCIl , rhcreforo, rhe mcanng of "avanr-gardc" rame undcr
rcncwcd scr ut iny in the mid-1970s, it dd so again sr a background
uf skirms hcs airead )' fought and sorne victorics won. By rhi s
rime, howcver, the polti ca! sett ing had cbanged, espccially in the
Unit cd Srares. The radical social agenda of rhe larer 1960s that
provdcd a supportive conrexr for ear lier avant-gard c art - the
anri-victnam War proress. rhe srudems' and workers' strikt>s, the
growrh of feminism - was widely perceived ro be past history. By
1?7S or so. Conceptual art ieself wa s becoming popular, even
ualc. By the latcr IlJ70s and earl y 1980'0 ir was widely considcred
.1_ Room MORRIS
fibregla<os and Iluort>'iCent
lights, 2' 1l 8' 10.6 1l 2.8mt,
DaliasMUSl?Umal FiTlf' Arts.
Trodtian and A vata-Carde 1)
An carly nstance of thi s tensin may be found in cont rover-
ses that erupr ed in 1971 at New York's prestigious Guggenheim
.\t useum. Barly in tbat r ear, a show of new art was selected for
me Guggcnhci m lnt crnarional (an ann ual sur vey of rcccnt arr),
featur ing rwclvc American artist s and eight from thc rest of thc
wmld. ver a furore was raiscd whcn a work by the 1'rcnch artist,
Daniel Ruren (see HG. 1) - a srripcd painting in two pares, the
largor par t hung in the centre of the Cuggcnhcim atrium and thc
smaller p<l rt outsidc, across 88th Street - had its largor part wit h-
drawn by thc muscum. Burcn' s response was that the wo rk,
"placed in t he centre of the rnuseurn, irreverxibly laid barc thc
bulding' s sccret function of subordi nat ing cvcrything to its nar-
cissistc archi tecrure.' The rnuseurn, said Bur cn - he might havc
been spcaking about <l0Y museum - "unfolds an absoluto pawer
whi ch irremcdiably subjugates anything that gcts caughtfshawn
in it." Several weeks latcr, a planned exhihi tion by [he (Ierman-
born artist Hans Haacke at the same museu m was also wi rh-
drawn. The proj cct that Haackc offercd fcr this show was a pho-
rographic documcntarion of Manhatt an real- estate holdings,
wirh information on ownership ano value culled fro m public
records (HG. 4), rogct her wirh an opi nion poli on visitors" polit-
ical views. Museum official s srated rhat the work was a "muck-
raking venture" which compromised their chrter obligation of
"pursuing aesthetic and educational motives that are self-suffi-
cicnt and without ulteri or moti ves." The issue was once mo re
that of th e artist"s right to radical expresscn in the face of the
muscum's wi sh ro make refer ence to th e social envi ro nment
OIl!)' in symb olic and generalised terms.
Ot her r adical agend as sincc thc 1970s have extended an
avanr-gardc mcntaliry ro groups dcfincd in tcrms of gender. The
risc of fcminist consciousness and thc quest for gay and lesbian
idcntty havc produc cd pcrhaps thc most thoroughgoing general
shifts of cmphasis in rhc visual arts in che past tvvcnty years. At
rcpcarcd nrcrvals throughout thcsc two dcca dcs, fcminism has
raiscd crucial quest ions about thc role of women in the visual
media. Why had women becn for so long undcr-represence d in
museum r -ollecrions. cxhibitions, and books? Now t hat they
wcrc bcing rrained as artists in cqual numbcrs t mcu. thc ques-
tion bccamc ho w a specifically fcminist an could be madc and
undcrsrood. Could thc art of gays be recogniscd and discussed?
Such qllestioll s thrcatcncd the cohcrcnce of a syslem of cultural
production an d reproduction tha[ had traditionally scrved up
predomillantly heterosexual maje culture for a hcterosexual malc
pu bli coBn t there a f ( ~ pa radoxes here, to o. The pioIlcer Pop ,
T w dit ioll l/lid AI',ml-Cardc 11
la l '1'<,
a:.-k ""
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lo...... loo>:! ..1... te 000, . . . ...l '26 ooo__w
12 Trdd;, j,lll al/a AI'ant-GarJe
4. HW :K(
el al. A-1Jnhanan Real fsld/l'
Holdings,,) Real-Time Soci.l/Svstem,
a50'-Mdr " 1971 ldddih, 1971. Ore
photograph and
Tbe Guggenl'lf'im MU<of'Ilm ' S rejectioouf
\\"00 demonstrdlt'dihe challcogc oi
Ihe radical assumption hal lnrormaton
could be art, as well as the capacityo
Haacke's tableaux, deplovcd indifferenl
contextsIherC'a!tcr, poweriuliy /0 unmack
the linksborween culture and power.
and Conceptual art icts of thc 19611s had almosr all
been men; how cou ld women. as a group nr as iudvi duals. over-
Ul Tl1 th e val es of male culture i f rhar cult ure wcre airead)' a
ficld of conrestation among mcn? The dilcmma has preved pow-
crful; and in the 1990s ir is still being insistcd - rightl y - rhar too
fe..... of the early feminist challenges reach,..J thc cconomir levcl.
TIIC rccent acricisr work uf thc American group. th e Guerrill a
Glrl s. prot ests against rhe mbalance betwccn male and femalc
arccw ro status in thc arrs - herc in thc form of a commercial1 y
primcd post or that j uxr aposes rhe pr icc-, paid for a whit e malc
avant-gardc hcro, jaspcr j ohns. with thosc pai d for rhc art of
W(l Il WIl arti sts. bot h white and of colour ( FlG, 5). Such activism
wggcsrs thar a powcrful patri archy and rhc cconomics of a ram-
panr capitalisr markct are srill inex tricably cmwincd. It rcmains
comrovcrsial how far the most challeoging new work by womcn
and scxua] mi norit ics has rnanaged ro sofren or unsct tlc rhat
part m-rvlup.
Thc fcmnist challcnge implicit in rhis particular Guerrilla
Girl,,' r m ter is made paradoxical ar another level by the fact rhat
in [he largor task of dc-masculinising cult ur e. jaspcr johns lila)'
5. GU( RR l LAGIRl5
Unntled post"" Il,11:19. 16". ,
21'" '' (42.5 x 54.5cm).
The ar t markel WQf'I'f be$1Ow mega-bud: price$ on !he wort..
ofo ...hile mab ro.. !he III mmionyou jll$l spent
on o $ingle .kIsper John$poinling. )'O\l could hov\I boug hl a l
lecst one worlc by 011 of the$e women ond ortish of color:
AbD<>ft 80 do K.,.,..;"g Doro"- l a"V"
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