Saturday, 28 September 2013

Redefining Reality

As it is on the list of essential reading I set about reading New Art in the 60s and 70s - Redefining Reality by Anne Rorimer. The book is published by Thames and Hudson, 2001

Coming from a traditional background and admirer of Impressionism, the Fauves, Expressionism, Abstraction etc., I was sometimes amused, appalled, inspired, aghast and enthralled by this book and the artists discussed.  Because I want to log in note form details of the artists and their techniques I am going to outline their ideas and to include any notes as to thoughts that came to me when reading it.

Clement Greenberg wanted art to eliminate figuration through Abstract Expressionism allowing the paint and for the sub conscious to express itself through gesture and qualities of paint. Nonetheless figuration was later re-introduced.


Pierro Manzoni wanted to render surfaces white with no message and no self expression "There is nothing to be said, there is only to be, to live" 1

In this way he rejected representation, composition and brushwork.  He wanted his work simply "to be".  Manzoni's compatriots used fabrics, sacking etc. with thick gestural brushwork.

Lucio Fontana slashed or pierced canvases to reveal a spacial reality behind the canvas, introducing a space that can't be perceived.

IDEA: Reverse canvas painted with absorbent inks, i.e. on natural un gesso'd canvas.

Yves Klein also sought to go beyond perceptual reality by painting in blue, what he called International Klein Blue to reveal a mysterious depth, or universe.

Ad Reinhardt also wanted to purfiy painting by using timeless monochrome black to reach it's essence.

Roy Lichtenstein created the somic as an object in itself, painting the ben-day dots so it became like the comic illustrations it mimicked.

IDEA: Between the ben-day Dots - highly textured "paper" between enlarged dots.  recreating fibrous nature as much as possible.

IDEA: Pixels for poor signal as a picture begins to break down, some representational other pixelated.

The Store - beefburgers.  The Street, life itself not objects in a museum.

Allan Kaprow The merits of junk to displace high minded Abstract Expressionism.  Assemblages (not art objects) which he called happenings and environments.  Temporal framework.  Art off the easel to purge of permanence and preciousness.  Art in line with life.

IDEA: Displacement wood object sea as plaster bandage, spray as sand.

Fluxus Manifesto 1963 "Purge world of bourgeois sickness....abstract art, illusionistic art, artificial art...fuse...revolutionaries into united front and action" 2

ex members of John Cage's New School of Social Research in NY.  Fluxus "musical"  performances.  Fluxus similar to Situationist International founded in Europe in 1957 - art might take part in the fight for egalitariana society, Maciunas proposed " must be lowered by making it unlimited, massproduced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all" 3

IDEA: Pole Dancing move it  - this is art label  - to be disposed of (signed by artist)

IDEA: Signature Dish  - Dish with rim This is Art, to be disposed of signed by artist

IDEA: Killer Mustang - hanging man with mustang below.

IDEA:  BULBS - Light bulbs in a box of earth

Fluxus 1 Boxes now International. Contents:Scores, photos, essays by 24 artists

Fluxus II - objects and 8mm film and printed matter.  Art and life together.  Rubber stamps not hand-drawn items.  Sought to undermine art objects.  Rejection of illusion and composition.  Contemporaries of Art Povera.  Retained self-referential object, i.e. existing for itself.  Isn't all art?

Painting was not at an end as Rodshenko thought, after producing what he considered to be definitive monochromes.  Minimalism despite its term afforded a new approach incorporating line, colour and texture that is infinite.

Blinkey Palermo  Architectural interior paiant used fabric in pictures.  Latitude and Date paintings.  Self referential but relative to date or place itself.  Turned to object painting. Re-evaluation of form

Gerhard Richter - Distance from reality whilst being representational emotionless almost abstract at same time.

Ryman - painterly application

Torini - brushmarks

Paolini - Freeing canvas from image.  The pictuure is what makes it up, free from authorial presence.

All want to ban illusion

Robert Smithson - words

Lawrence Weimer - words on walls, Giveaways at Exhibition - art availability and disposability


Robert Barry - cordons, cotton, wire, waxed thread, transparent filament. Ultrasonic sounds, microwaves, inert gas - neon, krypton xenon, helium, argon, electromagnetic fields, radioactive substances.  Telepathic ommunication, thoughts about a work of art not appplicable to language or image.

IDEA: Police tape

Ian Wilson He produced no physical object.  Concerned with Abstraction so used language.  Circle on floor which could be brought to mind with the word "circle".  Used and liked the word "time".  Signed certificate confirming that a conversation had taken place with date and time was proof.


Joseph Kosuth Like Wilson, discussion re Abstraction.  Clear square glass Leaning, consists of what the title describes.

IDEA: a tanner - sixpence, Five Bob - five shillings, 2/11 - two shillings and eleven pence

Self reflexivity seems important to all these artists.  'Art is the definition of art' and is not 'concerned with empirical fact'4 Language as an 'idea' of an object. One and three hammers.  Erased sign of own hand and authorial originality.  Expression in the idea not the form, the forms were only a device in the service of the idea.  Can equally be argued that the form expresses the idea and that the ideas are only devices in the service of the form.  The form is substantively there before an idea of it is percieved.

'Engagement' with the world: speech, media, TV, films, art, music, visual expression, war, confrontation, sport social drinking and eating, food, drink, maths, breathing, dancing, singing, digging, cleaning, washing, gardening, researching ALL healing ACTIVITIES 5

Ramsden 100% Abstract suppress illusion and meaning

Burn Car lacquer to paint with.  Not a fixed appearance through light intensity angle of view, reflection.  Mirror: aesthetic content.

Burn and Ramsden Six negatives (text struck out) turns obliteration into assertion i.e. mark-making.

IDEA:  Predating [Art and] Language leaves ART  (Image: micheline man type rubbing tummy entitled Predator.


Photography used to suppplement paiting, rather than being an alternative (Richter & Rauschenberg).  Photos: uncomposed, non-authorial, painted illusion or 3D effect.

Long - Land sculpture photos walking tracks.

Dennis Oppenheim - uses body with land as photo

Bernd and Hilla Becher - Photos of cooling towers series and series of framed houses.  Not picturesque same hazy conditions.  Resist personal prioritization.

Jan Dibbets - photos of flat 2-D picture.  Abstraction can be in represented image.  Sawdust elipses, walked on and destroyed. Ephemerality. Perspective corrected (like cricket and football groundwork advertisements). Square painted as rhomboid remains a square in perspective.  Light how it falls and moves - abstract.

Baldesserai  Language and text in paintings.  Acrylic and photoemulsion on canvas - phototext paintings, copies by photoreal artist.  'California' - each letter formed in landscape and photo'd the assemblage to form the word. Turns to photography to exlpore the question of choice. - Rhubarb. Cigar smoke to match clouds; Time above or under aeroplane supposed to change to seagull and  Submarine to murmaid during time lapse of motorboat going from left to right.  TV photos with text, controlling or directing meaning.

Douglas Huebler Duration, location and variable pieces.  Linguistic exploration.  Stated existence of sculptures in an apartment and suggested viewers should call to view.  Used maps, photos and descriptions to "install" sculptures too large to fit physically.  Snow marks as sculpture.  Marked out journeys on maps.  Wedges located then moved. 3 photos at 30 secs, 20 secs, 10 secs of children jumping rope all displayed out of sequence.  Photographing everyone in the world.

Gilbert and George Living sculpture and lyrics like troubadours.  Democratic art, published, posted or performed.  Charcoal squared drawings stuck together to form large work.  They are about communication.  Paintings used in similar way, then photos as photo-montage.

Victor Burgin Unstable meaning in a photo, nevertheless it is the most appropriate medium for today.  Manipulation of photos.  Rope triangles 2 at separate unseen positions.  Memory of one acting on the other.  Phtos of floor boards stapled to actual floor boards. "it may no longer be assumed that art, in some mysterious way, resides in materials"6

Temporal/mental thoughts without spacial dimensions.  Phtos with descriptive text.  Text seems hollow and images empty - contradictions.  Demonstrates how images can lie  Frame of reference altered.


Hanne Darboven et al: By using maps, numbers and/or language eliminate aesthetic illusion, planar or volumetric material.  Sought self evident visual items. Permutations of 4-6 digits needed to give date i.e. day month year multiplied, added, divided etc. vertical and horizontal symmetry.  Room size piece displayed 39 ft. 402 black ring binders 365 of which contain 100 pages 1 page per year of entire century.  Time given form as opposed to time slipping by. Translation of Homer's Odyssy in handwriting.

Sol le Witt Introduced Seriality in a move from minimalism to conceptualism.  Artist selects rules and form but then the fewer decisions made the better thereby eliminating arbitrariness, capaciousness and subjectivity.  The use of a pre-determined plan achieves above.  Nude moving closer to viewer until only naval in view and the camera moving closer to model until only naval in view. Static nature of traditional nude study. Serial compositions eliminate chance, taste and unconciously remembered forms and personal input.  Not linked to Maths nor natural world.

Adrian Piper Initial table sequence with figures but she is interested in self-conscious in terms of space and time she moves through a photo relates to timed or random moments.  Tries to become "object" by closing off sensory mode, in public.

Roman Opalka Self related to individual existence.  Numerical sequencing. White (no. 0 brush) numbers in sequence starting top left with no.1 each canvas has white added by 1% to form grey.  Eventually numbers will fruse with background to form infinity.  2173184-2194426 was last painting. Eternity and time with toll on artist as human subject.  He takes photos of face on completion of canvas.  Counts audibly and records.  Infinite sequencing v. brief lifetime.  Letters, numerical progression, mapps, photos in series, counter illusion and authorial expression.

On Kawara I read, I met, I got up etc. Anchoring notion of time within representational framework.  Newspaper cuttings of articles read on particular day.  These were done in conjunction with date paintings.  Relevant and irrelevant subject to historic context and uncensored by time itself.  I went - red line on map.  I met - list of names.  Latter only relate to personal life.  Postcards printed with I got up at ...(time).  Books contaianing every year 1M years past 1M years future.

Stanley Brounin Keepps sketches of directions in towns.  Performed movement and dress in shop window "art must come down from ivory tower.  It should just be craft.."7

IDEA: life graph

Shadows non-composed non-illusionist. Self referential, decorative?? If screen printed - not self drawn.  Footprints of passers by on paper.  Directions from home to art project inc. Street name, striking points passed by invitation.  Wanted a path in the Park.  Uses his stride as unit and bought sq. meter pieces of land in various countries.  Dispersed "Work".   Asked spectators at exhibition to talk in a certain direction reflecting the millions of walking in infinite directions.  Walk through cosmic rays - empty room.  Walk into infinity defines no. of footsteps in a day and which countries etc.

I had to have a break from the book at this point to look at some real art - give me an ivory tower any day!

Mel Bochner Numerical and linguistic.  Cognitive aspect of aesthetics.  Mental process. to materialize a workd of art relationships between knowledge, experience and reality.  Artist's work from books, sketches, studies, maths, till receipt placed in notebook on a ppedestal.  36 photos and 12 sets building blocks in different perspectives.  Photo 2-D but looks 3-D so is an illusion as well as photo.  Measurement of objects became a feature.
Christine Kozlov Numerical linguistics serial systems and sequences.  Cancel past minimal and representational art and sculptural mass.  Overlapping sound.  Painting of multi layered housepaint.  Portrait photos from booth. List of food consumption.  Neurological notes over years.  1945-61 "This is not art" stamp on various things. (You don't need to tell me!) Telegram: Particulars related to the information not contained herein constitute the form of this action. Recording sound in room.


Lissitzky Proun Room (Project for the affirmation of the new) Interaction between planar and volumetric in illusionistic space.  Person becomes part of work by walking around space to view.  Looking becomes part of it too. Subject of object are incorporated togetheer.

Allan Kaprov People waking through an assembled environment.  Viewer no longer looks 'at' but becomes part of surroundings.  Bringing art and everday life closer together.

Robert Morris
Viewer's awareness of existing in same space as object.  Sbuject creates relationship as he moves nd also when he views in different lights.  4 mirrored cubes forming square object and subject share same space, but physically separated.

IDEA: Flat foil in frame - "Where am I" (Subject and object sharing same space)

Bruce Naumann Eliminated difference between physical space of work and space of viewer.  Performance device to stand in. Lighted centre piece removes itself from centre (41,000 watt bulbs).

IDEA: After imaging using Green, Blue Pink Lt Green after looking at curtain.

Performance corridor space enveloped by work rather than surrounding it. Image of viewer in bottom screen (CCTV) dimionishes as approaching it.  Top screen pre-recorded empty corridor. Their figure recedes as they proceed.  Touch and sound wall. Microphone is engaged when wall is touched and emits sound from second wall. "Get out of my mind, Get out of this room" 10 ft sq. room emitting above words as shouts, growls and snorts (no obvious speakers). "Indoor/Outdoor" camera aimed at picture window from outside, shown with pictures from camera installed inside looking out.  Outdoor noises piped indoors.

IDEA: Reflections and double exposures

Nauman unlike Morris and Kaprow, dispenses with "product" by using technology.  Graham wrote of Nauman: "..(he) is in the present in presence of spectator...he now becomes the "object" and the "subject" simultaneously: he is both perceiver and perceived and both interior and exterior surface" 8 This comment reflects Graham's own later work with picture window.

Dan Graham His work transforms sculptural boundaries between subject (viewing) and object (viewed). Magazine pieces erased this division between work and viewer. Receipt tally roll. Common drug side effects list. Homes for America, irony. Income Piece - spectator as speculator. Then performance art. Interior and exterior views through picture window where viewer is subject and object at the same time. "Yesterday/Today" video and sound of back office shown in gallery 24 hours later. "Public space 2 audiences" room divided by glass on half with rear mirror, one entrance in each half. Glass pavilions (similar to hall of mirrors or glass maze)

Vito Acconci  Featured himself as "object" eliminating the creation of an object, i.e. the act as well as activity. Bridged division between artist, audience and exhibition space. Poems with visible/verbal spactial structure on the page. Wrote poetry performed in rooms to get himself off the page and into the room. Various street works of no real meaning. Photos of his body, i.e. when falling amonst others (Landscape adjusts to him) punches own reflection until mirror breaks. Bit himself then printed teeth marks. Intersection of public/private space and turning gallery into something else with items from apartment. Mail delivery to exhibition space.

James Coleman Using film, video and sound; avoids static images. 'Flash' of light at different intervals but cannot be detected as measured time and real time are usually different. Subjective perception.  'Memory Piece' demonstrates how mind retains memories imperfectly, engenders change and loss as it accumulates, filters, transmits and distorts. Present, past and future imbued within film of empty bucket filling with water. View of empty square with audio of various people's description of view but spoken by same person. Underlines different perceptions articulated  in different ways. The aggreate of differing viewpoints makes the whole. "Two seagulls or one twice' Video loop of bird doing circle or two birds. Clara & Dario idea of re-visiting place where they met.  Dialogue edited in chunks faces sometimes responding. Thought in present, past and future desires, through repetition turns back on itself whilst still moving forward. Jack Dempsey/Gene Tunney fight sequence. Reiterates clash with self and society. "So different ...and yet" illusions through the medium that perpetrates it.

Maria Nordman Seeking alternatives to 2D and 3D representtions looked to public spaces with Found Rooms.  Light illuminating black moveable walls. 2-way mirror seeing through it at night and vice versa in the day becoming both screen and image.  Sunlight primary force. Minimize the interval between viewer and object viewed, thus involving viewing in the artwork.


Site specific installations.  Schwitters Merzbeau his own home with installations, like a walk-in collage.  Mondrian's Salon de Mme B was realized for PPace Gallery from his drawings, producing reduced harmonies relationships.  Today could almost be seen as modular building.  Kaprow, Fontana and Yves Klein, looked at space in this way.  Flavin used fluorescent light.  Sol le Witt's mural takes the wall as the support.  Blinky Palermo's installations varied with the architecture of the space.  Anselme - The word 'particalare' projected on to various objects and walls.  Rober Smithson (eathwork) Spiral Jetty at Gt Salt Lake, Utah.  Broodthaers Museum of the Eagle bringing many objects together unified only by the eagle, paintings culptures, comics, museum exhibits,s cigar boxes etc.  By labelling them 'not art' refers to Magritte cecin'est ppas une pipe and M. Duchamp's urinal exhibiting as art ' because he said so'. Broodthauers effectively gave credence to the eagle by legitimizing it's entry as an exhibit in his fictional museum.  Thus the comparison is made between art and its origin and its apparent financial value.  Daniel Buren Green and White striped pieces stuck up in various locations throughout Paris. Asher sculpture revealing reality. Baumgarten reappraised 2-D and 3D, using language. Pyramids 1 ft high in various colours, left to fall apart, thus pyramids are non-lasting. New objects from diverse things as Picasso's bull's head with saddle and handlebars, i.e. manipulated reality. Tropical plants with full listing of social, geographical, historical, and cultural background rather than just the Latin name of the plants. John Knight, closed circuit video. Language, light and architecture. Hans Haacke - sculptures requiring external stimuli to make them perform, i.e. steam, air, gravity, water. Listing life of painting from studio to eventual resting place. Exposes lnks between business and art.In short these artists challenge the status quo through overt political and social questioning.

In my view the art movement hiccoughed and lost its way in the 60s and 70s probably up until the beginning of the 21st century when fortunately it has become clear that visual art has restored itself. Liberation from consumerism, and effectively individualism by the rejection of the authorial, that these artists sought was never going to be achieved. However their observations on reality have opened up dynamic ways of considering who and where we are. I would like to think that considerations of our environment and what we are doing to it could be, in part, due to their questioning ideas. 

Nonetheless I have no doubt that as the century progresses we will see more and more e-art.  People might think that art can't or shouldn't be bought and owned and hung on the wall.  Yes it can.  Not only is it possible to affix frames for electronic "pictures" but it is also possible to effectively have electronic wallpaper, which I saw displayed in an office in London recently.  An object, i.e. a sculpture might also be used in this way to display art.  Whether or not it becomes something that is owned ubiquitously is a matter for speculation.  The internet is showing, through social networks, how that might be achieved, but does the person/artist, spending hours producing it and money purchasing equipment with which to work, want no recompense? That would be altruism.  The future is tremendously exciting and artists such as Julian Opie is already showing the way.

IDEA: The planet picture (collage) being eaten by veracious ad hoardings and products, like a tsunami.

I think it likely that we won't be redefining reality but re-structuring it, and maybe with some positive outcomes. Horror fatigue means we need art as a cajoling stick. Sadly, it will not change anything, but may act as a refuge for reflection, before consumerism consumes, and if that happens I don't want to be looking at a till receipt.

1 p.12 Rorimer, Anne - New art in the 60s and 70s - Redefining Reality, Thames and Hudson 2001
2 p.32  Ditto
3 p 32  Ditto
4 p.94 Kosuth  - Ditto
5 p.98  Ditto
6 p.148 Ditto
7 p.177 Ditto
8 p. 200 Ditto

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