The artistic culture of the USA from the postwar years constitutes, in its various connotations and language directions, a historical phenomenon of fundamental importance on the international scene.
Against the backdrop of an increasingly intense dialectical relationship with the European world in the growing flow of intellectual emigration with the outbreak of the Second World War, the Art of this Century Gallery, opened in New York by Peggy Guggenheim, curating, among other initiatives, a series of solo exhibitions, from 1943 to 1946, by J. Pollock, W. Baziotes, R. Motherwell, H. Hofmann, C. Still, M. Rothko, stands as the fulcrum of the nascent movement that is usual, by the way, define abstract – expressionism(abstract expressionism): in the relativity of terminological schematizations, from time to time too restrictive or extensive with respect to the entity of the phenomenon, this too reflects a historical-critical inadequacy, limiting itself to emphasizing, among the complex components, the emotional implications in the process of abstraction.
The artists mentioned, together with A. Gorky, A. Gottlieb, W. De Kooning, B. Newman, T. Stamos, are the different, and sometimes divergent, protagonists of American type painting which, in extricating itself from expressionist realism and modernism academic, will be expressed in an existential accentuation of the work, understood as an individual feeling, liberation of the being in a contrast to the environment, adverse or unknown, and in an absolute pictorial freedom.
Characterized by disparate cultural origins, but sharing a common atmosphere of problems which, on the themes of social commitment (think of the figurative incisiveness of B. Shahn) and the subconscious, had marked the years of the Depression, they, in a climate of social and aesthetic crisis, around 1943, at an already mature age, with some exceptions, many facets and different duration, reach a mythical vision of life. Considering art a risky adventure in the unknown world of the imagination, alien to illusions and opposed to finalized pragmatism, in the peremptory nature of the painting surface, they affirm the validity of the exploration of primitive art, with its tendency to abstraction, and ancient myths, tragic and eternal themes, underlining the strength of archaism, with his primordial fantasies, and, in the cyclic cosmic rhythm, the trust in the collective symbol of the dream subconscious, in an automatic transcription of images. In this immediate context is the reference to the sources of Surrealism, known not only through the poetics or works – particularly those of J. Miró and P. Picasso had a particular impact – but also through the direct presence of artists and theorists such as A. Breton, M. Ernst, A. Masson, S. Matta, J. Miró, Y. Tanguy, etc., while the contribution of JD Graham should not be underestimated for the knowledge of the European avant-gardes and the reflection on the expressive qualities of color and above all of H. Hofmann, with his drained paintings.
Gorky, whom WC Seitz rightly defined an abstract surrealist in the catalog drawn up for the 1962 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, can be considered the link between European culture and new American art. From the formulation of a biomorphic painting that refers to known morphologies, he reinvents a system of signs, sinuous and vitalistic, which impose themselves with a personal charge in the structure and in the color, which sometimes arrives to overflow beyond the margins, in trickle contents to gouache. His cryptograms, acutely expressed in the flow of ancestral memories, of lyrical emotionality, pass from signs that draw their meaning from the world of the unconscious, to signs that are no longer significant, but related to the inner motion of the psychic dimension of the indistinct.
At the end of the 1940s we witness a gradual abandonment, by some of the artists mentioned, of primitive fantasies, dreams of ancient rites, mythical symbols, in the emergence of an original language: in the vital communication of man with the cosmos, painting discovers new resources in the writing of the image-sign by investing the same creative act, intensely lived, with an expressive value, with primeval power. In the conception of art as experience and experimentation of the means available, in a pure act understood as existing, the moment in which the gesture of painting concretizes the form, mobile, in continuous transformation, in its unrepeatable singularity of the hic et nunc. The refusal of mediocrity is embodied in a commitment to the pictorial act, a significant presence of the artist’s autonomy who unloads his professional fury against the reality of preordained projects: the extreme faith in the possibility of “action” induces H. Rosenberg to initiate an essay that appeared on Art News in December 1952 The American action painters. In these new perspectives, the exponents of American painting (Baziotes, Motherwell, Newman, Rothko, with the collaboration of Sill for the formulation of the plan, in 1948 founded a school in New York, Subjects of the Artists, which later became The Club) undertake different paths that can synthetically converge in two ways. The two paths already indicated in some way by Rosenberg himself and later, in 1956, by M. Shapiro, lead one to the more explicit and drawn gestures and to the material density, for example, of Pollock, De Kooning and therefore of F. Kline, the other to the sensitivity contained in fields of dominant colors, with a reduced pictorial dynamic, by Rothko, Still, Newman, Ad Reinhardt, as specified in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Assuming the canvas, spread out on the floor, as an arena in which to act, Pollock, in a ritual process, tackles it, starting from 1946, with the dripping technique, replacing traditional industrial paint mixes, and penetrates it by weaving the surface through a dynamic alchemy of signs, threads and labyrinthine tangles of dripped color, in a linear continuity of all – over spaces(covered in every point). De Kooning expresses his violent vital and chromatic energy in impetuous gestures that attack the image and space with dizzying abstractions, in a rush of brutal distortion of form, full of existential tensions. Kline, in a reduced chromatic palette, projects on the white screen of the canvas grave macrosigns, vectors of forces that collide, gestures of a condition of revolt which, on an epic scale, Motherwell, among other acute writer, has proposed since 1949 in the open series Elegies for the Spanish Republic. On the other hand, Rothko, in an essentialization that aims at an almost theological, “transcendental” aesthetic quality, leads abstraction into chromatic superimpositions of horizontal rectangles, tempered oils with frayed edges, on expanded fields of color that allude to infinity, quantity of light for new spatial dimensions in the buttons internal counterpoints between background and image. Newman’s canvases, ideal icons, are qualified in drafts of total color, sensitized or compact, mostly punctuated by vertical stripes, of contrasting value and shades, in the presentation of a “sublime abstract”. Still’s densely painted surfaces are crossed by patches of pictorial flows, luminous cracks in the progressive chromatic reduction. In a purist severity, extraneous to expressionistic emotionality,
While Pollock and De Kooning bring the painting to expand beyond the frame in a total spatial involvement, as an environmental event through the acceleration of the sign and the monumental breadth of the scale, Rothko, Newman, Still, Reinhardt, in pictorial fields equally large, they operate as a slowing down of forms in dominant chromatic zones, which essentialize sensations of motion and stillness in a more mysterious perception.
Parallel to the exponents of the New York School, M. Tobey, of the Pacific school, on a different cultural humus and with a different psychological attitude, almost of mystical contemplation, takes on the calligraphy of the signs of Far Eastern art, extrapolating them from their original area semantics: under the influence of Zen principles, also received in other ways by M. Graves, the micro-sign, repeated endlessly, with small brush strokes, in imperceptible variations, unfolds in a more or less dense warp, articulating moments of existence and manifesting “the universality of consciousness” including the unity and reciprocity of the whole, in a “fusion of the rhythm of the spirit with the movement of living things”.
In the Action painting line, among colored spots of different material quality, further acquisitions are made with Ph. Guston, J. Brooks, BW Tomlin, J. Tworkov, L. Rivers, E. Frankenthaler, S. Francis, G. Hartigan, L. Johnson, L. Krasner, C. Marca-Relli, J. Mitchell, E. Vicente, etc. In his restless pictorial process, Guston reaffirms: “Just as one travels towards a state of ‘non-freedom’ where only certain things can happen, inexplicably the unknown element and freedom must appear…”.
Even in the sculptural field, in the predominant influence of surrealism and constructivism, in conjunction with the various researches of L. Lippold, I. Noguchi, J. de Rivera and also of A. Calder, faber and ludens artist, who with his ” gay science “alongside stabiles and mobiles, in a poetic cosmogony of images animated by the breath of air in the magic of movement, an abstract expressionistically intoned discourse emerges in the late 1940s by D. Smith, T. Roszak, I. Lassaw, S. Lipton, H. Ferber, D. Hare, R. Nakian, etc. In the use of metals, such as iron and steel, treated with a consummate mastery of welding techniques, or lead and bronze, cast and melted, these sculptors, in highlighting the dynamics of the creative act and in subverting the traditional conception of the plastic volume, reveal a remarkable variety of results in space modeling. Roszak’s acute linear tensions cut through the air with bristling points, while Lassaw’s “spatial sculptures” carry out perforated weaves of curved threads and tangles of materials, in a three-dimensional drawing of interpenetrating planes. Lipton’s grave figures are condensed into “curved and crumpled forms in development, not completely unwound”, with the inclusion of surreal motifs, present, in a different context, also in D. Hare. Ferber’s ascending and angular hieroglyphs tear the space; Nakian’s dense images live in a material thickness. The works of D. Smith are articulated in an always renewed invention which, through a process of geometric simplification, will give rise to the series ofCubi, significant for the primary structures, on a monumental scale, with burnished or colored surfaces, differently sensitized to light by working with the electric brush.
The end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, through a gradual reaction to “expressiveness” in the name of “visual”, are declined in the presentation of the perceptual structure of pictorial or social communication, in an “anti-sensitivity” perspective. A de-gesturizing remedy of Pollock’s surface and a reconsideration of the color-light-space synthesis of the so-called Field painters (Newman, Reinhardt, Rothko, Still) lead, through different channels, to an objective abstraction, an antidote to the previous subjective tension, which will result in the reductivism of minimal art. The white canvas, stretched over the frame in its absolute form, becomes the field on which a spatial situation takes shape, stirred by the strength of the colors, in a purely visual assumption of the dialogue between support and image. In this direction, beyond the different variations on geometric themes by J. Albers, S. Davis, B. Diller, LP Smith, etc., the forerunners in their essentiality reveal, for example, the narrow, vertical canvases of Newman, the combinations of monochrome panels, black and white, by R. Rauschenberg, exhibited in 1951, which eliminate sensory perception and those in single color by E. Kelly of 1952, the black on black structures by Reinhardt dating from 1954, the Flagspainted by J. Johns of 1954-55, who, assuming a collective symbol, fixes it, beyond the semantic value, in its optical attributes, with a result full of implications that prelude not only to the new abstraction, but also, for the use of a current image, to Pop Art.
A series of exhibitions organized by C. Greenberg in the years 1959-60, with works by Newman, Gottlieb, M. Louis and K. Noland, favor the new climate, which, further connoted in the critical text by HH Arnason for the American abstract review expressionists and imagists of 1961 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, consolidated in terms of museum recognition in 1963 with the Toward a new abstraction exhibition, curated by A. Solomon, at the Jewish Museum of New York which houses painters such as Al Held, E Kelly, M. Louis, K. Noland, R. Parker, F. Stella, etc.: in the catalog Ben Heller talks about “conceptual approach to painting”. The following year, Greenberg himself, by pointing out his aesthetic theory, organized the exhibitionPost painterly abstraction at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, including works by Al Held, E. Kelly, K. Noland, F. Stella, J. Olitski, H. Frankenthaler, R. Parker, G. Davis, E. Avedisian, WD Bannard, S. Francis, P. Feeley, F. Dzubas, etc.: in the establishment of a painting alien to illusionistic ambiguities, Greenberg places as basic elements, on the essential datum of two-dimensionality, linear clarity, the evidence of defined forms, the “optical” color to the point of monotony and its delimitation.
Within Wölffin’s cyclic theory, he sees in abstract expressionism a pictorial style supplanted by the linear of the current abstraction in such a broad meaning as to include the various facets of the phenomenon. In fact, the exploration of the visual qualities intrinsic to the color medium only for the need of schematization can be grouped into sectors, often overlapping or intersecting: with the development of the spot technique, the color – fieldspermeated with a subtle lyrical sensibility, in the soft expansion of diluted solutions on the canvas of diffused luminosity in E. Frankenthaler, they are declined in a new spatiality of a vast chromatic range in the fluid veils and in the streams of color, according to the inclination of the canvas, of M. Louis, transposed from emotional vehicles to iconic objectivity. Noland’s more structured and exact forms, related to an intellectual rigor, dialectize, especially in the bands, the focus of the image and its chromatic expansion beyond the framing edges, while Olitski’s surfaces present atmospheric effects of flickering brightness.
In harmony with the concreteness of Albers’ visual space, the intensity of color combined with an austere formal logic is called Hard edge painting: the term coined by J. Langsner in a broader semantic sense, is applied by 1959-60 to this aspect of American research which combines in a unitary process the fullness of the color fielded on the surface with shapes with clear outlines, in a substantial equivalence of symmetrical patterns or asymmetrical figures. The oil paintings by E. Kelly that he draws with color, in his optical evidence, are flanked by the works of LP Smith, Al Held, F. Stella, A. Liberman, A. Martin, etc. and in the sculptural field of G. Sugarman.
Again from an exhibition The shaped canvas at the Guggenheim Museum in 1964 derives the terminology to indicate, in the constant pictorial flatness, the use of shaped canvases not only in the profile of the frame, but also with respect to the plane, moved at different spatial levels with projections or Volumetric recesses determined by the pressure of elements in tension, which creating a plastic support accentuate the object quality of the painting in a concatenation between the pictorial surface, sculptural volume and carpentry. This sector includes artists such as C. Hinman, P. Feely, etc.; the freest variations are played in the “deductive structures” (M. Fried) by F. Stella.
In the intertwining of the different researches and in the wake of the opticokinetic art which presupposes changes of images in the perceptive act of the viewer both at the level of pure Gestalt illusionism and at the level of parts actually moving in time and space, through mechanical devices, records the 1965 exhibition The responsive eye, organized by WC Seitz at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where alongside works by the pioneers V. Vasarely, Albers, JR Soto and others, there are those of younger American artists such as R. Anuszkiewicz, L. Poons, etc.
Yet another codification occurs in the Sistemic painting exhibition at the end of 1966 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York: echoing the sculpture exhibition Primary structures, the curator L. Alloway presents the most reductive research in the sector of non-modulated monochromes or schemes regulated in elementary forms, proposed in the repetitive seriality of an organized system. This process, which implies, even in the recurring module, a variety in the criteria of continuity and progression, suggests to Alloway the definition of “single-image” art in a “systemic” procedure that marks the personal imprint inherent in the conceptual order of each artist (Reinhardt, Newman, Noland, Kelly, Stella, A. Martin, J. Baer, R. Mangold, R. Ryman, L. Zox, and others).
At the end of the 1950s, at the same time as painting which began to objectify and objectify itself, a trend emerges in the area of a reinterpretation of the relationship with urban reality that founds its existential term of comparison in the concrete image of objects of consumption assumed by the banal everyday and re-proposed manipulated, as provocative, different, and at times desperate appropriation of the totalizing consumerism of an industrialized society and as evidence of unexpected values of the common or discarded object. New Dada or New Dadaism is usually called, restrictively, this phenomenon, the main protagonists of which are R. Rauschenberg and J. Johns, who contact the object through the pictorial gesture or the objectifying perception.
In an attitude of radical extremism in addressing the terms of their work, in addition to the formal debt towards Action painting, even if aimed at a new signification and limited to the relationship with an image-object that highlights its semanticity and the usury of experience, in the imposition of a figuration, the alternative content already proposed, in other respects, should be pointed out, for example, by L. Rivers, as well as by De Kooning, with the introduction of themes derived from American popular myth. In the encounter-clash with the external world, the artist’s action is poured out on the object, a symbol of modern fetishism, estranged from its original functionality or worn out by use, but alive in its materiality, combining, in the formulation of image, the object element (risen from a referential support to the protagonist of the work) and the painting element in a mutual tension, with results that reveal thecombine paintings by Rauschenberg or the metaphysical emblematicity and fixity of Johns’ symbols.
In the context of Junk – culture(definition by L. Alloway), the use of materials taken from waste deposits, emblem of the artificial culture of the city, of the condition of the artist in society and of his attitude towards him, becomes emphatic in the scrap of pieces of welded machinery by R. Stankiewicz or in the colored bodies of compressed and modeled cars by J. Chamberlain, while A. Kaprow, denouncing the inexorable but obligatory rhythm of decline and disuse, exalts the use of the most perishable materials so that even the early work can end up in the garbage. On the other hand, in the poetics of the wreck as a sign of withdrawing from the logic of mechanistic functionality, the montages of pieces of wood by L. Nevelson give the residues of a vanished craftsmanship a flavor of memory, blocked by black patinas,
The assumption and “recognition” of objects in the context of reality is orchestrated by the linguistic instrumentation of assemblage, almost always permeated with emotional participation: The art of assemblage is precisely the title of the exhibition held in 1961 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York by WC Seitz (exhibit, among others, Nevelson, Stankiewicz, Chamberlain, M. di Suvero, R. Mallary, L. Bontecou, E. Kienholz, B. Conner) which constitutes a first historicization of the phenomenon and a comparison with the Nouveau Réalisme will bring together different experiences in the definition of New Realism.
In the combination of personal images, full of experience, with a chromatic sensitivity that enhances the objective pictorial quality of the colors, J. Dine expresses an intense and energetic fantasy. Mimicking the environment of everyday life, artistic research arrives at the show: in fact in a dimension of the world as a living theater, also participated by Rauschenberg through M. Cunningham and J. Cage who intended art as a revelation of life in its casual becoming, J. Dine, together with A. Kaprow (who is its theorist and initiator), C. Oldenburg, R. Whitman, R. Grooms, gives rise to a new form of total spectacle, that is, involving more arts, known as happening (event, happening). Aiming to capture a moment of the daily scene of the world, the happeninghe transfers the immediacy of Action painting to the direct and unexpected occurrence of an action which, involving in a real situation, places the accent on the theme of the environment, in a mobile assemblage. The work of the Fluxus group is significant, promoted by G. Maciunas and composed of G. Brecht, D. Higgins, A. Knowles, Ben (Vautier), La Monte Young, etc.
The pressing fall of images in the growing rhythm of the proliferation of mass communications, as an industry of the collective imagination, determines in the urban environment a monopolizing imposition of the material world of objects, idols of a culture of well-being in an opulent society. The popular artists stop their attention on this objective and visual panorama, with the mediation of Rauschenberg, Johns and Dine(definition already known, and applied towards the end of 1961 to some exponents of the new American situation, in particular New Yorker), who assume the contents, forms and techniques of “popular” culture (as intended for the community), with a detached objectivism. In exhibiting and mimicking the banality of this iconographic code, which has risen to a living myth of an organized consumer society, a restructuring of the mass perception takes place, which, investigating itself, exercises itself on the cold and mechanical linguistic tools of the typographic cliché, of the cast, the mold, photography, screen printing, etc., sharpening the optical skills in visual knowledge. The frozen irony of the formal-perceptive operation, simulating the fidelity of the reportage, fixes the object, anonymous in its quantification, at a different level from that of its daily existence or better still to that of its “image”, through an intentionality that parodies it immobilizes it in a static nature of a reified anti-object that contrasts with the accelerated transience of advertising use. In this way R. Lichtenstein, an impeccable, almost paradigmatic, technician of the vulgarity of information ofcomics, isolating the mechanical pointillism of the typographic screen, takes it as the graphic style of his comics, varying their frequency and articulating their potential. C. Oldenburg gives a farcical emphasis to his colorful food repertoire through an unreal monumental iconicity, which in J. Rosenquist’s billboards is realized in a reading highlighted in the dilation of the details and in the sectioning of the trompe image – l ‘ øil. A. Warhol, a consumer good himself, exhibits himself in the serial rhythms of photographic clichés, where the repetitive metaphor, marking the fast times of image absorption, also reveals its rapid obsolescence. The flat silhouettesby T. Wesselmann block voluptuary myths; the symbols of R. Indiana are fixed in a clear design and in a compact color of optical evidence. Samples of passages from the life of G. Segal freeze in the chalky casts of human figures in a ghostly theatrical fiction.
From a series of exhibitions that, in the New York and Californian fields, in 1962 allowed the debut of these and other exponents of Pop art, we arrive at the collective of 1963 entitled The popular image, curated by A. Solomon at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, including V. Blosum, G. Brecht, J. Dine, J. Johns, R. Lichtensten, C. Oldenburg, R. Rauschenberg, J. Rosenquist, A. Warhol, R. Watts, J. Wesley, T. Wesselman. In this area which merges with the New Figuration, we find, among others, with various implications, A. Katz, Marisol, W. Thiebaud, HC Westermann, R. Lindner.
Even in the completely different theme and in a dialectical cultural situation between contrast and assimilation, it is not difficult to detect stylistic elements similar to chromatic abstraction in Pop art, in a reciprocal influence in the analogous objective presentation of different communication tools on the ground of analysis of technical procedures, in which ideological categories and intentionality meet only apparently opposed, but in reality managed by a similar formal purpose.
As mentioned, in the sphere of sculpture the discourse on elementary units, signifying in themselves, carried out since the beginning of the 1960s, can be found in the Primary structures exhibition, in 1966, at the Jewish Museum in New York, curated by K. McShine, the recognition at museum level of exhibitors, American and English.
Accepting the assumption “less is more”, the artists take from industrial production reduced, primary elements, which spatially arrange on the ground or on the wall in serial cadences, determining linear rhythms and plastic quantities of full and empty which, in the resulting “structure” architectural, they incorporate the environment in a perceptive totality that varies with the change of the visual station. The term Minimal art, coined by R. Wollheim in 1965 to qualify some works of the 200th century with “low art content”, is applied to this type of research, not without reservations and different meanings by critics ; among other denominations that of LR Lippard, Rejective art, tends to emphasize the rejection of any interpretation, while B.. In a process of re-invention of the relationship between forms and space, the “definition” of the units takes place in the differentiated occupation or negation of the space realized, for example, by C. Andre, L. Bell, R. Bladen, W. De Maria, D. Flavin, R. Grosvenor, D. Judd, Sol LeWitt, J. McCracken, R. Morris, T. Smith, R. Smithson. These artists, in the repetitive use of standardized, rigid and symmetrical modules, ontological entities at times colored, often practicable as environments, if on the one hand, as D. Judd explained in the essay Specific objects of 1965, recovering a three-dimensional spatiality, combine works called also art – object, with non-referential titles, on the other hand, considering their work as “ideas that operate in space” (Grosvenor), they reveal a conceptualizing tendency and in the organizational attitude they open towards performance. The primary structures, imposed as an occupying presence in a monumental objectivity, also come to present themselves as process-structures to be mentally verified.
In contrast to the pure and essential forms, the Funk art trend, typical of the Pacific coast, which several years earlier with E. Kienholz and B. Conner, in a direction between assemblage and neorealism, had expressed alarming and repellent images in a ferocious transcription of human cruelty and social violence, it raises the banners of the sensory and the organic in the exhibition set up by P. Selz at the University Art Museum of Berkeley in April 1967 with complicated material works of surreal naturalism, produced by J. Anderson, R. Hudson, H. Paris, W. Wiley, etc.
Beyond the breaking of the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture, in the crisis of artistic techniques, an increasingly marked uncertainty of the aesthetic phenomenon arises which, in the alienation of the “dateness” of the product, sanctions the supremacy of the verbal over the visual. A clearly anti-object position is documented by the Non – anthropomorphic art exhibition at the Lannis Gallery in New York in February 1967: among the protagonists J. Kosuth declares the mental value of his work, understood as an idea, an abstract model: research, through linguistic propositions, argues art as a tautological system: “Art is Art, nothing more, nothing less”, “Art as Idea as Idea”. In June Sol LeWitt, in an essay on Artforum, connoting the art genre that favors the ideational processes of thought, coined the term Conceptual art: the primary value accorded to the concept makes its physical visualization regress to a cold mechanical operation, extraneous to any element of arbitrary subjectivity, to the point of entailing an indifference towards the physical objectification of the idea, and a dematerialization of art: ” the idea becomes a machine that creates art “. The goal is to mentally interest the viewer in a dynamic that can also associate a logical ideation with an illogical visual perception of the idea, making use of different tools, such as words, numbers, photographs, etc. The reflection on the nature of art thus shifts from assumptions of morphology to problems of “conception”: the figure of the artist faber has gone beyond, the conceptual has no limits in its mental operations, which involve the category of time as a cadence of the process and which manifest hermetic components in the self-referential character. Significant in this direction are the exhibitions held in New York in 1967 Language to be looked / Things to be read at the Dwan Gallery (with the participation of C. Andre, H. Darboven, W. De Maria, S. LeWitt, On Kawara, etc.) ; Art in series at Finch College, curated by Mel Bochner, which investigates the series as a suitable means to make one think about the relationships between things in space and time; and, among those at the Lannis Museum of Normal Art, 15 people present their favorite books, in which the book is proposed by Kosuth as a mediumfor a discourse on art and on art. By substituting information for the object, the book-catalog becomes the instrument of a communication expressed at different levels such as visualization of mental processes, conceptualization of immaterial events, space-time analysis, reflections on verbal language, etc.: S. Siegelaub promotes between 1968 and 1969 the publication of Xerox book, January 5 – 31 and March 1969, attesting works by C. Andre, M. Baldwin, R. Barry, D. Huebler, S. Kaltenback, J. Kosuth, C. Kozlov, S. LeWitt, R. Morris, R. Smithson, L. Weiner and others.
Between ideological controversies, in the name of anti-art, formulations of poetics and proposals for interventions that accelerate the changes in the process of individual artists, R. Morris, after his beginnings with W. De Maria, La Monte Young and Y. Rainer in performances “all over dance” at the Judson Memorial Church, and the minimal contribution, in 1968 defines Anti – forma tendency that in opposition to the rigidity of primary structures, to the pre-established rationalistic order, to the programmed technique, to the total conceptual dematerialization, highlights the intrinsic qualities of soft, elastic materials, already used, in other respects, by Oldenburg: the interaction between a direct manipulation of the fluid, obsolete, subaesthetic substances and their self-activation characterizes the ephemeral and occasional temporal “process” of the intervention-event, related precisely to the inherent properties of the materials themselves, to their random gravitational fall, to a fortuitous occurrence, in the intentional supremacy of the procedure over the result, whose formal substance sometimes reveals links with other trends.To the previous review in September 1966 Eccentric abstraction, curated by LR Lippard, at the Fischbach Gallery in New York, with “eccentric” works by A. Adams, L. Bourgeois, E. Hesse, G. Kuehn, B. Nauman, D. Potts, K. Sonnier, F. Viner, followed in 1968 by Anti – form at the J. Gibson Gallery in New York (E. Hesse, Panamarenko, R. Ryman, A. Saret, R. Serra, K. Sonnier, R. Tuttle); Soft and apparently soft sculpture, organized by LR Lippard for the American Federation of Arts; 9 at Leo Castelli, set up on the recommendation of Morris (B. Bollinger, E. Hesse, S. Kaltenbach, B. Nauman, A. Saret, R. Serra, K. Sonnier, as well as the Italians G. Anselmo and G. Zorio); in 1969, among many, Soft artat the State Museum of New Jersey (R. Artschwager, Sue Bitney, Chamberlain, Hesse, Morris, Oldenburg, Sonnier, Tuttle, W. Wegman) and Anti – illusion: Procedures / Materials at the Whitney Museum of American Art, also including two musicians, P. Glass and S. Reich, which welcomes heterogeneous phenomena between the anti – form and the conceptual, in the analogous intentionality of a work-process, implemented on the spot and therefore no longer repeatable.
Within the raw materialist in the repudiation of technological ideology – in Europe mirrored by Arte Povera (G. Celant) similarly to the poor theater of J. Grotowski – and in the wake of an article by R. Smithson, A sedimentation of the mind: earth projects, V. Dwan sets up Earth works in his gallery in October 1968, followed the following year by Earth artat Cornell University in Ithaca, with essays by W. Sharp and WC Lipke. The earth element, its “abstract geology”, its indiscriminate physicality, rises in different connotations through an artistic medium through a concrete occupation of space or a photographic documentation of direct interventions on nature: “the present… must … explore the pre- and post-historical mind; it must penetrate the places where remote futures meet remote pasts “(Smithson). In this direction, in addition to Smithson, C. Andre, W. De Maria, H. Haacke, M. Heizer, D. Huebler, S. Kaltenbach, S. LeWitt, R. Morris, D. Oppenheim, T. Smith, etc.
In the total distortion of the exhibition tradition and in the osmosis of various components with results that are not always uniquely definable, poor and impalpable materials combine ephemeral processes, while the term Land artby G. Schum in 1969, highlighting the passage from a material to the hyper-materialization of the environment, emphasizes the landscape as a boundless field for the artist’s action in an ambiguous position between disenchantment for the urban technology of products and its use in exploration terrestrial. Exterminated environments, frozen rivers or rocky mountains, desolate deserts, snowy expanses or unlimited meadows rise to places dedicated to macroscopic gestures or caducous hieroglyphs in a projection on nature, guardian of magical signs, of arcane rites, in an investigation of geological stratifications in the infinity of space and time, in putting into being a concept whose memory is objectified in a visual memory. In the meantime, the videotape joins photography and graphics, a “rich” document of the direct evolution of the intervention, a new artistic medium among the many that will be used, in an increasingly pressing fetishization of the Mcluhanian mass information technology, as an activation and extension of human perception, both at the level of experimentation artistic and alternative information. A further definition is proposed by J. Gibson with the Ecologic art exhibition (Andre, Christo, J. Dibbets, W. Insley, R. Long, Morris, Oldenburg, Oppenheim, Smithson, etc.). The first autonomous linguistic qualifications of videotapeare made, for example, by T. Riley, De Maria, Y. Rainer under the aegis of the Dilexi Foundation of San Francisco and the KQED television laboratory, or presented by WGBH-TV of Boston in the program Medium is the Medium (A. Kaprow, O. Piene, NJ Paik, S. Van Der Beek, etc.) or in the exhibition organized by H. Wise in 1969 TV as a Creative Medium (among others, Paik participates with TV Bra for living sculpture).
The dialogue between art, science and technology carried out for a long time in an order of theoretical and operational problems, as well as social ones, if it materializes in the second half of the Sixties in isolated objects variously connected to mechanical or electronic techniques; in the use of industrial materials (L. Bell, R. Davis, C. Kauffman, D. Wheeler); in the sometimes ethereal “mobile sculptures” by L. Lye, G. Rickey, WenYing Tsa’i; or in the context of Light art in the luminous structures of Chryssa, O. Piene, S. Antonakos, J. Seawright, or again in the environments of L. Samaras, S. Landsman, B. Mefferd, on the other hand it tends more and more to disengage from individual works to propose multimedia collective works of environment (Nine evenings:1966, The magic theater, at the Nelson Gallery Art in Kansas City; events related to the Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) program directed by B. Kluver and R. Whitman of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or produced at the Automation House center in New York).
In the underground sector of Freak culture, characterized by visionary painting, psychedelic for a “retinal orgasm” (T. Leary) or by the comic books of R. Clumb, the most advanced technology is directed by the USCO group to activate spaces through a multitude of phenomena in a sensory shock that alters the normal state of consciousness in a synaesthesia that mythologizes artificial paradises in a hallucinogenic pacification.
A series of exhibitions exemplify the various researches, beyond the emblematic self-destructing symbol of J. Tinguely ‘s Homage to New York of 1960: starting from 1968 they can be remembered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York The machine as seen at the end of the mechanical age, already staged in Stuttgart by KGP Hulten, a memory of the history of the machine in the foreshadowing of a new era of “chemical and electronic devices that mimic brain and nervous system processes”; Some more beginnings or even Spaces, a review by J. Licht of the antithetical operative interventions at the level of environmental art towards a progressive sensory deprivation aimed more at contemplation than action: the space objectively denoted by New Yorkers (fluorescent tubes by D. Flavin, earthen vases with fir trees in Morris’s growth) is understood by Californians in an immaterial direction as a field of elementary perceptual sensations (M. Asher, L. Bell), while the Pulsa group creates luminous environments played on the natural landscape. Furthermore, in addition to the Report on the art and technology program (1971) of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Rauschenberg, Whitman, Oldenburg, Mefferd, T. Smith), they are significant in 1970 Informationcurated by K. McShine at the Museum of Modern Art, which in the name of the historical-political crisis unleashes an offensive against painting and sculpture to present the most sophisticated electronic communication devices, and Software at the Jewish Museum, under the patronage of American Motors Company, with essays in the catalog by J. Burnham and HT Nelson: in the spirit of an organizing trend of quantities of energy and information, conceptual and behavioral artists are also invited such as Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Les Levine, V. Acconci, etc., while Haacke with his Visitor’s profile, in a socio-political assumption, computerizes the visitors’ answers to his programmed questions.
Right at the end of the 1960s, Body art, in refusing to delegate to any other kind of mediation, elects the human body as the expression of a direct communication in a psychophysical language which, through signs of an organic sensorial gesture, frees the being in the its totality in a performance outcome. The artist works with physical movements or with oral dialogues, in a pantomime that can end in a soliloquy or involve, in the process of behavior, the spectator with first-person performances (V. Acconci, B. Nauman, D. Oppenheim, I. Wilson, etc.).
A sum of some of the main movements that develop and intersect in the second half of the Sixties is proposed by LR Lippard in 1969 at the Seattle Art Museum 557087, while the Metropolitan Museum of New York offers New York painting and sculpture: 1940 – 1970.
visual impact or chromatic digressions in free drawing solutions or spots of color highlighted in its physical qualities or in the power of visual stimulation (among the many artists not mentioned before Dan Christensen, R. Duran, R. Diebenkorn, S. Gilliam, B. Al Bengston, E. Avedisian, C. Hill, A. Jensen, R. Irwin, D. Diao, R. Landfield, W. Pettet, H. Quaytman, A. Schields, K. Showell, P. Wofford). Furthermore, in a sector already explored by A. Katz, the promotion of photography as a source of visual repertoire, through the assimilation of his mechanical technique, leads to the translation of photographic information into a pictorial one, implicitly relegating the latter to the rank of one of the many techniques in the boundless phenomenology of image communication. The meticulous, minute mimetic process of Photo – Realism engages, in the wake of Pop art, on figurative subjects of the everyday environment, fixedly focused, with results more suited to an intellectualistic abstraction than to a tradition of pictorial realism. The works of J. Clem Clarke, Chuck Close, R. Cottingham, R. Estes, J. Kacere, A. Leslie, M. Morley, P. Pearlstein, etc. reflect, at different levels, the goal of an extreme verisimilitude, literal and non-critical, denoted by prefixes such as Hyper, Super, Radical – Realism (exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, 1971) or Sharp – Focus Realism(exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, 1972). The sculptural equivalent, represented by J. De Andrea and D. Hansen, makes use of casts of the human body, in polyester resins and glass fibers, sometimes covered with real clothes, in an ambiguous illusionism between reality and artifice, sometimes in chilling images of the Vietnamese scene. A retrospective of the new figuration was staged in 1974 at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.
In the interpretative potential of the latest events, in a coexistence of opposite directions, the research is exercised in the analytical reflection of the technical and ideological apparatuses of the reports, new icons to be deciphered, often in an attitude of demystification, which in turn can be demystified, in a predominant critical tendency inclined to reify linguistic references and to re-semantize signs. The distortion of roles, which involves the artist as well as the critic, the dichotomy between lasting and ephemeral, broken the banks between art and other phenomena, proceed to the s-definition of art in the protean sea of transience and consciously sought-after excess or repeated, in a mismatch between non-aesthetic objectives and their use as “new” cultural assets. In the’ and as art “(H. Rosenberg), in the oscillation between maximum introspection or objectivity, in the programmed perspective of B. Fuller’s” World Game “of” a total environment for the total man “, theorized by G. Youngblood in the consideration “of the spaceship earth as a work of art”, the philosophical, psychological, social anxiety of inexhaustible rites, new myths, of the avant-garde in the sign of Duchampian or Marinettian or surreal is consumed, in the most sophisticated systems of communication direct or metaphorical, in the stratification of alternative languages in a language of research and in making art “uncreated” or “the absence” of art.