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Article

Benjamin Flowers

Term for the diverse body of social theory based on the work of the German socialist and political economist Karl Marx (1818–83) and his collaborator Friedrich Engels (1820–95). Although commonly associated with political movements, Marxism also had an important impact on cultural production. Marxism continues to influence both the creation of art and architecture in the USA, and perhaps more importantly in this geographic and social context, its reception.

Marx, a voluminous thinker and writer, did not leave behind a major body of work addressing art. It was the project of many of those who came after Marx to articulate how Marxism, as a mode of social analysis, could shed light on the processes of artistic production and the interpretation of its significance. While Marx was confident that art was one of the ‘ideological forms’ through which class conflict took place, he also recognized that artistic development in societies did not depend exclusively on the form of social organization. The task for the heirs of the Marxist tradition was to determine how his insights into the ways capitalism revolutionized social relations, economic conditions, and political reality offered new approaches to understanding the labours of art and architecture....

Article

Nadja Rottner

French critic and philosopher Nicolas Bourriaud adopted the term ‘relational aesthetics’ in the mid-1990s to refer to the work of a selected group of artists, and what he considers their novel approach to a socially conscious art of participation: an art that takes as its content the human relations elicited by the artwork. Its key practitioners, most of them emerging in the 1990s, include Rirkrit Tiravanija , Philippe Parreno (b 1964), Liam Gillick, Pierre Huyghe, Maurizio Cattelan, Carsten Höller , and Vanessa Beecroft . For example, Carsten Höller installed Test Site (2006) at the Tate Modern in London so that visitors could enjoy the amusement park thrill of large playground slides in the museum’s Turbine Hall, and bond with fellow viewers over their experience. Bourriaud’s collected writings in Relational Aesthetics (1998, Eng. edn 2002) helped to spark a new wave of interest in participatory art.

While Bourriaud omits acknowledging the historical roots of relational art, Marxist-influenced critiques of the changing conditions of modern life, and arguments for art’s ability to improve man’s relationship with reality have a long history in 20th-century art. Critics Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer were among the first to developed new models for an art of politicized participation in the 1920s. The relational art of the 1990s and early 2000s is a continuation and an extension of traditions of participatory art throughout the 20th century (such as ...

Article

Monica McTighe

(b New York City, Jan 16, 1933; d New York City, Dec 28, 2004).

American writer and critic. Born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City, she was raised in Arizona and California. She entered college at the age of 15 and received a BA from the University of Chicago in 1951. She earned MA degrees in English and Philosophy from Harvard University in 1954 and 1955, respectively. In the late 1950s she attended Oxford University for a year. Sontag married sociologist Philip Rieff in 1951 with whom she had a son. After their divorce she settled in New York City. Sontag was a noted cultural critic and public intellectual. Although best known for her essays, especially ‘Notes on Camp’ published in Partisan Review in 1964, she also wrote books of non-fiction, novels, and plays, and directed theatre productions and films.

Sontag’s On Photography (1977) earned her a reputation as an influential critic of photography. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award in ...