Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism

I am thrilled to announce that my first monograph, Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism, will be published in December by Routledge. The book, based on my doctoral dissertation, is structured around four distinct but interrelated projects initially realized in Italy between 1966 and 1972: Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Newspaper Sphere (Sfera di giornali), Robert Smithson’s Asphalt Rundown, and Joseph Beuys’s Arena. These works all utilized … Continue reading Sculptural Materiality in the Age of Conceptualism

Destroy the Picture. Create the Object.

Alberto Burri, Combustione plastica (Plastic Combustion), 1958, Plastic, acrylic, burns on canvas. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Alberto Burri, Combustione plastica (Plastic Combustion), 1958, Plastic, acrylic, burns on canvas.

Painting is something I rarely think about, or rather is an area of art production that I admire from a distance; having little interest in the issues that most commonly dominate its discussion – image, representation, flatness, etc. This is a gross oversimplification and no doubt a sign of medium narrow-mindedness on my part, but having admitted it all the same, you might understand my surprise at being FLOORED by a painting exhibition this past week (so floored, in fact, I visited it three times in five days).

The exhibition in question was Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962, the last show Paul Schimmel organized for the embattled Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Bringing together American, European, and Japanese artists, Destroy the Picture, as its title suggests, focuses on the literal and conceptual assault of the picture plane in postwar art, and suggests this formal turn was very much a psychological, existential response to a world drastically altered by the events of WWII. As Schimmel writes in his catalogue essay, “Destruction was in a dialectical relationship with creation, and the void was a space of potentiality. From the embers of destruction of the picture plane emerged a medium reborn that powerfully registered the complex experience of living in a world perched on the brink of self-annihilation.”¹ Continue reading “Destroy the Picture. Create the Object.”