Formless: A User's Guide

Formless: A User's Guide

Yve-Alain Bois, Rosalind E. Krauss

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0942299442

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Although it is more than sixty years since Georges Bataille undertook his philosophical development of the term informe, only in recent years has the idea of the "formless" been deployed in the theorizing and reconfiguring of twentieth-century art. In Formless: A User's Guide, Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss present a rich and compelling panorama of the formless. They chart its persistence within a history of modernism that has always repressed it in the interest of privileging formal mastery, and they assess its destiny within current artistic production. In the domain of practice, they analyze it as an operational tool, the structural cunning of which has repeatedly been suppressed in the service of a thematics of art. Neither theme nor form, formless is, as Bataille himself expressed it, a "job." The job of Formless: A User's Guide is to explore the power of the informe. A stunning new map of twentieth-century art emerges from this reconceptualization and from the brilliantly original analyses of the work of Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Lucio Fontana, Cindy Sherman, Claes Oldenburg, Jean Dubuffet, Robert Smithson, and Gordon Matta-Clark, among others.

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lecture in 1970; Smithson's "Monuments of Passaic" was written in 1967Caillois's argument reaches back to his earliest, brilliant essa)'s from Mlnoraure, which W('ft' published in the 1930s, ,lfiduse er (ir (Medusa & CO,), his 1960 book on the phenomenon of animal mimicry which expanded the ideas of his 1935 "Mimicry and Legendar)' PS)Thasthenia," works on some of the same material that now concerns him in relation to entropy. namcl~". the diss~'mm('­ tr)' between Id't and right that runs right

back from the rightward spiraling of the galaxies, through the superior dcxterit), of the right 71 sillt' of hUlllan"" 00\\ n to tht' pn·fl·rt'IlCe for till' right hJIt of tl1l' nucleic chJin in the dwmiral cumpound", that makl' up life. i Thi~ hridge to tht, sunject of mimicr~', plus thl' nat un' of the two l'xampit's. Pdrticularl~' Smithson's, could gin' thl' impn'~sion that l'ntropy'.\ import i~ pJrticularl~' ,l("U\t' for \'isual analysis and mo~t l'spl'ciall~' fur thdt which concerns

c1ose-up. - ko,'ps propelling its.'I1· off the corn"r "f th" sludio and lowanl Ihe ramora and Ihen slamming hack"ard inlo the walls again. As Ihis motion rep,·als. Ih,· torso hegins to folio" Ihe palh of Duchamp's printed spirals. laking un Ih,· char acier of a hod" part sopara",d 011 l'rom the..' n'st of Naurnan's pt"rson - now appl'aring olS a bcating h"arl, no" as an cxpanding and conlracting lung. now as a snual organ. This pulsalilo dl'eci is also al work in lip Sj'nch (1969), in which

toward the transcendental, which always tril~S to r(,cupl~rate the ('xcrC'· m,'ntal, or th,' salTilleial fall, h~' Tl'making it as rheme, (Se,' "HguTl'" ano "Conclusion: The J)estin~' or the Informc.") o Olympia RMallnJ E. I\rau.'" And if Cy TwolllbI~''s OlympIa said. as "\'Cr~'on,' had alway, thought, ·~~?I~:mpi.t" and "moree," would those..' two WOT?S - in t,h,e. s~ggl'~­ interaction and in the St'ttingfo~th of thi." proper name - ha,l' undermined the work of the gramti mark as scato,

th,' sidewalks (th,' ray gun is an essentially urban pieCl' oftrash: Oldenburg produced their anagram as Nug Yar: New York). hen better: he did not nen need to collect them himself; he could ask his friends to bring them to him (he accepted or refuS(·d a find, based on purcly subjectiw criteria). Finall)'. there arc all the ray guns one cannot move - splotches on the ground, holes in the wall, torn posters - hut which one might photograph, The "imentory" is potcntiall)' infinite, And what should

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