Archive for the ‘ A ’ Category

THEODOR ADORNO

Dates: 1903-1969

Nationality: German

Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund Adorno (September 11, 1903 – August 6, 1969) was a German-born international sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist. He was a member of the Frankfurt School of social theory along with Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas, and others. He was also the Music Director of the Radio Project from 1937 to 1941, in the U.S. Already as a young music critic and amateur sociologist, Adorno considered himself primarily a philosophical thinker.

Whilst Adorno’s work focuses on art, literature and music as key areas of sensual, indirect critique of the established culture and modes of thought, there is also a strand of distinctly political utopianism evident in his reflections especially on history. The argument, which is complex and dialectic, dominates his Aesthetic Theory, Philosophy of New Music and many other works.

Adorno saw the culture industry as an arena in which critical tendencies or potentialities were eliminated. He argued that the culture industry, which produced and circulated cultural commodities through the mass media, manipulated the population. Popular culture was identified as a reason why people become passive; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture made people docile and content, no matter how terrible their economic circumstances. The differences among cultural goods make them appear different, but they are in fact just variations on the same theme. He wrote that “the same thing is offered to everybody by the standardised production of consumption goods” but this is concealed under “the manipulation of taste and the official culture’s pretense of individualism.” Adorno conceptualized this phenomenon as pseudo-individualization and the always-the-same. He saw this mass-produced culture as a danger to the more difficult high arts. Culture industries cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity, and genuine happiness. But the subtle dialectician was also able to say that the problem with capitalism was that it blurred the line between false and true needs altogether.

The work of Adorno and Horkheimer heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies. At the time Adorno began writing, there was a tremendous unease among many intellectuals as to the results of mass culture and mass production on the character of individuals within a nation. By exploring the mechanisms for the creation of mass culture, Adorno presented a framework which gave specific terms to what had been a more general concern.

At the time this was considered important because of the role which the state took in cultural production; Adorno’s analysis allowed for a critique of mass culture from the left which balanced the critique of popular culture from the right. From both perspectives — left and right — the nature of cultural production was felt to be at the root of social and moral problems resulting from the consumption of culture. However, while the critique from the right emphasized moral degeneracy ascribed to sexual and racial influences within popular culture, Adorno located the problem not with the content, but with the objective realities of the production of mass culture and its effects, e.g. as a form of reverse psychology.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Theodor W. Adorno’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 December 2010, 09:54 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Theodor_W._Adorno&oldid=401422585>

ABJECT ART

Dates: 1993-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: Louise Bourgeois, Jake and Dinos Chapman

The abject is a complex psychological, philosophical and linguistic concept developed by Julia Kristeva in her 1980 book Powers of Horror. She was partly influenced by the earlier ideas of the French writer, thinker and dissident Surrealist, Georges Bataille. It can be said very simply that the abject consists of those elements, particularly of the body, that transgress and threaten our sense of cleanliness and propriety. Kristeva herself commented ‘refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live’. In practice the abject covers all the bodily functions, or aspects of the body, that are deemed impure or inappropriate for public display or discussion. The abject has a strong feminist context, in that female bodily functions in particular are ‘abjected’ by a patriarchal social order. In the 1980s and 1990s many artists became aware of this theory and reflected it in their work. In 1993 the Whitney Museum, New York, staged an exhibition titled Abject Art: Repulsion and Desire in American Art, which gave the term a wider currency in art. Cindy Sherman is seen as a key contributor to the abject in art, as well as many others including Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick, Paul McCarthy, Gilbert & George, Robert Gober, Carolee Schneemann, Kiki Smith and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

“Abject art.” Tate.org.uk. Tate.org.uk. 12 March 2010. <www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/definition.jsp?entryId=7>

Jake and Dinos Chapman

ABSTRACT ILLUSIONISM

Dates: 1975-1985

Origin: United States

Key Artists: Michael B. Gallagher, Jack Reilly

Abstract Illusionism, a name coined by Louis K. Meisel, is an artistic movement that came into prominence in the United States during the mid 1970s. Works consisted of both hard-edge and expressionistic abstract painting styles that employed the use of perspective, artificial light sources, and cast shadows to achieve the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Abstract Illusionism differed from traditional Trompe L’oeil (fool the eye) art in that the pictorial space seemed to project in front of, or away from, the canvas surface, as opposed to receding into the picture plane as in traditional painting. Primarily, though, these were abstract paintings, as opposed to the realism of Trompe l’Oeil.

Wikipedia contributors. “Abstract Illusionism.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 Jul. 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_Illusionism>

Michael B. Gallagher

ARTE POVERA

Dates: 1967-1972

Origin: Italy

Key Artists: Piero Gilardi, Giuseppe Penone

Term coined by the Genoese critic Germano Celant in 1967 for a group of Italian artists who, from the late 1960s, attempted to break down the ‘dichotomy between art and life’ (Celant: Flash Art, 1967), mainly through the creation of happenings and sculptures made from everyday materials. Such an attitude was opposed to the conventional role of art merely to reflect reality. The first Arte Povera exhibition was held at the Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa, in 1967. Subsequent shows included those at the Galleria De’Foscherari in Bologna and the Arsenale in Amalfi (both 1968), the latter containing examples of performance art by such figures as Michelangelo Pistoletto. In general the work is characterized by startling juxtapositions of apparently unconnected objects: for example, in Venus of the Rags (1967; Naples, Di Bennardo col., see 1989 exh. cat., p. 365), Pistoletto created a vivid contrast between the cast of an antique sculpture (used as if it were a ready-made) and a brightly coloured pile of rags. Such combination of Classical and contemporary imagery had been characteristic of Giorgio de Chirico’s work from c. 1912 onwards. Furthermore, Arte Povera’s choice of unglamorous materials had been anticipated by more recent work, such as that of Emilio Vedova and Alberto Burri in the 1950s and 1960s, while Piero Manzoni had subverted traditional notions of the artist’s functions (e.g. Artist’s Shit, 1961, see 1989 exh. cat., p. 298). Like Manzoni’s innovations, Arte Povera was also linked to contemporary political radicalism, which culminated in the student protests of 1968. This is evident in such works as the ironic Golden Italy (1971; artist’s col., see 1993 exh. cat., p. 63) by Luciano Fabro, a gilded bronze relief of the map of Italy, hung upside down in a gesture that was literally revolutionary.

“Arte Povera.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T004357>

Piero Gilardi

ACTIONISM

Dates: 1962-1975

Origin: Europe

Key Artists: Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch

An English version of a general German term for Performance art, but it was specifically used for the name of the Vienna-based group Wiener Aktionismus founded in 1962. The principal members of the group were Gunter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolph Schwarzkogler. Their ‘actions’ were intended to highlight the endemic violence of humanity and were deliberately shocking, including self-torture, and quasi-religious ceremonies using the blood and entrails of animals. Nitsch gave his ceremonies the general title of Orgies-Mysteries Theatre.

“Actionism.” Tate.org.uk. Tate.org.uk. 12 March 2010. <www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/definition.jsp?entryId=15>

Hermann Nitsch

ASSEMBLAGE

Dates: 1953-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Beuys

An art form in which natural and manufactured, traditionally non-artistic, materials and objets trouvés are assembled into three-dimensional structures. As such it is closely related to Collage, and like collage it is associated with Cubism, although its origins can be traced back beyond this. As much as by the materials used, it can be characterized by the way in which they are treated. In an assemblage the banal, often tawdry materials retain their individual physical and functional identity, despite artistic manipulation. The term was coined by Jean Dubuffet in 1953 to refer to his series of butterfly-wing collages and series of lithographs based on paper collages, which date from that year. Although these were in fact collages, he felt that that term ought to be reserved for the collage works of Braque, Picasso and the Dadaists of the period between 1910 and 1920. By 1954 Dubuffet had extended the term to cover a series of three-dimensional works made from primarily natural materials and objects. The concept of assemblage was given wide public currency by the exhibition The Art of Assemblage at MOMA, New York, in 1961. This included works by nearly 140 international artists, including Braque, Joseph Cornell, Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray and Kurt Schwitters. Several of the works shown were in fact collages, but the breadth of styles and artists included reflects the wide application of the term and the sometimes fine distinction between assemblage and collage. The ‘combine paintings’ of Rauschenberg, for example, fall awkwardly between the two, being essentially planar but with often extensive protrusions of objects. The inclusion of real objects and materials both expanded the range of artistic possibilities and attempted to bridge the gap between art and life.

Philip Cooper
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

“Assemblage.” Moma.org. Moma.org. 12 March 2010. <http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?theme_id=10057&texttype=2&gt;

Robert Rauschenberg

ART BRUT

Dates: 1945-Present

Origin: France

Key Artists: Jean Dubuffet

[‘Raw art’] the term used by the French painter Jean Dubuffet (1901–85) to describe the kind of art he discerned in the work of psychotics, children, and amateur painters and of which he formed a large collection (now in a museum in Lausanne). In 1948 Dubuffet founded a company, the Compagnie de l’art brut, to promote Art Brut, but it folded in 1951. Dubuffet’s own paintings were strongly influenced by such art, which he perceived as refreshingly direct and emerging spontaneously from the unconscious mind.

“Art Brut.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t4/e111&gt;

Jean Dubuffet