Making and Effacing Art

Making and Effacing Art : Modern American Art in a Culture of Museums

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Philip Fisher charts the pivotal role the museum has played in modern culture, revealing why it has become central to industrial society and how, in turn, artists have adapted to the museum's growing power, shaping their works with the museum in mind. He explores how, over the last two centuries, museums have presented art objects outside their original context, effacing them, in order to represent them in a sequential ordering of styles. It is this sequence that artists such as Jasper Johns and Frank Stella have mirrored, even parodied. This book is an important contribution to our understanding of modern art and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 175.8 x 253 x 16.5mm | 707.62g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • colour and b&w illustrations
  • 067454305X
  • 9780674543058
  • 1,657,374

Review quote

One of the major themes of this important book [is] the idea that modern works of art are created with an intuitive awareness that they are destined from the outset to come to rest in museums, earning a place in tomorrow's judgment of what happened yesterday or today, in what the author calls the future's past...Fisher's ideas are challenging and provocative, informed and wide-ranging, and they take into account the broad picture of modernism while providing in-depth and convincing descriptions of its specific manifestations.--Carl Belz "Boston Globe "show more

Review Text

A brilliant, intricate interpretation of modern art's progress as it reflects the dictates of the museum, by a Harvard professor of English. Fisher casts the art museum as the major interpreter of industrialized culture, countering the pull of mass production by designating what is unique and "irreplaceable" - what counts as art. Indeed, the museum has changed the way we look at objects - crucifix and Greek vase alike - by extricating them from their cultural context, "effacing" their intended meaning, and rearranging them in a time-line of art history. In Fisher's provocative view, the "natural art" for "museum culture" is abstract art, its "essential subject matter" the "linear ordering and the cancellation of content," each museum functions. Jasper Johns and Frank Stella aim their art at the museum, their ambition to make it "the future's past." Johns's paintings go so far as to mimic the museum, effacing our own cultural symbols - numbers, letters, and the American flag - of their meaning and reworking them as shards and as art. The "knowing and sophisticated" Stella paints in "series" "ready to be swallowed whole by art history." Fisher grounds what is complicated and narrowly focused but exceptionally accessible academic theory in Clement Greenberg, Michael Fried, and Meyer Shapiro, animating it with observations that stick: that all modern painting is about "the stranger"; that "it is memory rather than realism that photography drained from painting and sculpture"; that Degas conceals his shocking industrialization of the body by seeming to seize a bather's momentary pose; that our perception of the Parthenon frieze changes forever when fragments are brought down from their original elevated location to eye-level in a gallery. A ringing affirmation, in the company of Arthur Danto's Encounters and Reflections and Robert Hughes's Nothing if Not Critical (both 1990), that today art criticism is often contemporary art's moat interesting aspect. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

Part 1 The work of art, museum culture, and the future's past - Art and the future's past: museum space; resocializing objects; silencing objects; the frame of criticism; the museum candidates. Object time and museum space: self-conscious painting; spaces where art can occur. Jasper Johns and the effacing of art: Jasper Johns and museum art; flags, alphabet, numerals; the painting as its q own collection; the site of archaic acts; words, numbers, colours - how representation might be done. Sequence, drift, copy, invention: the museum and the vocabulary of sequence, the series, copying as making, drift, designing a place within sequences; series and interposition. Frank Stella and the strategy of the series: the order among works; patches of history; cones and pillars II; Spolia and academic art. Part 2 The work of art and the practice of hand-made space - Pins, a table, works of art: model objects; the table; clock, cosmos, work of art; from pocket watch to pins; repair and, making; pins; art objects and the quarrel with mass production; the theory of antagonism. Art works and art thoughts: the Calais masterpiece; art thoughts - Klee and Pollock; artisanal realism. Han-made space: implicit tables; industrial still-life; the ethos of construction; the table as island or world; the technological will; stages of object life; art object and industrial object - parts, works, cover. Humanism of more

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