Art of the 20th Century


Postwar Developments & Contemporary Art



 

 


Art Styles in 20th century Art Map




 



The New Avant-garde & Postmodernism


 

 

     

     


Op art
- 1965

Victor Vasarely
Bridget Riley 
Josef Albers
Jesus Rafael Soto

     


Pop Art
- 1965

Andy Warhol
Tom Wesselmann

Claes Oldenburg
Roy Lichtenstein
Robert Rauschenberg
George Segal
Jasper Johns
Jim Dine

Robert Indiana
Sigmar Polke
Peter Max

James Rosenquist
Allan D'Arcangelo
Eduardo Paolozzi
R. B. Kitaj
Valerio Adami
Wayne Thiebaud
Will Cotton
Patrick Caulfield
Gerhard Richter
Larry Rivers
Keith Haring
Aya Takano
Richard Hamilton
Peter Blake
Allen Jones
David Hockney

Mario Schifano
Peter Phillips

     

Conceptual Art
Giulio Paolini 
Gino De Dominicis
Joseph Kosuth

     


Happenings, Performance art,
Fluxus

Yoko Ono

Lucas Samaras
Allan Kaprow
Joseph Beuys
Herman Nitsch
Gunter Brus
Wolf Vostell
Dennis Oppenheim
Carolee Schneemann
Bruce Nauman

     

Viennese Actionism
Otto Muhl and Kurt Kren
Rudolph Schwarzkogler

 
 

 




 

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Op art.

Term used as an abbreviation of ‘optical art’ to refer to painting and sculpture that exploits the illusions or optical effects of perceptual processes. It was used for the first time by a writer in an unsigned article in Time magazine (23 Oct 1964) and entered common usage to designate, in particular, two-dimensional structures with strong psychophysiological effects. The exhibition, The Responsive Eye, held in 1965 at MOMA, New York, under the direction of William C. Seitz, showed side by side two types of visual solicitations already practised by artists for some time: perceptual ambiguity created by coloured surfaces, then at the fore in the USA, and the coercive suggestion of movement created by lines and patterns in black and white, used abundantly by European artists engaged in KINETIC ART. The outstanding Op artists included Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Jesus Soto, Josef Albers, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Julio Le Parc and Francois Morellet.

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OPTICAL ART
 

Optical art, or Op art, made its first official appearance in 1965 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of "The Responsive Eye" show organized by William Seitz.

Participants included Victor Vasarely (1908-97), Jesus Rafael Soto 1923-2005), and Bridget Riley (b. 1931). The novelty of Op art works lay in the optical effects and illusions they contained, such as the illusion of movement or volume on a flat, static surface. For the effect to be successful, however, Op art required the participation of the spectator. This was not active participation as in some Kinetic art, nor audience participation as in certain happenings, but rather a psychological form of collaboration that would allow the illusions created by the artist to be experienced by the viewer. By concentrating on the picture or by moving to the best spot in order to view it, the spectator actually established contact with the work, often remaining transfixed by its hypnotic power. The images by British artist Bridget Riley capture the eye and invite it into a web of sinuous lines that look almost alive (Current 1964).
 



Victor Vasarely



Bridget Riley



Josef Albers



 


Jesus Rafael Soto
(1923-2005)



Ambivalencia diagonal virtual



Metamorfosis



Grey, white, grey



The Soto sphere in Caracas



 


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Arte programmata
[It.: ‘programmed art’].

Term given to the work of various Italian artists active during the early 1960s who were primarily interested in KINETIC ART and OP ART. The phrase was used by Umberto Eco in 1962 for an exhibition that he presented at the Olivetti Showroom in Milan. This show included works by BRUNO MUNARI, Enzo Mari and members of GRUPPO N and GRUPPO T (both founded 1959). The artists produced objects by a procedure analogous to the methods of technological research, creating a prototype that was then developed through a series of closely related artefacts. This practice was exemplified by Munari, whose mass-produced ‘multiples’ took the form either of hand-operated objects or simple machines (e.g. X Hour, 1963). The ‘multiples’ required the participation of members of the public in order to function and were intended to explore optical and physical phenomena, concerns that also dominated the work of other Arte programmata artists. Giovanni Anceschi (b 1939) created remarkable dynamic images with coloured liquids, while Gianni Colombo (b 1937) made reliefs constructed out of blocks that moved mechanically. Arte programmata gained an international reputation and in 1964 was the subject of exhibitions at the Royal College of Art, London, and at various venues in the USA. In the late 1960s, however, the artists became less closely associated, even though most continued to pursue their interests in kinetic and optical effects.

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Pop Art
 

In the early 1960s, an artistic trend developed in the US that was to represent a complete departure from Action painting, the dominant movement of the previous decade. While Action painting had given pride of place to the inner impulses of the artist and to autobiographical motivation and subjectivism, the new tendency was to accentuate the sheer neutrality of everyday consumer goods. But the images were not the actual objects, or "ready-mades", as found in Dadaism, but a reworking of them, greatly elaborated in dimension or colour. Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) blew up seemingly banal items into gigantic sizes, transforming trowels, tubes of toothpaste, and clothes-pegs into huge sculptures. He also created brightly painted plaster sculptures of desserts, cakes, and pieces of meat and made models of hard, unyielding objects, such as light switches and typewriters, in soft, pliable materials. Andy Warhol (1928-87), on the other hand, took well-known images from popular culture such as cans of Campbell's Soup, Coca-Cola bottles, or photographs of stars who had become legends (Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe) and turned them into prints or paintings that shared the repetitive, mass-produced feel of commercial "art". The mechanical insistence of repetition also succeeded in removing meaning from images that were in themselves very dramatic. This is the case with the symbols of death and social struggle that Warhol depicts in Orange Disaster (1963) and Race Riot (1964); they are reduced to the status of decorative elements. If Warhol annihilated the significance of an image by-constant, unvarying repetition, then Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97) emphasized its importance, taking the image out of its context and reproducing it on a large scale. Thus a comic strip, usually a disposable piece of light reading, was suddenly elevated to the status of a work of art. Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931) portrayed female nudes in commonplace environments as if they, too, were consumer objects, lacking facial expression and recognizable only by their exaggerated erotic features. Striking a more existential note. American sculptor George Segal (b. 1924) made plaster-cast models, taken from life, of people frozen in varied poses or in the act of carrying out certain tasks. These figures, in their isolated stillness, seem to convey modern man's alienation from daily life.

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Pop art

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Art in which commonplace objects (such as comic strips, soup cans, road signs, and hamburgers) were used as subject matter and were often physically incorporated in the work. The Pop art movement was largely a British and American cultural phenomenon of the late 1950s and '60s and was named by the art critic Lawrence Alloway in reference to the prosaic iconography of its painting and sculpture. Works by such Pop artists as the Americans Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol,
Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, James Rosenquist, and Robert Indiana and the Britons David Hockney and Peter Blake, among others, were characterized by their portrayal of any and all aspects of popular culture that had a powerful impact on contemporary life; their iconography—taken from television, comic books, movie magazines, and all forms of advertising—was presented emphatically and objectively, without praise or condemnation but with overwhelming immediacy, and by means of the precise commercial techniques used by the media from which the iconography itself was borrowed. Pop art represented an attempt to return to a more objective, universally acceptable form of art after the dominance in both the United States and Europe of the highly personal Abstract Expressionism. It was also iconoclastic, rejecting both the supremacy of the “high art” of the past and the pretensions of other contemporary avant-garde art. Pop art became a cultural event because of its close reflection of a particular social situation and because its easily comprehensible images were immediately exploited by the mass media. Although the critics of Pop art described it as vulgar, sensational, nonaesthetic, and a joke, its proponents (a minority in the art world) saw it as an art that was democratic and nondiscriminatory, bringing together both connoisseurs and untrained viewers.

Pop art was a descendant of Dada (q.v.), a nihilistic movement current in the 1920s that ridiculed the seriousness of contemporary Parisian art and, more broadly, the political and cultural situation that had brought war to Europe. Marcel Duchamp, the champion of Dada in the United States, who tried to narrow the distance between art and life by celebrating the mass-produced objects of his time, was the most influential figure in the evolution of Pop art. Other 20th-century artists who influenced Pop art were Stuart Davis, Gerard Murphy, and Fernand Leger, all of whom depicted in their painting the precision, mass-production, and commercial materials of the machine-industrial age. The immediate predecessors of the Pop artists were
Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, and Robert Rauschenberg, American artists who in the 1950s painted flags, beer cans, and other similar objects, though with a painterly, expressive technique.

Some of the more striking forms that Pop art took were Roy Lichtenstein's stylized reproductions of comic strips using the colour dots and flat tones of commercial printing; Andy Warhol's meticulously literal paintings and silk-screen prints of soup-can labels, soap cartons, and rows of soft-drink bottles;
Claes Oldenburg's soft plastic sculptures of objects such as bathroom fixtures, typewriters, and gigantic hamburgers; Tom Wesselmann's “Great American Nudes,” flat, direct paintings of faceless sex symbols; and George Segal's constructed tableaux featuring life-sized plaster-cast figures placed in actual environments (e.g., lunch counters and buses) retrieved from junkyards.

Most Pop artists aspired to an impersonal, urbane attitude in their works. Some examples of Pop art, however, were subtly expressive of social criticism—for example,
Oldenburg's drooping objects and Warhol's monotonous repetitions of the same banal image have an undeniably disturbing effect—and some, such as Segal's mysterious, lonely tableaux, are overtly expressionistic.

American Pop art tended to be emblematic, anonymous, and aggressive; English Pop, more subjective and referential, expressed a somewhat romantic view of Pop culture fostered perhaps by England's relative distance from it. English Pop artists tended to deal with technology and popular culture primarily as themes, even metaphors; some American Pop artists actually seemed to live these ideas. Warhol's motto, for example, was, “I think everybody should be a machine,” and he tried in his art to produce works that a machine would have made.

Pop art was not taken seriously by the public, but it found critical acceptance as a form of art suited to the highly technological, mass-media oriented society of Western countries.


 

 


Roy Lichtenstein

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Oct. 27, 1923, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Sept. 29, 1997, New York City


American painter who was a founder and foremost practitioner of Pop art, a movement that countered the techniques and concepts of Abstract Expressionism with images and techniques taken from popular culture.

As a teenager Lichtenstein studied briefly with the painter Reginald Marsh. After serving in the military during World War II, he attended Ohio State University, teaching there from 1946 to 1951 and receiving a masters degree in 1949. He also taught at New York State University College, Oswego (1957–60), and at Douglass College of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (1960–63).

At the start of his artistic career, Lichtenstein painted themes from the American West in a variety of modern art styles; he dabbled in 1957 even in Abstract Expressionism, astyle he later reacted against. His interest in the comic-strip cartoon as an art theme probably began with a painting of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck he made in 1960 for his children. Although he was initially dissatisfied with his technique and uncomfortable with direct appropriation, he took great pleasure in presenting well-known comic-strip figures in a fine art format. He increased the size of his canvases and began to manipulate to his own ends the graphic and linguistic conventions of comic strips dealing with such genres as romance, war, and science fiction. In the style of comic strips, he used words to express sound effects. He developed a detached, mass-produced effect by outlining areas of primary colour with thick black lines and by using a technique that simulated benday screening (a dot pattern used by engravers).

Lichtenstein's first one-man show, held in New York City in 1962, was a great commercial success, and his innovative work found an international audience. In 1966 he became thefirst American to exhibit at London's Tate Gallery.

Lichtenstein continued in this vein for much of his career, and his artworks are readily identifiable by their comic-strip characteristics. Nevertheless he extended these techniques into clever and thought-provoking meditations on art and popular culture. After the 1960s, Lichtenstein's works began to include still lifes and landscapes, and they were a dramatic departure from his earlier style in their use of brushstrokes as well as in their subject matter.

 

 



Claes Oldenburg

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Jan. 28, 1929, Stockholm, Sweden


In full Claes Thure Oldenburg Swedish-born American Pop-art sculptor, best known for his giant soft sculptures of everyday objects.

Much of Oldenburg's early life was spent in the United States, Sweden, and Norway, a result of moves his father made as a Swedish consular official. He was educated at Yale University (1946–50), where writing was his main interest, and he worked from 1950 to 1952 as an apprentice reporter for the City News Bureau in Chicago. In 1952–54 he attended the school of the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1953 he opened a studio, doing freelance illustrating for magazines. Oldenburg also gained U.S. citizenship in 1953. In1956 he moved to New York City, where he became fascinated with the elements of street life: store windows, graffiti, advertisements, and trash. An awareness of the sculptural possibilities of these objects led to a shift in interest from painting to sculpture. In 1960–61 he created “The Store,” a collection of painted plaster copies of food, clothing, jewelry, and other items. Renting an actual store, he stocked it with his constructions. In 1962 he began creating a series of happenings, i.e., experimental presentations involving sound, movement, objects, and people. For some of his happenings Oldenburg created giant objects made of cloth stuffed with paper or rags. In 1962 he exhibited a version of his store in which there were huge canvas-covered, foam-rubber sculptures of an ice-cream cone, a hamburger, and a slice of cake.

These interests led to the work for which Oldenburg is best known: soft sculptures. Like other artists of the Pop-art movement, he chose as his subjects the banal products of consumer life. He was careful, however, to choose objects with close human associations, such as bathtubs, typewriters, light switches, and electric fans. In addition, his use of soft, yielding vinyl gave the objects human, often sexual, overtones. Oldenburg's “Giant Soft Fan” was installed in the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, and his work was also exhibited at Expo 70 in Ōsaka, Japan.

An exhibition of Oldenburg's work in 1966 in New York City included, in addition to his soft sculptures, a series of drawings and watercolours that he called “Colossal Monuments.” His early monumental proposals remained unbuilt (such as the giant vacuum cleaner for the Battery in New York City, 1965; “Bat Spinning at the Speed of Light” for his alma mater, the Latin School of Chicago, 1967; and a colossal “Windshield Wiper” for Chicago's Grant Park, 1967); but in 1969 his “Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks” was placed surreptitously on the Yale University campus, remaining there until 1970, when it was removed to be rebuilt for its permanent home at Morse College, elsewhere on the campus. This began a series of successes, such as “Clothespin” (1976) in Philadelphia, “Colossal Ashtray with Fagends” at Pompidou Centre in Paris, and “Batcolumn” (1977), provided by the art-in-architecture program of the federal government for its Social Security Administration office building in Chicago.

In 1977 Oldenburg married Coosje van Bruggen, his second wife. The couple began to collaborate on commissions, and from 1981 her signature also appeared on their work. They worked with architect Frank Gehry on the Main Street Project (1975–84) in Venice, Calif., and Camp Good Times (1984–85) in the Santa Monica Mountains. With van Bruggen, Oldenburgcreated a soft sculpture of an oversized shuttlecock specially for a 1995 retrospective of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

 

 



Andy Warhol

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born August 6, 1928?, Pittsburgh?, Pennsylvania, U.S.
died February 22, 1987, New York, New York


Original name Andrew Warhola American artist and filmmaker, an initiator and leading exponent of the Pop art movement of the 1960s whose mass-produced art apotheosized the supposed banality of the commercial culture of the United States. An adroit self-publicist, he projected a concept of the artist as an impersonal, even vacuous, figure who is nevertheless a successful celebrity, businessman, and social climber.


The son of Czechoslovak immigrants, Warhol graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, with a degree in pictorial design in 1949. He then went to New York City, where he worked asa commercial illustrator for about a decade. Warhol began painting in the late 1950s and received sudden notoriety in 1962, when he exhibited paintings of Campbell's soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and wooden replicas of Brillo soap pad boxes. By 1963 he was mass-producing these purposely banal images of consumer goods by means of photographic silk screen prints, and he then began printing endless variations of portraits of celebrities in garish colours. The silk screen technique was ideally suited to Warhol, for the repeated image was reduced to an insipid and dehumanized cultural icon that reflected both the supposed emptiness of American material culture and the artist's emotional noninvolvement with the practice of his art. Warhol's work placed him in the forefront of the emerging Pop art movement in America.

As the 1960s progressed, Warhol devoted more of his energyto filmmaking. Usually classed as underground films, such motion pictures of his as The Chelsea Girls (1966), Eat (1963), My Hustler (1965), and Blue Movie (1969) are known for their inventive eroticism, plotless boredom, and inordinate length (up to 25 hours). In 1968 Warhol was shot and nearly killed by one of his would-be followers, a member of his assemblage of underground film and rock music stars, assorted hangers-on, and social curiosities. Warhol had by this time become a well-known fixture on the fashion and avant-garde art scene and was an influential celebrity in hisown right. Throughout the 1970s and until his death he continued to produce prints depicting political and Hollywood celebrities, and he involved himself in a wide range of advertising illustrations and other commercial art projects. His The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, published in 1975, was followed by Portraits of the Seventies (1979) and Andy Warhol's Exposures (1979).
 

 



 



Andy Warhol

 



Tom Wesselmann

 

 

 



Claes Oldenburg



Roy Lichtenstein



Robert Rauschenberg
 

 

 



George Segal



Jasper Johns



Jim Dine

 

 

 



Robert Indiana



Sigmar Polke



Peter Max

 

 

 



Eduardo Paolozzi



James Rosenquist



Valerio Adami

 

 

 



Allan D'Arcangelo



R. B. Kitaj



Wayne Thiebaud

 

 

 



Patrick Caulfield



Will Cotton



Gerhard Richter

 

 

 

 



Keith Haring

 

 

 

 



Larry Rivers



Peter Phillips


Aya Takano




 


Pop art
and Pin-Up a
rt

International movement in painting, sculpture and printmaking. The term originated in the mid-1950s at the ICA, London, in the discussions held by the INDEPENDENT GROUP concerning the artefacts of popular culture. This small group included the artists Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi as well as architects and critics. Lawrence Alloway (1926–1990), the critic who first used the term in print in 1958, conceived of Pop art as the lower end of a popular-art to fine-art continuum, encompassing such forms as advertising, science-fiction illustration and automobile styling. Hamilton defined Pop in 1957 as: ‘Popular (designed for a mass audience); Transient (short term solution); Expendable (easily forgotten); Low Cost; Mass Produced; Young (aimed at Youth); Witty; Sexy; Gimmicky; Glamorous; and Big Business’. Hamilton set out, in paintings such as £he (1958–61; London, Tate), to explore the hidden connotations of imagery taken directly from advertising and popular culture, making reference in the same work to Pin-Ups and domestic appliances as a means of commenting on the covert eroticism of much advertising presentation.


 


Pin-Up Art



 

 





POP ART IN BRITAIN

At the "This is Tomorrow'' exhibition of 1956 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, a photographic collage by Richard Hamilton (b. 1922) marked the debut of British Pop art, later becoming a virtual manifesto of the movement. The collage's very title — Just what is it that makes todays homes so different, so appealing? — hinted at the satire to be found in the work. It contained in its interior setting various symbols of popular mass culture - from the body-builder in the foreground and the cover girl on the divan to the television and various electrical appliances, and the cinema signs and posters glimpsed through the window. While these are all recognizable elements of daily life, they look unnatural, resembling items in a shop display.

A critical attitude towards the values of consumer society was an underlying theme of British Pop art, as opposed to the neutral stance that characterized American Pop art. Pop artists in Britain regarded contemporary life from a distance and depicted it with a critical eye, while those in the US seemed to restrict their work to live, "unedited" recordings of consumer society. Subtle irony permeates the work of Peter Blake (b. 1932), David Hockney (b. 1937), and Allen Jones (b. 1937). Jones reproduced the iconographic repertory of the female body as viewed in soft porn magazines, with the pictorial synthesis of a billboard.

 



Richard Hamilton



Peter Blake



Allen Jones




David Hockney




 

POP ART IN ITALY

When American Pop art was first seen in Italy at the Venice Biennial exhibition of 1964, it provoked a strong reaction from the authorities, and the President of the Republic refused to participate in the opening ceremony. However, the works included revealed clear links with the experiments being carried out by certain Italian artists, such as Enrico Baj, Tano Festa, Mimmo Rotella, and Mario Schifano. The subject matter varied between the two currents, simply because of the differing economic and cultural backgrounds of the artists. The American artists favoured consumer objects, whereas Italian Pop art was often based on a satirical observation of past art movements and masterpieces. In Michelangelo according to (1967) by Tano Festa (1938-88), the plasticity of Michelangelo's style is flattened into a polka-dot decoration, while in Futurism Revisited (1966) by Mario Schifano (b. 1934), the historic photograph of the Futurist group led by Marinetti loses its original documentary value with the deletion of the subjects' faces.

 



Mario Schifano







 

 




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Conceptual Art

Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel (1913) did more than transfer attention from the imitation of an object to the object itself: it opened up the way for the "ready-made", which would prove so important in the second half of the century for the Neo-Dadaists and Nouveau Realistes, and exploited the potential of raising everyday objects to new levels of aesthetic worth. The Conceptual artists looked back to Duchamp and his principle of considering the concept more important than the artistic process. They devoted themselves to viewing the art object as only the inevitable visualization of the idea that generated it. In One and Three Chairs (1965), for example, American experimental artist Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945) displays an actual chair, a photograph of a chair, and a written definition of the word from a dictionary, drawing attention to the notion of appearances and concepts. In this rather cerebral artistic dimension, the power of the artist is accentuated despite his apparent absence, for even though the active presence of the artist is minimized, his role as producer or director is in turn heightened. The work Giovane che guarda Lorenzo Lotto (Young Man looking at Lorenzo Lotto, 1967) by Giulio Paolini (b. 1940) is a simple photographic reproduction on canvas of a portrait by the Venetian painter Lorenzo Lotto. The title, alluding to the original 16th-century work, is slightly odd and thought-provoking itself. If the young man in the portrait is looking at Lorenzo Lotto, then anyone in front of the picture can identify themselves with Lotto, i.e. the painter of the portrait. Paolini's work, therefore, comprises an imaginary situation dictated by the title. Its impact rests on the possible momentary union of spectator and painter, based on the idea that Lorenzo Lotto could be transferred through time and space while painting his model. Conceptual art frequently posed such enigmas, often using the most simple of ideas to set off a chain of far wider questioning. More dramatic projects, however, were not ruled out. At the Venice Bienniale in 1972, Gino De Dominicis (b. 1947) exhibited a mentally ill young boy, who was seated on a chair to be viewed by the visitors. Meanwhile, Antonio Paradiso (b. 1936) organized a "Performance" that consisted of a bull mating with a mechanical cow.
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Giulio Paolini




 



Collage
1984


Gino De Dominicis

(1947-1998).


De Dominicis was a controversial and mystifying figure in Italian art. Even the news of his death was suspect, for years earlier he had reported his own demise in the mock conclusion to a biographical essay.

His first show was at Rome's Galleria L'Attico in 1969. He was collaborating with Emilio Mazzoli in Modena, where he had his last show in 1998. De Dominicis first appearance in the Venice Biennale in 1972 included a young man with Down's syndrome as an element in an installation; in 1993 he announced that his tempera-and-gold-on-panel paintings could not be considered for Biennale prizes; in 1995 he publicly declined to appear at all. His work has influenced a lot of younger italian artists such as Maurizio Cattelan and Paola Pivi.

 



Calamita Cosmica
 



GS




 


Joseph Kosuth
(b. 1945)



Titled (A.A.I.A.I.)' [F.E. Special]#1
1967
 



Condizioni d'Assenza (Il nome e chi lo porta, a G.) VI (Venere medici, 9 a. C.)
1999
 



Wittgenstein's color
1989
 



Frammento nr 11" («Che mai sara?» from "L'Italiana in Algeri" by G. Rossini)
1999
 



M.O. (F. O. P.)

1988




 

 

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Conceptual art
[idea art; information art].

Term applied to work produced from the mid-1960s that either markedly de-emphasized or entirely eliminated a perceptual encounter with unique objects in favour of an engagement with ideas. Although Henry Flynt of the Fluxus group had designated his performance pieces ‘concept art’ as early as 1961, and Edward Kienholz had begun to devise ‘concept tableaux’ in 1963, the term first achieved public prominence in defining a distinct art form in an article published by Sol LeWitt in 1967. Only loosely definable as a movement, it emerged more or less simultaneously in North America, Europe and Latin America and had repercussions on more conventional spheres of artistic production spawning artists’ books as a separate category and contributing substantially to the acceptance of photographs, musical scores, architectural drawings and performance art on an equal footing with painting and sculpture.
 

see also Georges Mathieu

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HAPPENINGS AND PERFORMANCE ART

Happenings were a hybrid form of art, taking their inspiration freely from theatrical, musical, literary, pictorial, and sculptural methods of expression. It was already an established trend in the 1950s, but only in the following decade did it receive serious widespread attention. More or less simultaneous experiments were carried out by the Japanese Gutai group, which was active in Osaka from 1954, and by the American artist Allan Kaprow (b. 1927). He was the first to use the term "happening" to define apparently improvised events that featured collaborators who had, in fact, been briefed beforehand. While these events were not totally spontaneous and were dictated by a plan, the final outcome was never intended to be predictable. Artists from other fields who dedicated their energies to happenings were the exponents of Pop art Jim Dine (The Smiling Workman, I960) and Claes Oldenburg (The Store, 1961), and the Fluxus group. This included artists from various backgrounds, among them Daniel Spoerri (Nouveau Realiste), George Brecht, Yoko Ono, Ben Vautier, and Joseph Beuys (working in Conceptual fields), and Nam June Paik and Wolf Vostell (founders of video art). Happenings exerted a strong influence on theatre and contemporary dance, offering an alternative to more traditional forms of stage direction and choreography. The expressive freedom of Performance art inspired the Off Broadway theatre group and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, whose collaboration with John Cage (avant-garde musician and member of Fluxus) led to a freer interpretation of the relationship between the body, music, and the stage. The exponents of the Wiener Aktionismus were authors of particularly extreme happenings and performances, which were akin to behavioural research. The sequences performed by Herman Nitsch (b. 1938), founder of the Orgien Mysterien Theater in the late 1950s, were so gruesome that they verged on outright acts of sacrilege: in what appeared as purging rituals, the participants were covered in the blood of sacrificial animals. Gunter Brus (b. 1938), wrapped himself in bandages and simulated epileptic fits (Ana. 1964) or defecated in public (Scheiss-Aktion. 1967), while Rudolph Schwarzkogler (1940-69) would perform self-deprecating acts, such as smearing his body with blood and excrement. His suicide was interpreted by some as the final act of a performance of self-destruction.
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John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Issue #335 (Jan. 22, 1981) Photographed by Annie Leibovitz; Yoko Ono Grapefruit, 1964/1971

 




 



Lucas Samaras



Allan Kaprow



 
 


Joseph Beuys


Herman Nitsch



 
 



Gunter Brus



Wolf Vostell

 

 
 

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Aktionismus

Austrian group of performance artists, active in the 1960s. Its principal members were Gunter Brus, Otto Muehl and Hermann Nitsch, who first collaborated informally in 1961, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, who was introduced to the group in 1963. Others associated with the group included Anni Brus, the film maker Kurt Kren, the composer Anetis Logosthetis and the actor Heinz Cibulka. The group were influenced by the work of Adolf Frohner (b 1934), Arnulf Rainer and Alfons Schilling (b 1934), who were all in turn influenced by American action painting and by the gestural painting associated with Tachism. The members of Aktionismus attached significance, however, not so much to the paintings produced by the artist as to the artist as a participant in the process of production, as a witness to creation rather than as a creator. Muehl, Brus and Nitsch all felt drawn to public performances celebrating and investigating artistic creativity by a natural progression from their earlier sculptural or painterly activities. In 1962 Muehl and Nitsch staged their first Aktion or performance, Blood Organ, in the Perinetgasse in Vienna. In 1965 Brus produced the booklet Le Marais to accompany an exhibition of his work at the Galerie Junge Generation, Vienna. Muehl, Nitsch  and Schwarzkogler all contributed, referring to themselves as the Wiener Aktionsgruppe.
 


Gunter Brus and Anni Brus

 

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Viennese Actionism

The term Viennese Actionism describes a short and violent movement in 20th century art that can be regarded as part of the many independent efforts of the 1960s to develop "action art" (
Fluxus, Happening, Performance, Body Art, etc.). Its main participants were
Gunter Brus, Otto Muehl, Herman Nitsch and Rudolph Schwarzkogler. As "actionists", they were active between 1960 and 1971. Most have continued their artistic work independently from the early 1970s onwards.

Documentation of the work of these four artists suggests that there was no consciously developed sense of a movement or any cultivation of membership status in a "actionist" group. Rather, this name was one applied to various collaborative configurations among these four artists. Malcolm Green has quoted Herman Nitsch's comment, "Vienna Actionism never was a group. A number of artists reacted to particular situations that they all encountered, within a particular time period, and with similar means and results.
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Otto Muhl
(b. 1925)
Kurt Kren
(1929-1998)
(Austrian filmmaker Kurt Kren,
whose films predate and predict many of the strategies of present-day radical art.)

 Mama und Papa (Material aktion
Otto Muhl), 1964
Farbe, kein Ton, 4 Min., 16 mm Film ubertragen auf Beta SP PAL
Video
V-2005-19
Erworben im internationalen Kunsthandel
 



 
Mama & Papa



 
Mama & Papa



 
Mama & Papa



Mama & Papa



Kurt Kren
Mama & Papa
Material aktion 11
1964



Kurt Kren
Mama & Papa
Material aktion 11
1964



Otto Muhl
Material Action Nr. 30, Food Test, 1966



Otto Muhl
L'ensevelissement d'une Venus



Otto Muhl
"Wiener Aktionen",
fotografiert von Ludwig Hoffenreich



Otto Muhl
Bodybulding, 1965



Otto Muhl
Artist Life
, 2004



Otto Muhl
Artist Life
, 2004


Otto Muhl
Boxing glove and lemon
1992


A frame from Kurt Kren's Actionist film "Selbstverstümmelung"/"Self-Mutilation" (1965)

 




 


Rudolph Schwarzkogler

(1940-69)



3rd Action
1965



Untitled, from the performance Hochzeit (Marriage)

1965



Untitled



Untitled



Untitled

 



 

 

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Performance art.

Descriptive term applied to ‘live’ presentations by artists. It was first used very loosely by artists in the early 1960s in the USA to refer to the many live events taking place at that time, such as Happenings, Fluxus concerts, Events, Body art or (in Germany) Aktionen and Demonstrationen. In 1969 performance was more specifically incorporated into titles of work in the USA and UK and was interchangeable with ‘performance piece’ or simply ‘piece’, as in Vito Acconci’s Performance Test or Following Piece (both 1969), and by many other artists such as Dennis Oppenheim, Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono (b 1933), Yves Klein, Dan Graham, Rebecca Horn, Joan Jonas, Laurie Anderson and Bruce Nauman. It was closely linked to the ideological tenets and philosophy of CONCEPTUAL ART, which insisted on ‘an art of which the material is concepts’ and on ‘an art that could not be bought and sold’; those who made performance pieces did so as a statement against the gallery system and the art establishment.

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Dennis Oppenheim



Carolee Schneemann
 





 


Bruce Nauman
(born 1941, in Fort Wayne, Indiana)



One Hundred Fish Fountain



3 Heads Fountain (3 Andrews)



3 Heads Fountain (Juliet, Andrew, Rinde)



Andrew Head



One Hundred Live and Die
1984



Finger touch with Mirrors

 




 

 

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Fluxus

Informal international group of avant-garde artists working in a wide range of media and active from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Their activities included public concerts or festivals and the dissemination of innovatively designed anthologies and publications, including scores for electronic music, theatrical performances, ephemeral events, gestures and actions constituted from the individual’s everyday experience. Other types of work included the distribution of object editions, correspondence art and concrete poetry. According to the directions of the artist, Fluxus works often required the participation of a spectator in order to be completed (PERFORMANCE ART).

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