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art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism
vol one1900-1944 and vol two 1945 to the persent

To grasp the distinctive character of Art Since 1900, it is worth briefly retracing the evolution of Krauss's ideas. Her first book, published in 1971, was on the sculpture of David Smith, an artist championed by her mentor, Clement Greenberg. But Krauss located the originality of Smith's work in psychological and philosophical issues that had nothing to do with Greenbergian formalism, Krauss argued that, whereas traditional sculpture presented figures and objects as forms radiating out from a hidden "core," analogous to the hidden self of consciousness, Smith shifted to a contingent, additive mode of composition, challenging not just conventional esthetics but also the Cartesian idea of the mind-body relationship. (1) Krauss expanded on this premise in her 1977 book, Passages in Modern Sculpture, a selective history tracing the medium's evolution from Rodin to Minimalism. Here she argued that the achievement of Minimalism was "to relocate the origins of a sculpture's meaning to the outside, no longer modeling its structure on the privacy of psychological space but on the public, conventional nature of what might be called cultural space." (2) As Krauss explained, Minimalist artists were influenced in this direction by a variety of sources, from Ludwig Wittgenstein's attack on "private language" to the "objective," anti-psychological novels of Alain Robbe-Grlllet. (3)

Meanwhile, Krauss (together with Annette Michelson and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe) had started October. In its pages, Krauss and her colleagues reformulated the critical program of Minimalism in the language of French structuralism. There was an immediate affinity between the two, since in France structuralism represented a revolt against the existentialist idea of the self. Yve-Alain Bois was soon recruited to the October group, bringing with him a novel synthesis of structuralism and Greenbergian formalism. (4) With the advent of post-structuralism in the later 1970s, the attack on the idea of the self was rephrased in terms borrowed from Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan. Especially influential was Lacan's discussion of the "mirror-stage," which posits an incurable contradiction between the real incoherence of the self and the factitious unity it achieves when it perceives itself in the eyes of others. In the 1980s, Krauss discovered the writings of the dissident Surrealist Georges Bataille, and restated the subversion of the self in terms of "formlessness," "horizontality" and "base materialism." (5) Taking Lacan and Melanie Klein as points of departure, new recruits such as Hal Foster and Mignon Nixon used psychoanalytic theories about psychic fragmentation to explicate Surrealism and contemporary art. (6) Meanwhile, the academic leftism implicit in the journal's title, a reference to Sergei Eisenstein's film about the Russian Revolution, was bolstered by the contributions of the German scholar Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, who drew on the works of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Peter Btirger to argue that the idea of the independent self was a piece of bourgeois obfuscation, and that the role of true avant-garde art was to expose it. (7)

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