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Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings

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Ambitious and interdisciplinary, this long-awaited collaboration is a landmark presentation of the writings of contemporary artists. These influential essays, interviews, and critical and theoretical comments provide bold and fertile insights into the construction of visual knowledge. Featuring a wide range of leading and emerging artists since 1945, the collection—while c Ambitious and interdisciplinary, this long-awaited collaboration is a landmark presentation of the writings of contemporary artists. These influential essays, interviews, and critical and theoretical comments provide bold and fertile insights into the construction of visual knowledge. Featuring a wide range of leading and emerging artists since 1945, the collection—while comprehensive and authoritative—offers the reader some eclectic surprises as well. Included here are texts that have become pivotal documents in contemporary art, along with writings that cover unfamiliar ground. Some are newly translated, others have never before been published. Together they address visual literacy, cultural studies, and the theoretical debates regarding modernism and postmodernism. The full panoply of visual media is represented, from painting and sculpture to environments, installations, performance, conceptual art, video, photography, and virtual reality. Thematic concerns range from figuration and process to popular culture, art and technology, and politics and the media. Contemporary issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality are also addressed. Kristine Stiles's general introduction is a succinct overview of artists' theories in the evolution of contemporary discourse around art. Introductions to each chapter provide synopses of the cultural contexts in which the texts originated and brief biographies of individual artists. The text is augmented by outstanding photographs, many of artists in their studios, and vivid, contemporary art images. Reflecting the editors' shared belief that artists' own theories provide unparalleled access to visual knowledge, this book, like its distinguished predecessors, Hershel Chipp's Theories of Modern Art (with Peter Selz and Joshua Taylor) and Joshua Taylor's Nineteenth-Century Theories of Art, will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in contemporary art. "In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store a snow shovel on which I wrote 'in advance of the broken arm.' It was around that time that the word 'readymade' came to mind to designate this form of manifestation."—Marcel Duchamp (1961) "Women have always collected things and saved and recycled them because leftovers yielded nourishment in new forms. The decorative functional objects women made often spoke in a secret language, bore a covert imagery. When we read these images in needlework, in paintings, in quilts, rugs and scrapbooks, we sometimes find a cry for help, sometimes an allusion to a secret political alignment, sometimes a moving symbol about the relationships between men and women."—Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer (1978) "I want to create a fusion of art and life, Asia and America, Duchampiana modernism and Levi-Straussian savagism, cool form and hot video, dealing with all of those complex problems, spanning the tribal memory of the Nomadic Asians who crossed over the Bering Strait over 10,000 years ago."—Shigeko Kubota (1976) "Black for me is a lot more peaceful and gentle than white. White marble may be very beautiful, but you can't read anything on it. I wanted something that would be soft on the eyes, and turn into a mirror if you polished it. The point is to see yourself reflected in the names. Also the mirror image doubles and triples the space."—Maya Lin (1983) "Artists often depend on the manipulation of symbols to present ideas and associations not always apparent in such symbols. If all such ideas and associations were evident there would be little need for artists to give expression to them. In short, there would be no need to make art."—Andres Serrano (1989)


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Ambitious and interdisciplinary, this long-awaited collaboration is a landmark presentation of the writings of contemporary artists. These influential essays, interviews, and critical and theoretical comments provide bold and fertile insights into the construction of visual knowledge. Featuring a wide range of leading and emerging artists since 1945, the collection—while c Ambitious and interdisciplinary, this long-awaited collaboration is a landmark presentation of the writings of contemporary artists. These influential essays, interviews, and critical and theoretical comments provide bold and fertile insights into the construction of visual knowledge. Featuring a wide range of leading and emerging artists since 1945, the collection—while comprehensive and authoritative—offers the reader some eclectic surprises as well. Included here are texts that have become pivotal documents in contemporary art, along with writings that cover unfamiliar ground. Some are newly translated, others have never before been published. Together they address visual literacy, cultural studies, and the theoretical debates regarding modernism and postmodernism. The full panoply of visual media is represented, from painting and sculpture to environments, installations, performance, conceptual art, video, photography, and virtual reality. Thematic concerns range from figuration and process to popular culture, art and technology, and politics and the media. Contemporary issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality are also addressed. Kristine Stiles's general introduction is a succinct overview of artists' theories in the evolution of contemporary discourse around art. Introductions to each chapter provide synopses of the cultural contexts in which the texts originated and brief biographies of individual artists. The text is augmented by outstanding photographs, many of artists in their studios, and vivid, contemporary art images. Reflecting the editors' shared belief that artists' own theories provide unparalleled access to visual knowledge, this book, like its distinguished predecessors, Hershel Chipp's Theories of Modern Art (with Peter Selz and Joshua Taylor) and Joshua Taylor's Nineteenth-Century Theories of Art, will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in contemporary art. "In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store a snow shovel on which I wrote 'in advance of the broken arm.' It was around that time that the word 'readymade' came to mind to designate this form of manifestation."—Marcel Duchamp (1961) "Women have always collected things and saved and recycled them because leftovers yielded nourishment in new forms. The decorative functional objects women made often spoke in a secret language, bore a covert imagery. When we read these images in needlework, in paintings, in quilts, rugs and scrapbooks, we sometimes find a cry for help, sometimes an allusion to a secret political alignment, sometimes a moving symbol about the relationships between men and women."—Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer (1978) "I want to create a fusion of art and life, Asia and America, Duchampiana modernism and Levi-Straussian savagism, cool form and hot video, dealing with all of those complex problems, spanning the tribal memory of the Nomadic Asians who crossed over the Bering Strait over 10,000 years ago."—Shigeko Kubota (1976) "Black for me is a lot more peaceful and gentle than white. White marble may be very beautiful, but you can't read anything on it. I wanted something that would be soft on the eyes, and turn into a mirror if you polished it. The point is to see yourself reflected in the names. Also the mirror image doubles and triples the space."—Maya Lin (1983) "Artists often depend on the manipulation of symbols to present ideas and associations not always apparent in such symbols. If all such ideas and associations were evident there would be little need for artists to give expression to them. In short, there would be no need to make art."—Andres Serrano (1989)

30 review for Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sherri Haymond

    Kristine was one of my professors at Duke, and I learned more from her than any other teacher I've ever had. This is tremendous collection of artists' writings. Essential for anyone interested in art history, cultural studies and everything in between. Kristine was one of my professors at Duke, and I learned more from her than any other teacher I've ever had. This is tremendous collection of artists' writings. Essential for anyone interested in art history, cultural studies and everything in between.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amani

    If you want to know for real how cracked out your favorite contemporary artist is, find his/her essay within, read, go "wtf?", read it again in case you missed something, go "wtf?" again, vow to never read artists' statements again, feel better and move on with life. If you want to know for real how cracked out your favorite contemporary artist is, find his/her essay within, read, go "wtf?", read it again in case you missed something, go "wtf?" again, vow to never read artists' statements again, feel better and move on with life.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Essays, interviews, manifestos -- primary documents from fantastic visual artists across the 20th c. But it's divided not by group or time, but by issues: sections like "Geometric Abstraction," "Figuration," "Material Culture and Everyday Life," "Process," "Installations," "Language" -- it's all there and you've got artists from across the spectrum elbowing one another to describe how these issues can be addressed. A great book to dip into here and there. And if you make somekinda art on your own Essays, interviews, manifestos -- primary documents from fantastic visual artists across the 20th c. But it's divided not by group or time, but by issues: sections like "Geometric Abstraction," "Figuration," "Material Culture and Everyday Life," "Process," "Installations," "Language" -- it's all there and you've got artists from across the spectrum elbowing one another to describe how these issues can be addressed. A great book to dip into here and there. And if you make somekinda art on your own, reading others describe their thought- or work-process, especially in another medium, can get your engine running.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    This book is so important, I have 2 copies! I reference it all the time. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    KG Gardner

    Research for DPhil thesis

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paméla S

    Great reference book. I bought the second edition and it featured lots of different writing styles, including essays by installation and performance artists.

  7. 5 out of 5

    F.T.

    I definitely referred to this book many times during my undergrad in fine arts. The large size was daunting at first, but once I became familiar with some of the artists I referred to it more and more frequently. As a developing artist it was useful being able to read how artists describe their own work and thought processes, and covers a variety of artists over time (some are still practicing today). In the absence of contemporary art "canon" post 2000, I'd really love to see an updated version I definitely referred to this book many times during my undergrad in fine arts. The large size was daunting at first, but once I became familiar with some of the artists I referred to it more and more frequently. As a developing artist it was useful being able to read how artists describe their own work and thought processes, and covers a variety of artists over time (some are still practicing today). In the absence of contemporary art "canon" post 2000, I'd really love to see an updated version of this!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erin J. Mullikin

    A collection of primary sources that are some of the coolest interviews I've ever read. If you're a fan of modern art and enjoy reading interviews, essays, and process descriptions, I suggest obtaining a copy of this book. While it is fairly expensive, amazon.com has good prices for used copies. A collection of primary sources that are some of the coolest interviews I've ever read. If you're a fan of modern art and enjoy reading interviews, essays, and process descriptions, I suggest obtaining a copy of this book. While it is fairly expensive, amazon.com has good prices for used copies.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas McPhail

    highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary art theory.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sergio Pizzo Barrale

    all time favorite!! read it in parts. a lot of important documents

  11. 5 out of 5

    katie

    required reading for anyone into art. excellent resource for art thoughts by the people who make it. chock full of interviews, artist's statements, journals, etc. from pollock to jenny holzer. required reading for anyone into art. excellent resource for art thoughts by the people who make it. chock full of interviews, artist's statements, journals, etc. from pollock to jenny holzer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    A

    Wow! And whew! An extremely comprehensive look at a period of art with examples of writing and interviews with many, many artists.

  13. 5 out of 5

    James Carroll

    Big, thick and a lot of information, but well worth the few months it took to read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Digesting.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matty

    Good interviews, but it is mostly painters. Very narrow view of contemporary art when it comes to mediums. Good source book for direct writings from the artists though.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christina knox

    a pretty good indexical reference to being completely full of shit.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    ah, art school. i actually read all of my art school text books, still have them, and still use them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fay Ray

  19. 5 out of 5

    Raveendra

  20. 4 out of 5

    دورراني شيرا

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris Estrada

  22. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Khulan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Saffia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lendel Dalisay

  26. 5 out of 5

    B Tucker

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Saunders

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kay

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marc

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