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The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art


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To say, as many traditional modernists do, that art's meanings reside exclusively in its strict formal qualities and stated conventions begs many questions. Among them are how those conventions came into being and how they have evolved, why a material has been chosen and what its history was and its future might be, where the work is encountered and by whom, what social, political, and economic contexts impinge on our experience, and whether the work is permanent or intentionally mutable, ephemeral, or even perishable. With admirable clarity, Martha Buskirk asks all these questions and more of a wide range of situationally-defined contemporary art, much of which was created expressly with the idea of making these factors visible and exploring their implications. The result is both an overview of a diverse array of conceptual and process-driven art since the 1960s, and an observation-based, jargon-free consideration of the basic issues raised by the recognition that more than ever before, our significance is not fixed but contingent by design. -- Robert Storr, Rosalee Solow Professor of Modern Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art is an indispensable user's guide to the last forty years of art. Buskirk ably contends with the knotty legacies of conceptual art: in particular, the strange fact that "almost anything can be and has been called art." A patient critic, she takes the skepticism, and the curiosity, of art"s audiences seriously, and makes a persuasive case for the historical coherence of a heterogeneous field of art. -- Mignon Nixon, Courtauld Institute of Art

About the Author

Martha Buskirk is Associate Professor of Art History and Criticism at Montserrat College of Art. She is the coeditor of The Duchomp Effect (MIT Press, 1996) and The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents (MIT Press, 1990).


"Erudite... With notable argumentative clarity and welcome skepticism, Buskirk examines questions of authorship, originality, and the notably ephemeral object through specific examples, ranging from Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg to Janine Antoni and Gabriel Orozco." - Joao Ribas, artnet.com"

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