1966 – 1972: unfolding the unknown


Lucy Lippard’s book ‘Six years: the demateralization of the art object from 1966 to 1972′ – which I mentioned earlier in this post – triggered again my admiration for an intriguing period in art. Lipard describes conceptualism, performance and the first land art in the time after minimalism.

This period is crucial in history because it marks the transistion from modernism to postmodernism (yet it is more than often overlooked in literature, mainly because of it’s big brother Pop art). Traces of phenomenology are evidently still there, take for instance Bruce Nauman, whose performances explore in a very formal way his studio space. To a certain extend this applies to all the periods mentioned above; they deal in a very elementary way with shape, form and measurements: all formal aspects of objects, the body and landscape. In that regard they differentiate the minimalist tradition and re-enact it in new domains such as performance and landscape.

Bruce Nauman, Revolving upside down, 1968

On the other hand, the artists seem to be more than aware of the fact that they are revolutionizing art. The essence of this period is the fact that they break away from sculptural and pictorial traditions and start re-imagining the world entirely; like new-borns they step into it and start to explore the way children do: by touching it, tasting, marking and measuring it. This gives their works a feeling of curiosity and astonishment and as an audience we look over their shoulders and see the world the way we did a long time ago.
Douglas Heubler photographs the sky over different American cities; Stanley Brouwn walks certain distances; Vito Acconci follows people on the street.Their historical value lies in the fact the these artists began to realise that art is situated in the world and therefore all works of art are relational. Consequently they begin to take down the foundations of art’s hegemony: the object, the art institution and the modernist claim of universality.

One of the most interesting things that Lippy points out is, what she calls, the dematerialisation of art that occurs as a result of this ‘new order’ and what lends the work an aura of mystique and poetics. This is generally understood by Sol LeWitts statement that the idea is more important than the object, but I don’t think that’s true. The documentation of the above mentioned works are beautiful; they communicate the concept and have a value of their own, today these black and white photographs even have a nostalgic romanticism.

Much rather the mysterious qualities of these works lies in the experimental attitude that leads to the dissolving of the object and back to the condensation of its meaning ‘in the moment’ or ‘during the encounter’. ‘The world’ – literally and metaphorically – that had gradually been erased out of art in the age of abstraction makes its comeback. The artists step back into this unknown terrain and unfolds all that has become common in contemporary art today: context, the experiment and the relational.

To illustrate my enthusiasm I will publish some of these relatively unknown works once every while.

1 Response to “1966 – 1972: unfolding the unknown”



  1. 1 1966 - 1972: Roelof Louw « Trackback on May 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm

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