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A Critical History of 20th-Century Art: Minimalism and Pop



by Donald Kuspit

Chapter 7, Parts 1, 2 & 3: The Appeal of Popularity, Ideology and Theory: The Objectification of Art and the Abortive Protest of the Subject: The Seventh Decade

On the one side, Donald Judd, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, on the other side Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson and Joseph Beuys, to elevate to exemplary status only a few of the many artists working on opposites sides of the great divide -- the brutal dialectic -- of ‘60s art. For the former, the work of art is a "specific object," to use Judd’s famous term. For the latter, the work of art is the expressive byproduct of a "therapeutic process," to use Beuys’ important idea. On the one hand, there is the use of "real materials in real space" to construct "an object" which is "the whole idea without any confusion," to use Stella’s words. "Confusion" is caused by social and subjective import. As Stella writes, "only what can be seen there is there." This statement resembles Warhol’s remark -- it was made about the same time, and with the same smug coolness -- that "there’s nothing behind. . . the surface of my paintings and films and me." This is usually understood to be ironical, but it is, in fact, an honest acknowledgement of the lack of depth in all three artists.

Continued on ArtNet Magazine