The Neo-Avant-Garde Lecture

Neo Avant Garde Lecture by Graham Whitham


The term Avant Garde is attributed to Henri St Simon in 1825 and was considered a political, left wing means of communication.

Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, comte de SaintSimon (17 October 1760 – 19 May 1825), also referred to as Henri de SaintSimon, was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies,  including the philosophy of science and the discipline ofsociology. His thought played a substantial role in influencing positivism,Marxism and the ideas of Thorstein Veblen.  Saint-Simon is considered to be a utopian socialist. For this doctrine, industrial society was divided into working people and non-working people (whom he called “thieves”). However, social improvement in his ideal society would depend on full employment on the one hand, and on the other hand the absence of exploitation of individuals by each other. Society would be subdivided into three classes: owners, workers, and the wise and artists (who would rule society).1.

Taken from The Utopians, ‘Probably the first use of the term ‘Avant-Guard’ to designate an Artistic vanguard appears in the work of the French Utopian Socialist Henri de Saint Simon.  The idea of the Artist as vanguard first appears in a dialogue between an Artist, a Scientist and an Industrialist co-written by Saint – Simon in 1825. To Saint-Simon this trinity of professionals represents the enlightened hope of a new society, and foremost is the Artist ;

‘It is we, artists, who will serve you as avant-garde: the power of the arts is in fact most immediate and most rapid: when we wish to spread new ideas among men, we inscribe them on marble or on canvas;…and in that way above all we exert an electric and victorious influence. We address ourselves to the imagination and to the sentiments of mankind; we should therefore always exercise the livliest and most decisive action; and if today our role appears nil or at very least secondary, what is lacking to the arts is that which is essential to their energy and to their success, namely , a common drive and a general idea.” 2.

‘Let us be filled with one great idea: the well being of society ….We, the artists, will serve as the avant-garde, for amongst all the arms at our disposal, the power of the Arts is the swiftest and most expeditious. When we wish to spread new ideas amongst men, we use, in turn, the lyre, ode or song, story or novel, we inscribe these ideas on marble or canvas, and we popularize them in poetry and in song.

Henri de St Simon, c.1825′ quoted in the American Art Historian, Linda Nochlin’s work The Invention of the Avant-Garde: France, 1830-1880. 3.



Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers, 1849, Oil on canvas, 165 x 257 cm (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden (destroyed))

TheStonebreakers  (painted only one year after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote their influential pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto) the artist’s concern for the plight of the poor is evident. 4.

This life sized painting, a format usually reserved for the wealthy, appears to be a socialist message, that there is no future for the boy.

Courbet became a political activist, communard, elected to the Council of the Commune in 1871. 5.


By 1900 Paul Cezanne was painting with a radically new technique, which, whilst not Avant Garde with a socialist message, the radical technique did align with radical ideas.

Morning in Provence (Sous-Bois Provençal)
c. 1900-06 (130 Kb); Oil on canvas, 81 x 63 cm (32 x 24 7/8 in); Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY  6.


George Grosz (July 26, 1893 – July 6, 1959) was a German artist known especially for his caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. He was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group during theWeimar Republic before he emigrated to the United States in 1933.

Republican Automatons, 1920, watercolour on paper, Museum of Modern Art, New York

He joined the communist party at the end of 1918, but after a six-month stay in Russia in 1922, he resigned from the party in 1923, although his political position was little changed.  The subject matter of his work reflected his socialist views. 7.

Hugo Ball (German: [bal]; 22 February 1886 – 14 September 1927) was a German author, poet and one of the leading Dada artists.

In 1916, Hugo Ball created the Dada Manifesto, making a political statement about his views on the terrible state of society and acknowledging his dislike for philosophies in the past claiming to possess the ultimate Truth. The same year as the Manifesto, in 1916, Ball wrote his poem “Karawane,” which is a poem consisting of nonsensical words. The meaning however resides in its meaninglessness, reflecting the chief principle behind Dadaism.

As co-founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, he led the Dada movement in Zürich, and is one of the people credited with naming the movement “Dada”, by allegedly choosing the word at random from a dictionary

. 8.

The Dadaists stretched the boundaries of what art is, and because of where and when they were formed, and given that they criticised the war and those who perpetuated the war, their activities could be linked to a broad political challenge to the states involved in the war.

1924 Surrealism

Méret Elisabeth Oppenheim (6 October 1913 – 15 November 1985) was a German-born Swiss Surrealist artist and photographer. Oppenheim was a member of the Surrealist movement of the 1920s along with André Breton,Luis Buñuel, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst.

Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), 1936, Museum of Modern Art 9.

Surrealism challenged conventional art, challenging conventional practice and forms, which in turn could be assumed that they were challenging controlling systems.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres, Spain. 10.

Rainy Taxi 1938, would now be called an installation.

It could be argued that edgy art in the last 20-30 years owes more to this type of art than to canvas paintings.

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. 11.


The Red Room 1908

This painting is essentially about colour and form, about balance, a soothing calming influence on the mind.

In his essay Notes of a Painter in 1908 Matisse wrote ‘What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity- and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.’ 12.

What Matisse is alluding to is that art should pursue and aesthetic end, an escape that you cannot get from life.  Quite the opposite of the Avant Garde, more akin to Cezanne.

Modernism 1950 onwards

Roger Eliot Fry (14 December 1866 – 9 September 1934) was an English artist and art critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury Group.

Elyse Graham writing in ‘An Essay in Aesthetics’ wrote ‘An early but significant article by Roger Fry, “An Essay in Aesthetics” (April 1909, )attempts to describe what art is and why it matters. 13.   …it gives a glimpse of some of the particles of his thought, and it exerted strong influence on Clive Bell when he was writing his own statement of doctrine, Art. ‘If we run in daily life on a healthy fuel of envy and ambition, art reacquaints us with less useful but more important emotions (including what Fry calls “the cosmic emotion”) (27). Art exercises the soul.’ ‘ 14.

Arthur Clive Heward Bell (16 September 1881 – 18 September 1964), generally known as Clive Bell, was an English art critic, associated with formalism and the Bloomsbury Group. 15.

Clive Bell’s Significant Form Theory of Art

Writing on the Stuckism Wales web site about Clive Bell’s theory  which was published by the Project Gutenberg, 16: 17.

‘According to this theory, all objects that evoke aesthetic emotion in us share one quality – significant form – which can be defined as significant relationships between lines, shapes, colors, and other sensory properties.

Like Kant, proponents of this theory see the aesthetic judgement based on a universal standard and the origin of the aesthetic emotion within the object itself.The theory of “Significant form” as propounded by Clive Bell in 1914 was that:

“There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? What quality is common to Sta. Sophia and the windows at Chartres, Mexican sculpture, a Persian bowl , Chinese carpets, Giotto ‘s frescoes at Padua, and the masterpieces of Poussin, Piero della Francesca, and Cezanne? Only one answer seems possible – significant form. In each, lines and colours combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. These relations and combinations of lines and colours, these aesthetically moving forms, I call “Significant Form”; and “Significant form” is the one quality common to all works of visual art.”

Bell’s test for great art was the test of time:

“It is the mark of great art that its appeal is universal and eternal………….. Great art remains stable and unobscure because the feelings that it awakens are independent of time and place, because its kingdom is not of this world. To those who have and hold a sense of the significance of form what does it matter whether the forms that move them were created in Paris the day before yesterday or in Babylon fifty centuries ago? The forms of art are inexhaustible; but all lead by the same road of aesthetic emotion to the same world of aesthetic ecstasy.”‘

Clement Greenberg, occasionally writing under the pseudonym K. Hardesh, (January 16, 1909 – May 7, 1994) was an American essayist known mainly as an influential visual art critic closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century. In particular, he is best remembered for his promotion of the abstract expressionist movement and was among the first published critics to praise the work of painter Jackson Pollock. 18.

He argued that it is not the subject that matters but the effect on the viewer.

Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956), known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting.

 No 5 1948

Mark Rothko (Marcus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz; September 25, 1903 – February 25, 1970) was an American painter of Russian Jewish descent. He is generally identified as an Abstract Expressionist. 20.

Black on Maroon from Jonathan Jones article in the Guardian

Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1997) was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In the post-World War II era, de Kooning painted in a style that came to be referred to as Abstract expressionism or Action painting, and was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the New York School. Other painters in this group included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Clyfford Still, and Richard Pousette-Dart. 21.

Willem de Kooning, Woman V (1952–53), National Gallery of Australia

Robert Rauschenberg (Milton Ernest Rauschenberg October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop artmovement. Rauschenberg is well known for his “Combines” of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor and the Combines are a combination of both. 22.

 Canyon 1959

Rauschenberg’s purchase of a De Kooning drawing, and then the act of rubbing it out, shows his displeasure at this type of art.  His work is not an aesthetic pleasure, his work challenges the Abstract Expressionists.  Rauschenberg and is friend Jasper Johns were both Neo Avant Garde painters, a term applied to them retrospectively in the 1970s..

Jasper Johns (born May 15, 1930) is an American painter and printmaker.

Detail of Flag (1954-55). Museum of Modern Art, New York City. This image illustrates Johns’ early technique of painting with thick, dripping encaustic over a collage made from found materials such as newspaper. This rough method of construction is rarely visible in photographic reproductions of his work.23.

Sir Anthony Alfred Caro, OM, CBE (8 March 1924 – 23 October 2013) was an English abstract sculptor whose work is characterised by assemblages of metal using ‘found‘ industrial objects.[1]

Black Cover Flat (1974), steel, Tel Aviv Museum of Art 24.

Modernist, about form and space, with no subject.

In contrast The State Hospital by Edward Kienholz in 1947 is about subject.  Uncomfortable, critical of mental hospitals, a social and political statement.

The State Hospital 1947

Edward Kienholz (October 23, 1927 – June 10, 1994) was an Americaninstallation artist and assemblage sculptor whose work was highly critical of aspects of modern life. 25.

Art critic Brian Sewell called Edward Kienholz “the least known, most neglected and forgotten American artist of Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation of the 1950s, a contemporary of the writers Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Norman Mailer, his visual imagery at least as grim, gritty, sordid and depressing as their literary vocabulary”.[26)

Greenberg believed that painting was about painting and sculpture about sculpture.


Kenneth Noland (April 10, 1924 – January 5, 2010) was an American abstract painter.

Daniel Spoerri’s found object snare pictures challenge Greenberg’s medium specific premis.

Kichka’s Breakfast 1960

Daniel Spoerri (born 27 March 1930 in Galați) is a Swiss artist and writer born in Romania.[1] Spoerri is best known for his “snare-pictures,” a type of assemblage or object art, in which he captures a group of objects, such as the remains of meals eaten by individuals, including the plates, silverware and glasses, all of which are fixed to the table or board, which is then displayed on a wall. He also is widely acclaimed for his book, Topographie Anécdotée* du Hasard (An Anecdoted Topography of Chance), a literary analog to his snare-pictures, in which he mapped all the objects located on his table at a particular moment, describing each with his personal recollections evoked by the object.

Spoerri is also closely associated with the Fluxus art movement, a movement formed in the early 1960s, “characterized by a strongly Dadaist attitude,

Spoerri has led a nomadic life, living variously in Bern, Paris, the Greek island of Symi, Düsseldorf, Basel, Munich and Vienna.[14] In 1997 he moved to the Tuscan town of Seggiano where he opened Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri (the Garden of Daniel Spoerri), a sculpture garden, where works by a number of artists are displayed. 27.

Greenberg also argued that art should be gallery based to give the work a special effect.  You respond to it in a special way because it is High Art, and not every day life.

Morris Louis Alpha Epsilon 1960

Morris Louis, born Morris Louis Bernstein (November 28, 1912 – September 7, 1962), was an American painter. During the 1950s he became one of the earliest exponents of Color Field painting.  Louis, along with Kenneth Noland and other Washington painters formed an art movement that is known today as the Washington Color School. 28.

Greenberg argued that High Art should be detached from art and particularly what he called kitsch.  Andy Warhol short circuits all that Greenberg is trying to promote, and whilst Warhol is not a neo Avant Garde he has the consciousness of this movement.

Art Leaves the Gallery

Claes Oldenburg (born January 28, 1929) is an American sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring very large replicas of everyday objects. 29.

Oldenburg’s Store, 1961

Oldenburg further challenges Greenberg’s view and aesthetics, and the general conception of what is art, with his crudely made detritus of modern life sold in his shop, in Lower Manhattan.  He also appeared in performance art, then known as happenings.  A small invited audience to a non gallery, non theatre space, non scripted, with the audience part of the performance itself.  Oldenburg believed  theatre  to be the most powerful art form, because it is so involving.

George Maciunas  (November 8, 1931 – May 9, 1978) was a Lithuanian-born American artist. He was a founding member and the central coordinator of Fluxus, an international community of artists, architects, composers, and designers. Other leading members brought together by this movement included Ay-O, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, and Wolf Vostell. He is most famous for organising and performing early happenings and for assembling a series of highly influential artists’ multiples.

Whilst Maciunas was still alive, no fluxus work was ever signed or numbered,[20] and many weren’t even credited to any artist. As such, huge confusion continues to surround many key fluxus works; Maciunas strived to uphold his stated aims of demonstrating the artist’s ‘non-professional status…his dispensability and inclusiveness’ and that ‘anything can be art and anyone can do it.30. 31.

Nam June Paik (July 20, 1932 – January 29, 2006) was a Korean American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the founder of video art. 32.

Zen for Head

In this performance Paik is painting with his head.  Again challenging the concept of what art is.

Shigeko Kubota painting with a brush attached to her under clothes.  A feminist pastiche of Pollack’s macho work.

Neo Avant Garde is about parody. Peter Occonchi, his teeth are his signature, challenging the notion of individuality.

Bruce McLean (born 1944) is a Scottish sculptor, performance artist and painter.

McLean was born in Glasgow[1] and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1963, and at Saint Martin’s School of Art, London, from 1963 to 1966.[2] At Saint Martin’s, McLean studied with Anthony Caro [3] and Phillip King. In reaction to what he regarded as the academicism of his teachers he began making sculpture from rubbish.[4]

McLean has gained international recognition for his paintings, ceramics, prints, work with film, theatre and books.[5] McLean was Head of Graduate Painting atThe Slade School of Fine Art London [6] He has had numerous one man exhibitions including Tate Gallery in London, The Modern Art Gallery in Vienna and Museum of Modern Art, Oxford.[7] In 1985, he won the John Moores Painting Prize.[8]

Mclean lives and works in London. 34.

Pose Work for Plinth 3, 1971

A McClean silk screen.  He challenged the pompousness of the art world and mocked established art forms.

Bruce Nauman (born December 6, 1941) is a contemporary American artist. His practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography,neon, video, drawing, printmaking, and performance. 35.

Artist as a Fountain with a nod to Duchamp.

Ana Mendieta (18 November 1948 – 8 September 1985) was a Cuban American performance artist, sculptor, painter and video artist who is best known for her “earth-body” art work.

Recreated  a rape scene following such an incident at her student block.

Carolee Schneemann (born October 12, 1939) is an American visual artist, known for her discourses on the body, sexuality and gender. 37.

Interior Scroll 1973

A text about conventional differences between men and women, with women being about intuition and bodily processes, and men being about rationality and being logical.  A shocking performance for its time.

Semiotics of the Kitchen is a feminist parody video and performance piece released in 1975 by Martha Rosler. The video, which runs six minutes, is considered a critique of the commodified versions of traditional women’s roles in modern society. 38.

Martha Rosler (born July 29, 1943)[1] is an American artist. She works in video, photo-text, installation, and performance, as well as writing about art and culture. Rosler’s work is centered on everyday life and the public sphere, often with an eye to women’s experience. Recurrent concerns are the media and war, as well as architecture and the built environment, from housing and homelessness to systems of transport. 39.

Gutai Artist Saburo Murakami


With our present awareness, the arts we have known up to now appear to us in general to be fakes fitted out with a tremendous affectation. Let us take leave of these piles of counterfeit objects on the altars, in the palaces, in the salons and the antique shops. These objects are in disguise and their materials such as paint, pieces of cloth, metals, clay or marble are loaded with false significance by human hand and by way of fraud, so that, instead of just presenting their own material, they take on the appearance of something else. Under the cloak of an intellectual aim, the materials have been completely murdered and can no longer speak to us. Lock these corpses into their tombs. Gutai art does not change the material but brings it to life. Gutai art does not falsify the material …So begins the Gutai Manifesto, written by Jiro Yoshihara in 1956 (English translation here). In the late 1940s, Gutai co-founder Shozo Shimamoto had started aestheticising holes in stretched canvases (seehere), emphasising the corporeal contact made between painter and painting (incidentally, Fontana was developing his Cuts around the same time in Italy).

Pictured here is Gutai artist Saburo Murakami’s action work at the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition in Ohara Hall, Tokyo, in 1956 (below is a reconstruction of the same work in a Gutai retrospective at the 2009 Venice Biennale). Concerning himself with the physical reality of the painter’s canvas, his bodily intervention complicated the relationship between art production and performance.

The Gutai Group’s work around Japan in the ’50s and ’60s anticipated later performance art, happenings and conceptualism in the west, and they had an especially formative influence on the Fluxus movement. They were explicitly concerned with the materiality of art (gutai means ‘tangible’ or ‘concrete’) and, by extension, its material degradation. The manifesto continues:

… what is interesting in this respect is the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries. This is described as the beauty of decay, but is it not perhaps that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics? The fact that the ruins receive us warmly and kindly after all, and that they attract us with their cracks and flaking surfaces, could this not really be a sign of the material taking revenge, having recaptured its original life? … 40.

Gustav Metzger: Auto-Destructive Art (1959)

Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies.

Self-destructive painting, sculpture and construction is a total unity of idea, site, form, colour, method, and timing of the disintegrative process.

Auto-destructive art can be created with natural forces, traditional art techniques and technological techniques.

The amplified sound of the auto-destructive process can be an element of the total conception.

The artist may collaborate with scientists, engineers.

Self-destructive art can be machine produced and factory assembled.

Auto-destructive paintings, sculptures and constructions have a life time varying from a few moments to twenty years. When the disintegrative process is complete the work is to be removed from the site and scrapped.

Gustav Metzger painting with hydrochloric
acid on nylon. South Bank, London, 1961/1966. 42.

Vienna Actionists

Hermann Nitsch (born 29 August 1938) is an Austrian artist who works in experimental and multimedia modes.

Born in Vienna, Nitsch received training in painting when studied at the Wiener Graphische Lehr-und Versuchanstalt, during which time he was drawn toreligious art.[1][2] He is associated with the Vienna Actionists—a loosely affiliated group of off-kilter and confrontational Austrian artists that also includes Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler

Also, it is often discussed today that his work may exemplify cultures’ fascination with violence.41.

Their work was socially critical, made to shock, challenging the conventions of art.

Then as it becomes accepted, does it then have to become more offensive?  In 1966 there was The Destruction in Art Symposium at which Yoko Ono performed her Cut Piece and John Latham set fire to a  tower of law and reference books outside the Law Courts, British Museum and the University of London.

Nights of Skoob Sadness 2



John Aubrey Clarendon Latham, (23 February 1921 – 1 January 2006) was a Zambia-born, British conceptual artist who lived for many years in England.

Fluxis Manifesto – George Maciunas

This document was very much a left wing, Marxist, anarchist political manifesto ‘Purge the world of bourgeois sickness’.  Early 1960s.

In 1968, political upheaval, in Czechoslovakia, those against the Vietnam war, in London the march to Grosvenor Square,  Kennedy was shot, Martin Luther King was assassinated, a significant year, a stand against an anachronistic  establishment, the underground, the drug culture, student riots, almost revolution in Paris.

Martha Rosler

First Lady (Pat Nixon) 1967-72

The idea being that you felt there were two worlds existing.  Anti American.

Brazilian Cildo Meireles ‘Yankees go home, and how to make a molatov cocktail’.

The Neo Avant Garde responded to the social and political unrest.

Anyone Can Be An Artist

This period can be summed up by

The Revolution is Us’, Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys12 May 1921 – 23 January 1986) was a German Fluxus, happening and performance artist as well as asculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art.

His extensive work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophyand anthroposophy; it culminates in his “extended definition of art” and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics. His career was characterized by passionate, even acrimonious public debate. He is now regarded as one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century.[43)

Artistically challenging the conventions, some of what he is doing is clearly political and was attacked by neo nazis.  He is also setting himself up as an Art Shaman.

Art has a purpose, to feed the human spirit.  In 1970’s he was allied to the Green Party.  If we pursue some of  his ideas we will change society for the better.

1974 Literary  Critic Peter Burger wrote The Theory of the Avant Garde, which looks at the Establishment’s embrace of socially critical works of art and suggests that in complicity with capitalism, “art as an institution neutralizes the political content of the individual work” 44.

He talked about Neo Avant Garde was critical to controlling political and cultural elites.  He compared it to the inter war Avant Garde, particularly Dada and Surrealism, which was deemed to have failed.  Neo Avant Garde is seen as  ineffectual of being critical of ruling elites, because all it was doing was repeating the strategies of the Avant Garde.

Yves Klein ( 28 April 1928 – 6 June 1962) was a French artist considered an important figure in post-war European art. He is the leading member of the French artistic movement of Nouveau réalisme founded in 1960 by art critic Pierre Restany. Klein was a pioneer in the development of performance art, and is seen as an inspiration to and as a forerunner of Minimal art, as well as Pop art.

Painting with female bodies. This type of work he called Anthropometry.

The performance in the Neo Avant Garde manner resulted in canvases which are now in museums.  If the work is challenging the establishment, why make something that the establishment can own.


Niki de Saint Phalle ‘Shooting Picture’, 1961<br />
© The estate of Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint-Phalle Shooting Picture 1961

Which again is now in a museum.

Piero Manzoni (July 13, 1933 – February 6, 1963) was an Italian artist best known for his ironic approach to avant-garde art. Often compared to the work of Yves Klein, his own work anticipated, and directly influenced, the work of a generation of younger Italian artists brought together by the critic Germano Celant in the first Arte Povera exhibition held in Genoa, 1967.[1] Manzoni is most famous for a series of artworks that call into question the nature of the art object, directly prefiguring Conceptual Art.[2][3] His work eschews normal artist’s materials, instead using everything from rabbit fur to human excrementin order to “tap mythological sources and to realize authentic and universal values”. 45.

The tins of excrement were sold in limited editions for the price of the weight in gold. Clearly a critique on the value of art and what the artist produces, literally.

John Latham chewed the pages of Claude Greenberg’s book and stored the pulp in glass vials which are now at the MoMa in New York.

More genuine in his critique, Hotaka asking people to vote yes or no.  The question is about Rockefeller supporting Nixon, and as a trustee of the MoMa, it was shown there.

STUART BRISLEY, You Know It Makes Sense, 1972, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

70sWorksYou Know It Makes Sense (with reference to allegations made against the British Army in Ulster concerning torture), 1972  46.

He and others were in a room for several day ‘re-enacting’.

Hannah Wilke (born Arlene Hannah Butter; March 7, 1940 – January 28, 1993)[1] was an American painter, sculptor, photographer, video artist and performance artist. 47.

To confront the erotic representation of women in popular culture.

Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and  Mary Kelly presented a sociological study in an art gallery, entitled Women at Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry 1973-75.  Coming to it a gallery it could  be argued that it has a greater impact.

Victor Burgin subverting the medium to give the opposite message, 1976.  However the impact accowas virtually nil.

Jo Spence

Hackney Flashers, panel from exhibition
(Who’s still holding the baby?), 1978

Making visible the invisible, demonstrating women’s contribution to the economy.

Is This the Future?

Artist Placement Group, John Latham, Ian Breakwell and Barbara Stephani.  In 1969 the artist was placed in the company to produce a work of art.

Stuart Brisley making a sculpture out of chair frames at Hille in Suffolk in 1970.

STUART BRISLEY, Hille Fellowship, 1970, Poly Wheel – Robin Day stacking chairs. 212 chairs circle.

Exploiting the nature of the material.

As part of the APG Ian Breakwell worked in Broadmoor and Rampton hospitals in 1978.  The results included a report, co-written with a group of architects, recommending top-to-bottom changes at Rampton, and a film, The Institution (1978), made with the singer-songwriter and artist Kevin Coyne. 48.

An artist, an open thinking person, can come in and see things.

Reflections on the Lecture

A comprehensive introduction to a number of key artists in this period, and the history behind the movement.

I found the social history and the movement’s place in history, far more interesting than the work produced by the artists in question.  Pushing the boundaries for the sake of proving they could do it, feels more like children rebelling, than artists taking creativity to new heights.  I found the role of women, as presented, particularly disappointing.  Art is about enriching the soul, not challenging the viewer to the point of feeling sickened.  I may be wrong but I can’t imagine that this period will be influencing my work.

Early 1960s-1970s.  By 1978 Neo Avant  Garde has become more conventionalised.   How might they inform things that have happenened since?













13. 1 Fry, Roger. “An Essay in Aesthetics.” New Quarterly, 2 (April 1909), 171-90. Reprinted in Vision and Design (London: Chatto and Windus, 1928), pp. 16-38. Hereafter cited by page number only.













26. Sewell, Brian (19 November 2009). “Truth about the sex trade from Edward Kienholz”. London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2014-07-01.





31. A 1965 Inventory list by Maciunas, quoted in Mr Fluxus, p88


33. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, The New Media Reader, MIT Press, 2003, p227. ISBN 0-262-23227-8

Jump up^ Judkis, Maura (December 12, 2012). “”Father of video art” Nam June Paik gets American Art Museum exhibit (Photos)”. The Washington Post.
















Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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