Friday, May 17, 2013

MAGNIFIERS: EUROPE/AMERICA the different avant-gardes by Achille Bonito Oliva

This volume is certainly one of my favorite art books of the Seventies,  as I fondly remember going through its pages with anticipation of connecting with other artists' ideas,  forms,  and processes.  While some may be disappointed that the only color here is within its cover design,  there is so much more beyond optical hedonism here. Achille Bonito Oliva (joined by a host of editors) offers a glimpse at the international avant-garde of the time in an abbreviated form in several languages,  giving the reader a  point of entry into artists' work and ideas.  While movements like conceptual art,  process art,  body art, and  performance dominate this book,  Oliva makes room for sculptors (Donald Judd, Mario Merz),  painters (Robert Ryman,  Francesco Clemente),  mail art (Ray Johnson) and even music (Laurie Anderson, La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela). It even features one of my wife's teachers,  the feminist sculptor Mary Miss.  Most of the reproductions in this book have  the gritty, cheap feel of downtown NYC during the Seventies,  when its vitality was only equaled by its troubled possibilities.  I must say that I fully agree with the differences between the European and American avant-gardes as presented here (pre-internet).  Europe is seen as "ideological" and America,  "statistical".  A nearly overwhelming historical grounding in the former,  and consumption as cannibalism in the latter.  Both ideas still push me beyond merely pretty pictures as much as they contaminate my comfort.  Nice... maybe?

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