Extra Credit – Reading Reflection – Tony McKendry

I had just finished reading Anna Dezeuze’s article “The 1960’s” again and was pretty blown away by the artistic interpretation of a decade that I’ve studied in a more historical aspect during my education. Dezueze breaks down the 10 years between 1960 and 1970, not chronologically, but by the different facets of the art world during that time.

She begins by addressing the radical shift in art that began taking place during the 1960’s. Art was becoming less about the final product of art, and more about the process. Hybrid forms of art were taking over as combinations of text, photographs, manmade and natural materials as well as found and readymade objects were coming onto the scene. These new forms of art took names like “happenings” and “kinetic art”, which lent to their animated nature. These “happenings” typically were one-time performance pieces that would sometimes “happen” randomly in the street, or be performed on a stage in front of an audience.

Dezeuze breaks the article down into sections, the first section touches on three areas of art that became important: objects, production and bodies. Objects stemmed from the new sciences of the day; the space race was in full swing, and nuclear and quantum physics were being heavily researched all over the world. The quantum idea that all matter is composed of “living” molecules that were always moving interested artists and led to the creation of movement art. Movement art incorporated mechanical features in order create simulated movement in pieces, like lights and motors. Some movement artists took the ideas of space and time and included them in their works. Allan Kaprow, for example, created “environments” in gallery spaces, where he would set up the space to look like an ordinary room, down to details like the objects in the cabinets that could be taken out and inspected by visitors. Post-world war two america was flooded with a never-seen-before amount of consumer goods; some artists saw these goods as found and ready made objects that were exhibited as art to draw attention to the rampant consumerism that was dominating American society.

The production aspect took the ideas of the object artists one step further; where object artists saw consumer goods as art to draw attention to consumerism, productionist saw the object artists’ pieces as more consumer goods, elevated to a higher status as artistic artifacts. Piero Manzoni canned his own feces and labeled it like a consumer good to highlight the status that is given to artists and their creations. With manufacturing becoming so prominent in American society, artists like Andy Wharhol completely removed the artist’s touch from their pieces by mass producing them using machines and delegating tasks to assistants. Minimalism also stemmed from this school of thought and focused on bringing art back to its purest form through production; instead of creating the pieces, a group of artists called Fluxus wrote out “scores” to artistic performance pieces and mass produced them like sheet music to be mail ordered to whoever might want them.

Conceptual art took the productionist reduction of Objects and art even a step further. Instead of creating art that touched on different concepts, they created concepts of art, and proposals of pieces instead of creating the physical work. Lawrence Weiner created pieces that were merely directions that anyone could follow to create a piece of art, for example, one said “one quart exterior green enamel thrown on brick wall”. The idea that art was purely based on visual attractiveness, and was a unique piece was broken down by these Conceptual artists. This mimicked the roles that managerial positions play in the service industry; a boss type sits back and delegates all of the manual labor to other individuals.

The last type of art that Dezeuze focused on incorporated the human body as its canvas, brush or sculpture. The 1960’s was the time of the sexual revolution, birth control and pornography were invented and age old ideals about premarital sex and women’s rights were being torn down. Public art performances were associated with groups of artists trying to send a message and paved the way for protest activity. Political claims by the artists were not usually apparent, but were found in the connotations of the content.

This article was very eye opening to me, and showed me a side of the 60’s, a time when free speech and self-expression became mainstream, that I had never seen before. I had even heard of, or had to research some of the artists or pieces that Dezeuze talked about, but now I can see them with a whole new context. Many of these movements are highly famous, mainly for their absurd nature that most people who are not educated in art only know because they are associated with the weird, and sometimes “stupid” art that people know, and pop culture loves to make fun of. If only the general public could actually know the meaning behind some of these works, they might understand the enormous impact that they’ve had on nearly every facet of modern day life in America

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