Thursday, October 15, 2009

Art & Display

In the arts, display is the means of unveiling, as in a gallery or museum. The gesture of display evokes an admiration or art appreciation, since the very basis of art is “look and don’t touch.” Essential to contemporary art is a critique of the act of display, most evident first in minimalism then in installation art.

Elsworth Kelly by Todd Eberle in 2007, admiring his work in the gallery.

Donald Judd's influential text of 1965 is called Specific Objects.He was describing the transformation of the form and display of art. He is explaining that art is somehow neither painting nor sculpture. He explains that painting and sculpture have become “less neutral, less containers.” They are particular over-determined forms. He cites the work of color field painters such as Rothko or Newman who have already revealed that color on a rectangular canvas is an object and can have depth. He concludes by acknowledging the new materials arising in art such as plastic. The essay comes at an important time in art history which was the beginning of the installation that made artists more conscious of the controlled gallery space. Not only was the canvas or the pedestal not neutral, but neither was the gallery or museum. The forms of creation and display are within social systems.

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1967

Donald Untitled, 1968

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1970

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1973

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1993

The extreme minimalism of Judd is evident in retail design. Above Commes des Garcons on Faubourg St. Honore and below Dior Homme on Rodeo Drive.

Robert Smithson was a contemporary to Judd who was also interested in display. In this reading he discusses some ways for challenging the expectations of display. Uselessness, futility, blindness, stillness and forgetfulness all suggest a very temporal and limited interaction. For Smithson, art was a process and the means of display was natural and mutable. When Smithson did present particular forms in a gallery he did so from a scientific perspective. He was driven to explore natural sites as in Spiral Jetty of 1970.

Robert Smithson, Mirror & Rocks, 1969
Robert Smithson, Mirror Discplacements, 1969

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970

“Earth Artists” wanted to separate art from the system of manufactured capitalism, not only in the materials but also in the means of display and promotion. Their work was intangible and has only been integrated into the history of art through specific efforts by museums and institutions like Dia in New York.

Walter de Maria created the art work "Lightning Field," with a set of poles in New Mexico in 1977

Centre Pompidou held an exhibition of artist proposals for empty galleries in Feb-March 2009

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