About

Columbia University Press Pinterest

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

Archive for the 'Art' Category

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s, by Mary Helen Washington

The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s, Mary Helen Washington

This week we will be featuring The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s, by Mary Helen Washington on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Other Blacklist to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and indicate your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, April 11 at 3:00 pm.

In The Other Blacklist, Mary Helen Washington recovers the vital role of 1950s leftist politics in the works and lives of modern African American writers and artists. While most histories of McCarthyism focus on the devastation of the blacklist and the intersection of leftist politics and American culture, few include the activities of radical writers and artists from the Black Popular Front. Washington’s work incorporates these black intellectuals back into our understanding of mid-twentieth-century African American literature and art and expands our understanding of the creative ferment energizing all of America during this period.

For more on the book, read an excerpt from the introduction.

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Images from Recovering Place by Mark C. Taylor

We conclude our week-long focus on Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill, by Mark C. Taylor by featuring some of the book’s stunning photographs along with excerpts from the book.

Divided into short chapters focusing on a specific theme or idea (Modern, Abstraction, Shadows, Raking, Prayer, etc.), the book includes images of and around Stone Hill, which is located in the Berkshire Mountains, where Taylor writes and creates land art and sculpture. We’ve posted some of the photographs below along with short excerpts from the chapters. (For more on the book, you can also read the book’s introduction) :

CRAFT

Recovering Place, Mark C. Taylor

Craft can be fine art. Traditionally anonymous, craft, unlike so-called fine art, is more about the art than the artist. It is not the work of genius but the product of skill cultivated over many years of apprenticeship…. Although he never signs his art, the imprint of his hand is unmistakable.

DAWN

Mark Taylor, Recovering Place

But this moment never lasts, for it appears only by disappearing…. But light is never merely light, for illumination creates a residual obscurity more impenetrable than the darkness it displaces but does not erase

REAL

Mark Taylor, Recovering Place

The Real is what remains when I do not and forever withdraws in my presence. Resisting my resistance without opposition, the real is the limit that makes creativity possible. Thinking is always after the real, which can never be properly comprehended, calculated, or controlled.

(more…)

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Tributes to the Life and Work of Arthur Danto

Arthur Danto

Earlier this week we had a short post on the death of Arthur Danto, the influential philosopher and art critic. Not surprisingly, a variety of tributes to and assessments of Danto has poured forth. The following are just a few we’d like to highlight.

Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy. Bilgrami gives an overview of Danto’s career along with a look back on what he meant to philosophy, art criticism, and the department of philosophy at Columbia. In this excerpt, Bilgrami identifies what made Danto’s art criticism for the Nation so extraordinary and considers his distinctiveness as a philosopher:

The special quality of Arthur’s reviews in the Nation is that they are unmistakably the writings of a philosopher, revealing often how a line or image or stone was the stimulus or the station of some idea, even sometimes of an argument. The Nation has, as a result of his essays, managed to become something of a philosophical magazine, and that is no bad thing. And conversely, in philosophy, what he managed to assert in public ways in these last thirty years was a personality that made him quite unusual, if not almost unique, among analytic philosophers —a genuinely cultured man. Not just someone grabbing every week the offerings of a prodigious metropole, but someone whose ideas and perceptions are tuned by a daily awareness of how the city and its arts have come to be what they are, and how it stands among the productions of other cities in America and the world. Culture, in Arthur’s philosophical thinking was perhaps more important than anything else, and this emerged in ways that were sometimes amusing – and appalling. I remember once how Isaac Levi and I were struck dumb when we asked him, after his visit to Calcutta, how he had managed to cope with the awful condition of its suffering, and he replied in a trice: “Oh that was nothing, you see poverty is part of the culture of Calcutta.”

(more…)

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Arthur Danto, 1924-2013

Arthur DantoWe were saddened to learn of the death of Arthur Danto this past weekend.

Danto was the Johnsonian professor emeritus of philosophy at Columbia University and one of the leading art critics of the past fifty years. (Incidentally, Danto’s death occurred the same weekend as Lou Reed’s. Both men’s lives and careers were also profoundly shaped by the work of Andy Warhol.) In describing Danto’s work, Lydia Goehr, a professor of philosophy at Columbia University, was quoted as saying, “His project, really, was to tell us what art is, and he did that by looking at the art of his time. And he loved the art of his time, for its openness, and its freedom to look any way it wanted to.”

Danto was the author of some 30 books of philosophy and art criticism, most famously Beyond the Brillo Box and After the End of Art, and Columbia University Press was fortunate to publish four of his books as well as the edited collection, Action, Art, History: Engagements with Arthur C. Danto, edited by Daniel Herwitz and Michael Kelly.

Wendy Lochner, publisher for philosophy and religion, was Danto’s editor at the press and shared the following personal recollections of working with him:

Arthur Danto was one of the very first faculty members whom I met when I started at the press in 2001. He emailed me to introduce himself, and we had the first of many delightful meals together. Over the next 10 years we worked closely, preparing new editions of some of his major books, including Narration and Knowledge, Nietzsche as Philosopher, and The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art. He also served on the advisory board of our series Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts and was instrumental in establishing it as a leading venue for publishing in aesthetics.

Arthur was unfailingly gracious and helpful as author, reader, and friend. With his lovely wife Barbara we enjoyed more than a few elegant dinners, spiced with wit and gossip (gentle gossip!). I will never forget the brilliance and humor he exhibited in talks at APA, on campus, and in other venues.

Arthur Danto was a major figure in contemporary American philosophy. His voice will be missed. I am lucky to count him as an author, adviser, and friend.

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Images from A Little Gay History

We continue our week-long feature on A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World, by R. B. Parkinson with some images from the book, which come from the collection at the British Museum. Working backwards in time, we move from David Hockney to Egyptian Papyrus from 950 BCE.

David Hockney, In the Dull Village, 1966-7
David Hockney, In the Dull Village

Kitagawa Utamaro, Mashiba Hisayhoshi, 1804
Kitagawa Utamoro, Mashiba Hisayhoshi

(more…)

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Santiago Zabala – Out of Network: The Art of Filippo Minelli

“Minelli, by traveling to the slums of Cambodia and painting “Second Life” on its walls, is indicating the contradiction between these two worlds (advanced technological capitalism and its social detritus) — and it is also disclosing the limits imposed by these social networks. These networks, and the Internet in general, are the culmination of Being’s (human existence) replacement with beings (objects) — with the global technological organization of the world.” — Santiago Zabala

Hermeneutic CommunismThe Stone, the philosophy blog of the New York Times, recently ran a post by Santiago Zabala on the art of Italian artist Filippo Minelli. In his post, Zabala, Icrea research professor of philosophy at the University of Barcelona and coauthor of Hermeneutic Communism, intersperses powerful photos of Minelli’s work with explanations of why Minelli’s message needs to be taken seriously. We’ve excerpted some of the essay below, complete with several of the photos. Read the entire article here.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Imagining Mankind Beyond Earth (on Pinterest!)

Claude Piantadosi’s Mankind Beyond Earth frames space exploration as humanity’s ultimate challenge to adapt to new and extremely hostile environments. However, while Piantadosi is quite frank about the physical and financial limits of human spacefaring, his book is also brimming with examples of its potential for human creativity. Inspired by this enthusiasm (and the book’s retro cover art) we’ve put together a Pinterest Board (see below) featuring some of our favorite illustrative imaginings about travel to the stars.


Thursday, January 31st, 2013

“Philosophy has lost its way”

Rewiring the Real

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real. Today, we have a guest post from Professor Taylor, in which he discusses Rewiring the Real, Refiguring the Spiritual, and Recovering Place, and tells why Rewiring the Real might have begun, “Philosophy has lost its way.”

“Philosophy has lost its way”
Mark C. Taylor

Rewiring the Real is the second book in a trilogy that includes Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy (2012), and Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill (2014). Refiguring the Spiritual begins, “Art has lost its way;” Rewiring the Real might have begun, “Philosophy has lost its way.” During the latter half of the twentieth-century, art and money entered into an unholy alliance in which artists eager to cash in on new money are selling works to financiers who resell them in hedge funds and private equity funds designed for ultra-rich investors looking for new ways to “diversify their portfolios with asset-backed securities.” While artists are trying to become Wall Street players, philosophers are trying to become scientists. As their work becomes more abstract and highly specialized, philosophers become less concerned about human problems and real world issues.

For art and philosophy to recover their missions, art must become more philosophical and philosophy must become more artistic in and through a rethinking of the interrelationship of art, philosophy and religion. This will require not only a change in substance but, more important, a change in style. This is not an original idea but can be traced to the publication of Kant’s pivotal Critique of Judgment (1790). It is no exaggeration to insist that this work has directly and indirectly shaped all philosophical, theological, artistic and, indeed, cultural discussions and production for more than two centuries. Kant provided the definition of art that became normative for Modernism. During the decade of the 1790s, discussions about Kant’s critical philosophy among a remarkable group of philosophers and writers, including, inter alia, Hegel, Schelling, Schiller, Schleiermacher, Hölderlin, Novalis, and the Schlegel brothers, led to a reconfiguration of the relationship among philosophy, art and religion. While leading thinkers in the eighteenth century had interpreted religion in either epistemological or ethical terms, writers, who gathered in Jena during the seminal decade of the 1790s, reconceived religion in terms of art and aesthetics. In their works, art displaced religion as the primary means for the exploration and expression of religious and spiritual concerns. Some of philosophers who have been most influential recently – Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida – are as much artists as philosophers. But they have all remained writers, whose works are literary or even poetic. Some of the leading twentieth-century visual artists – Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Malevich, Rothko, Reinhardt, Newman, Pollack – insist that art has a spiritual dimension.

Refiguring the Spiritual begins with a critique of what I describe as the “financialization of art.” What Andy Warhol is to consumer capitalism, Jeff Koons is to financial capitalism. But there is an importance difference between Andy and his epigone Jeff. While Warhol’s ironic detachment leaves the viewer uncertain whether he is criticizing or endorsing consumerism, there is no ambiguity about Koons. He eagerly endorses practices of the Wall Street wizards who pay excessive prices for eye candy intended to make them feel good. Beuys, Barney, Turrell and Goldsworthy reject this tendency in contemporary art. Each in his own way extends the preoccupations of the modern avant-garde art by drawing on different spiritual traditions (Beuys, Anthroposophy; Barney, Celtic and Masonic mythology; Turrell, Quakerism and Hopi myths and rituals; Goldsworthy, Celtic mythology). Their works are difficult and demanding – they cannot be consumed quickly but take time to appreciate. Though many of their works are expensive to create, they cannot be easily commodified. The primary purpose of their works is not to market them for a profit but to create the opportunity for the cultivation of personal and, by extension, social transformation.

Rewiring the Real extends my analysis from art to literature by analyzing one novel by four important writers: William Gaddis, The Recognitions; Richard Powers, Plowing the Dark; Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves; Don DeLillo, Underworld. Though these writers are very different, they share an appreciation for the ways in which recent technological innovations (Gaddis, electronic media and communications; Powers, virtual reality; Danielewski, Internet and World Wide Web; DeLillo, nuclear power and global financial networks) harbor a latent spirituality in an era that is too often labeled secular and posthuman. Rather than merely critically analyzing these novels, I attempt to engage the authors in a conversation that expands the inquiry beyond the boundaries each writer defines. As these writers begin to “talk” among themselves, we begin to see how their work can help readers understand the ways in which the very sense of reality is morphing in the global world of financial capitalism.

If style is substance and substance is style, then writing must change. In previous works (e.g., Imagologies: Media Philosophy, Grave Matters, Mystic Bones, Hiding, and Motel Réal: Las Vegas, Nevada), I have used different styles of writing and visual design to convey the ideas I am attempting to express. This ongoing experiment continues with this trilogy: Refiguring the Spiritual uses images and design to fashion arguments and Rewiring the Real includes accounts of some of my own artwork as well as my first attempt at writing fiction. Recovering Place will be my most ambitious experiment so far. In this multifaceted work, I take philosophy off the page by creating land art and sculpture (metal, rock, stone and bone) in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, where I live. In addition to a series of aphoristic reflections about the importance of recovering place in a world that is becoming ever more virtual, the book also includes original photographs I have taken of my art in its natural setting. As Kierkegaard, insisted long ago, many of the most important things in life can only be communicated indirectly. I would add to this that there are things that we can apprehend but not precisely comprehend. Through stylistic innovation and artistic design, I have attempted to create performative works that work at multiple levels to transform apprehension as well as introduce new ways of understanding the world in which we dwell.

Mark C. Taylor
Stone Hill

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Stephen Bronner, Author of Modernism at the Barricades, Takes The Page 99 Test

Modernism at the Barricades, Stephen BronnerRecently, Stephen Bronner author of Modernism at the Barricades: Aesthetics, Politics, Utopia, took The Page 99 Test. The test, thought up by Ford Maddox Ford, posits that the 99th page of a book determines the quality of a book.

Bronner expresses some skepticism about this adage but then grudgingly admits that the “page is somewhat indicative of my general enterprise”. The page in question considers the myth of the surrealist dialectic and Bronner explains how the page fits in with the book’s aims:

Modernism at the Barricades explores the interplay between aesthetics, philosophy, and politics in the major avant-garde movements that marked the first three decades of the twentieth century. I mostly focus on figures who reflected that intersection. Andre Breton was one of them. The guiding force of surrealism, he was also a seminal figure of modernism. My engagement with him as a thinker and the philosophical pretensions of surrealism is critical in character. But that is the case for the book as a whole insofar as it seeks to reinterpret modernism with an eye on its legacy for our time and contemporary cultural politics.”

For more on the book, you can browse it using Google Preview or read the introduction in its entirety.

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Henry Kissinger Exposed and More from The New York Times Op-ed Page

Now available in paper, All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some that Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page, by Jerelle Kraus, reveals the crucial role that art work has played in establishing the Times‘s op-ed page as such a force. (For more information including a gallery of many of the images found in the book you can visit jerellekraus.com.)

The paperback edition includes a new cover which includes an infamous nude picture of Henry Kissinger’s back (and more) with a map of Southeast Asia. The David Levine image was commissioned by the New York Times who ultimately decided to “kill” the art deeming it too risky:

Henry Kissinger, Jerelle Kraus

Here are some sample images from the book:

Nixon
Obama
(more…)

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Columbia University Press Authors at dOCUMENTA 13

dOCUMENTA 13

The eagerly anticipated art fair dOCUMENTA 13, held every five years, opens on June 9 in Kassel, Germany. dOCUMENTA has become one of the biggest art events in the world but also includes “other objects and experiments in the fields of art, politics, literature, philosophy, and science.

For the Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev,

dOCUMENTA (13) is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory and epistemological closures…. Participants of dOCUMENTA (13) come from a range of fields of activity…. They contribute to dOCUMENTA (13) that aims to explore how different forms of knowledge lie at the heart of the active exercise of re-imagining the world. What some of these participants do, and what they “exhibit” in dOCUMENTA (13), may or may not be art. However, their acts, gestures, thoughts, and knowledges produce and are produced by circumstances that are readable by art, aspects that art can cope with and absorb.

A number of Columbia University Press authors will have their work represented or will be present, including:

Irina Aristarkhova, author of the forthcoming Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Culture.

Judith Butler, author of several titles, including the forthcoming Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism

Kenneth Goldsmith, author of Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age

Catherine Malabou, author of Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction

Christoph Menke, author of Tragic Play: Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Gertrude Stein, Alan Dershowitz, Barbara Will, and the Controversy at the Met

Barbara Will, Unlikely Collaborator The recent opening of The Steins Collect at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has ignited a controversyregarding Gertrude Stein’s fascist past. At the center of this debate is Barbara Will’s recent book Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma.

As Will’s book reveals, Stein, herself a Jew, supported various Vichy policies and in fact translated several of Marshal Philippe Pétain’s speeches. Moreover, she had a close relationship with Bernard Fay, who was director of the Bibliothèque Nationale during the Vichy regime and overseer of the repression of French freemasons. It is through Fay’s protection that Stein was able to remain in France.

Initially, the Met made no mention of Stein’s Vichy past but, as reported in the New York Times, after objections they decided to add a few sentences to the final wall text of the exhibition, describing how Gertrude Stein’s affiliation with Bernard Fäy, the Vichy collaborator and Nazi agent, contributed to the protection of Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas in France during the war. They also direct people to Barbara Will’s Unlikely Collaborator.

The story was also covered in the New Yorker, and in an interview Will suggests:

In a sense, the curators dropped the ball by not recognizing and anticipating this response. If one asks how and why this art survived the war [and] specifically, the art in Gertrude’s collection—then the issue of Gertrude Steins’s Vichy commitments becomes very important indeed. Why was Stein’s apartment, where most of the art was stored, left undisturbed during the war? The only firm answer we have—with documented proof—is that Bernard Faÿ kept his eye on the apartment and intervened when it looked like the seals on the doors were going to be broken and the Nazis were going to seize the art works.

(more…)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Mark C. Taylor on Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

We conclude our week-long feature on Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell and Goldsworthy, with an excerpt from Mark C. Taylor’s chapter on Andy Goldsworthy:

Goldsworthy’s preoccupation with place is often misunderstood. Some critics summarily dismiss him as a druidic figure devoted to Celtic paganism and occult mysticism. It is important to acknowledge that some of his comments tend to encourage this reading of his work. Goldsworthy often writes about a common energy that circulates through both nature and his art. Responding to criticisms of his art for being merely decorative, he leaves himself open to attack on other grounds. “Color for me,” he explains, “is not pretty or decorative—it is raw with energy. Nor does it rest on the surface. I explore the color within and around a rock—color is form and space. It does not lie passively or flat. At best it reaches deep into nature—drawing on the unseen—touching the living rock—revealing the energy inside.” The more carefully one studies Goldsworthy’s work, however, the clearer it becomes that his vision differs from New Age spirituality in important ways. While New Age believers preach a gospel of harmony and light, Goldsworthy acknowledges the violence and darkness of natural processes. He probes this darkness in a series of works that figure holes. “The hole,” he explains, “has become an important element. Looking into a deep hole unnerves me. My concept of stability is questioned and I am made aware of the potent energies within the earth. The black is that energy made visible.” Turrell might well have written these words. Over the course of his career Goldsworthy has explored holes in a variety of media—rocks, stones, sand, mud, flowers, leaves, twigs, snow, ice, frost, wool, feathers, even water

(more…)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Mark C. Taylor on James Turrell and Roden Crater

James Turrell

“Roden Crater is the most ambitious work and might well turn out to be the most important artwork of our time. For pilgrims fortunate enough to journey into Turrell’s work, the world is, indeed, transformed.”—Mark C. Taylor

In his chapter on James Turrell in Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, Mark C. Taylor discusses Turrell’s extraordinary work at Roden Crater. He opens the chapter beginning by considering what it was that first drew him to Turrell:

The more I studied Turrell’s work, the richer it became and the more difficult it was to locate his work on traditional maps of art history. Turrell’s medium is light—he paints with and sculpts light. From one point of view, his work can be understood as a logical extension of impressionism. While impressionist canvases shift attention from illuminated objects to the experience of illumination, Turrell dematerializes the medium to create works of art as effervescent as the act of apprehension itself. From another point of view, his work resonates in certain ways with minimalists like Donald Judd, Richard Serra, and, most obviously, Robert Irwin. He shares Judd’s and Irwin’s interest in light and, like Serra, he has a long-standing interest in the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, which grows out of his concern with the act of perception more than the crafted object. Such similarities should not, however, obscure the very different motivation informing Turrell’s art. Having been raised a Quaker and having studied psychology at Pomona College, Turrell and his work cannot be understood simply in terms of art history. Turrell creates his art through a unique combination of painterly and sculptural strategies, scientific experiment, and, in ways that are not immediately obvious, religious myth and ritual. Like mystics ancient and modern, as well as Eastern and Western, Turrell is obsessed with vision. While mystics stage rituals to create visions they believe will transform consciousness, Turrell combines artistic practice and scientific experiment to create a transformative experience by turning vision back on itself in order to see seeing. To see seeing is to grasp the world as a work of art and to apprehend vision as a cosmogonic act once attributed to the gods.

(more…)

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Is Matthew Barney the Most Religious Artist Working Today? — Mark C. Taylor Explains

Mark C. Taylor, Matthew Barney

As he explains in Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, Mark C. Taylor was initially skeptical of Matthew Barney. However, as he became more familiar with Barney’s work, his opinion changed. In the following excerpt he explains the religious nature of Barney’s work, particularly The Cremaster Cycle, and its similarities with Joseph Beuys.

Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, Matthew Barney is the most spiritual and perhaps even most religious artist working today. The roots of his artistic vision can be traced to ancient Greek philosophy—especially the pre-Socratics and Neoplatonists—as well as ancient pagan and Christian myths and rituals. This philosophia perennis rests on five fundamental principles:

1. Divine reality is not merely transcendent but is also immanent in the world.
2. The self is inseparably related to or even identical with divine reality.
3. This primal unity is lost when human beings fall into a condition of division and conflict.
4. The goal of human life, as well as the cosmos as a whole, is to return to this original unity.
5. The only way to achieve this goal is through the enlightenment brought by spiritual practice.

(more…)

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Mark C. Taylor on “Fat Chair” by Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys, Fat Chair

“It’s all about the fat.”—Mark C. Taylor on Fat Chair, by Joseph Beuys

In Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, Mark C. Taylor explores these four artists’, whose work, unlike that of Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, or Takashi Murakami, “makes absolutely no economic sense. Indeed, this work is designed not to be marketable.

In four separate chapters, Taylor discusses works by Beuys, Barney, Turrell, and Goldsworthy. In the opening to his chapter on Beuys, Taylor considers his Fat Chair. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s all about the fat: the way it looks, smells, feels—the way it oozes and seeps, jiggles and ripples, molds and melts—the way it is stored and burnt. During an era in which art was becoming ever more abstract and, thus, increasingly thin, Beuys made art fat. Real fat. Fat is one of the most unlikely materials with which to make art. Traditionally associated with excess and waste, fat is supposed to be slimmed, trimmed, and eliminated; it is unseemly, inelegant, and ugly. There is something gross, even grotesque about fat. Far from aesthetically appealing, fat is undeniably abject. Yet fat is vital to life: while too much fat can be fatal, bodies live by metabolizing fat to create the energy necessary for bodily functions. The transformational process through which material substance becomes the immaterial is the alchemy of life.

(more…)

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Book Giveaway!: “Refiguring the Spiritual,” by Mark C. Taylor

This week our featured book is Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, by Mark C. Taylor. (To read chapter 6 Afterthougths.)

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and we are also offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

Praise for Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy:

“In a climate in which the art market is continuing to break records without explanation, Mark C. Taylor offers a unique parallel between the workings of finance and the fine art arena. The initial pages of this book contain the clearest description I’ve read regarding the mechanics of finance in this new millennium. Moreover, Taylor’s appreciation of work by Jim Turrell and Andy Goldsworthy, two of my favorite artists, caught me completely off guard with his philosophic depth and aesthetic sensitivity, all from recounted personal experiences.” — Stephen Hannock, painter

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Mark C. Taylor: Is Modern Finance Ruining Modern Art?

“As art becomes a progressively abstract play of non-referential signs, so increasingly abstract financial instruments become an autonomous sphere of circulation whose end is nothing other than itself.”—Mark C. Taylor

In a piece for Bloomberg View, Mark C. Taylor, author of the forthcoming Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, argues that the art and financial markets mirror each other.

According to Taylor this is not a new phenomenon unique to our present form of finance capitalism. As the overall economy has moved from industrial to consumer to financial capitalism, a parallel process has occurred in the art world, which has undergone three stages the commodification of art, the corporatization of art, and the financialization of art. In this essay, the first of a series, Taylor considers the work and careers of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, two artists keenly aware of art’s place as a commodity and a business. Taylor argues that whereas Warhol’s appropriation of consumer icons and his factory system of mechanizing art challenged, Koons’s art is crafted to reassure. Noting Koons’s former work as a stock broker, Taylor argues, “Unapologetically embracing banality and freely admitting his ignorance of art history, Koons sounds more like Joel Osteen than Marcel Duchamp….Having learned his trade on the floor of commodity exchanges, Koons does not move beyond the commodification of art.”

(more…)

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Julia Kristeva on the Legacies of the Severed Head

Julia Kristeva, The Severed Head


In the concluding chapter to The Severed Head: Capital Visions, Julia Kristeva speculates on some of the meanings and legacies of representations of sacrifice and the severed head:

Because the sacred, or the nostalgia for it that remains, turns out to reside not in sacrifice after all, or in some aesthetic or religious tradition, but in that specifically human, unique, and bitter experience that is the capacity for representation.

And the mother goddess, in these capital visions pushed to their ends? What becomes of the fabulous mirage, the archaic source of the depressions that call us to speech and thought, the primordial prehistoric figurine, the heads of Medusa, Gorgon, Jezebel, and, in the form of their phallic conspiracy, the woman masters, the Judiths and Salomes? What remains of the final depths of the sacred? And what do they make of it, the man and the woman, when they know where that comes from?

They remember. They pass it and pass it again. And they laugh at it. “The Woman with 100 Heads” of Max Ernst may not be the most inspired figuration of that indispensable allusion, in which the sacred gets frankly tiresome, whereas its absence resigns itself to robotics. But this horrible, naive, vulgar, surrealist cartoon, which mocks women, heads, decapitations, fascinations, horrors, and their capital of beliefs, still allows us to remember our capital visions. And maybe to die of laughter, while keeping a cool head, in the grip of our fantasies, our ancient or modern religions, ever tenacious and thoroughly ridiculous. Let us not finish it off too quickly, this sacred vision. Let us remove the head, let us keep on passing.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Julia Kristeva: Two Severed Heads from The Severed Head

Julia Kristeva, Severed Head  Julia Kristeva, Severed Head

In the following passage from The Severed Head: Capital Visions, Julia Kristeva explores the iconography and symbolism of beheadings during the French Revolution:

More Roman, Marat takes great pleasure in what he believes to be the “serene joy” of the people contemplating “the head of the tyrant [that] had just fallen under the sword of the law” and salutes “a religious holiday.” In effect, we are witnessing a “syncope of the sacred,” which only suspends one religion with the ambition of immediately founding another.But this new religiosity is lacking in imagination and rudimentary in symbolism: the passage to the act itself takes the place of culture and justice.

The jubilation of the masses before this spectacle has been compared to prehistoric skull rituals and the totemic meal. This comparison does not flatter modernity, to say the least. The gritty rhetoric, the repression or denial of death often takes the mediocre, infantile aspect of the bawdy story. A few engravings tragically emphasize the “caustic forms” of this Dantean era. Less numerous, it seems, than the royalist images, most of the figurations are republican caricatures representing the head of Louis XVI. The most widespread and widely imitated engraving in France and abroad is signed with two pseudonyms, “Fious,” for the draftsman, and “Sarcifu,” for the engraver. Redundant imagery characterizes these productions, which are limited to representing three essential subjects: the severed head is displayed on the Place de la Révolution, like a Medusa head, as some present-day historians note; the portrait of the guillotine victim is engraved without any narrative context, for the voyeuristic pleasure of “sacred” vengeance; the king is accompanied on his descent into Hell.

(more…)