the eighth decade


There are two works that seem to me telling of the 1970s: Sigmar Polke’s sardonic Carl Andre in Delft, ca. 1968 — an important year for the counterrevolution against sociopolitical orthodoxy, as the May riots in Paris, the riots provoked by the Chicago Seven, and the Vietnam protests in the United States indicate — and Judy Chicago’s feminist The Dinner Party (1974-79). However different, both rebel against the tyranny of Minimalism, the purest — and emptiest — abstract art ever made. For Chicago it was a symbol of masculine as well as esthetic authoritarianism. For Polke it was a symbol of America’s absolutist rule of modern art. For both the American female artist and the German male artist Minimalism was the inexpressive dead end of art. Both vehemently attacked it, Polke using irony, Chicago using ideology, to assert a new individuality — woman’s individuality and independence in Chicago’s case, German individuality and independence in Polke’s case. Thus the oppressed rose up against the art and social establishment. They questioned and demystified — indeed, discredited and debunked — the official system of dominance and exclusivity. What had hitherto been uncritically accepted as esthetically and culturally superior was unceremoniously relegated to irrelevance. A supposedly major art was shown to be minor, and the vanquished Germans no longer humbly emulated the victorious Americans. It was a truly great moment in modern art and social history.

more from Donald Kuspit at Artnet Magazine here.