Lucy Lippard—giant of American art criticism, author of more than 20 books, and co-founder of Printed Matter, the quintessential seller of books made by artists—turned 80 this year. In the essay, Lippard presented evidence that art might be entering a phase of pure intellectualism, the result of which could be the complete disappearance of the traditional art object. The piece grew out of, and helped contextualize, the preceding decade or so of wildly inventive conceptual art, which often left behind only ephemeral, non-archival relics, or no relics at all other than perhaps recordings of experiences. Conceptual artists were devoted to making ideas the central focus of their work, and many argued convincingly that the objects artists make in order to express their ideas are nothing but waste products, and that the ideas themselves are the only things worthy of consideration. The essay was enormously influential at the time: so much so that Lippard followed it up with a book called Six Years , extensively analyzing evidence of the trend.
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By Owen Duffy. Through dematerialization, the critics believed art might escape commodification because dealers could not sell art-as-idea. In the end, art, of course, did not sublimate.
You don't need to go to Art Basel to know that art objects still exist and are perhaps more commercial than ever before. But for lack of a better term I have continued to refer to a process of dematerialization, or a deemphasis on material aspects uniqueness, permanence, decorative attractiveness.
There are a host of artists who still engage with tensions of dematerialization and its opposite, materialization. The work is an illuminated water vapor plume that shifts from magenta to pastel cyan as it hazily wafts from a hot tub-like structure. The color of the plume is networked to correspond to the current market price of gold. And although dematerialization may correspond to a historical movement, it couldn't be more relevant today.
In one form or another, the dream of dematerialization has found its way into mainstream discourse today. The result? A spooky supreme union between human and machine, allowing us mere mortals to shed our cumbersome flesh, once and for all. This is dematerialization at its most ideological. Indeed, dematerialization is very real, but perhaps real in the way that dreams are, revealing our desires to us, fleeting and unobtainable. We offer exclusive works you can't find anywhere else.
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Materializing "Six Years"
Lucy Lippard began her book Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from to with a discussion of the distinct political climate in which she was writing. How could she not? It was a particularly inflamed period of history, and one that, Lippard claimed, was directly connected to the advent and production of Conceptual art. This was the terrific, if overlooked, promise of Six Years and, arguably, Conceptualism at large. Can an idea-based practice, intent on breaking its formal ties with the frame and the pedestal, absorb and challenge the social contexts in which it is situated? Like Six Years , the exhibition was comprehensive in its sweep, featuring 90 artists and objects. However, the curatorial choices felt a little cautious and unimaginative.
Materializing ‘Six Years’
Edited by Catherine Morris and Vincent Bonin. Lucy R. Lippard's famous book, itself resembling an exhibition, is now brought full circle in an exhibition and catalog resembling her book. Lippard, Six Years. In the critic and curator Lucy R. Lippard published Six Years, a book with possibly the longest subtitle in the bibliography of art: T he dematerialization of the art object from to a cross-reference book of information on some esthetic boundaries: consisting of a bibliography into which are inserted a fragmented text, art works, documents, interviews, and symposia, arranged chronologically and focused on so-called conceptual or information or idea art with mentions of such vaguely designated areas as minimal, anti-form, systems, earth, or process art, occurring now in the Americas, Europe, England, Australia, and Asia with occasional political overtones edited and annotated by Lucy R.