Matter in modernism: the bodying forth of art into life

Mauzerall, Hope Cecile, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia
Summers, J. David, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia
Gasman, Lydia, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia

This study takes its departure point from discrepancies discerned in Greenberg's criticism having to do with his highly perceptive descriptions of art objects and processes at work in modernist art, and the conclusions drawn from them, which so often departed from the logic of his own analyses. In analyzing these discrepancies and why they seem to occur, a different narrative of Modernism emerges, one antithetical to Greenberg's yet indebted to him. My study articulates this narrative, offering an alternative view of modern and postmodern art--both considered under the rubric "Modernism"--finding important connections and continuities among the diversity of Modernism's isms. While in part a critique of Greenberg's formalism, I extend the implications of his early stress on medium's physicality to one that sees modernist art as unprecedentedly involved with its own matter/materiality--or what I call the "body" of art--and beyond that, with inventing ingenious ways of bodying forth that materiality. Through "bodying forth," I argue that Modernism not only seems to turn on its head Western tradition's privileging of form over matter but, in the process, the actual space of art is literally transformed, moving out of virtual, illusionistic space toward and into literal, real space. The consequences of this spatial shift are significant, I contend, not only forart but as an indicator of art's role in and relationship to cultural transformation.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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