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Title: Michael Asher and the Art of Infrastructure
Authors: King, Jennifer Wencha
Advisors: Foster, Hal
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Los Angeles-based artist Michael Asher (1943-2012) is critically acclaimed for a handful of works he mounted during the 1970s in which he questioned the institutional conventions governing the reception and display of art. In the most famous of these examples, his 1979 contribution to the 73rd American Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Asher had the museum relocate its 1916 bronze copy of French sculptor Jean Antoine-Houdon's 1792 statue of George Washington from the front steps of the museum to the museum's 18th-century gallery, thus highlighting the disjunction between the statue's symbolic function as a public monument, and its aesthetic origins as an 18th-century artwork. The renown and influence of this and other projects that fall under the rubric of "institutional critique" have dominated interpretations of Asher's practice, to the point of eclipsing a more systemic understanding of his long and varied career. Further limiting scholarship on Asher has been the scarcity of documentation on works outside the chronological period covered by his Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979, a volume published in 1983 and now out of print. This dissertation seeks to make sense of the full arc of Asher's oeuvre, looking at projects dating from 1965-2011. It begins with a chronological account of the first part of Asher's career in order to trace the development of his practice from minimal-type objects to his rejection of such objects in favor of environment-based works. The second half of the dissertation uses case studies to address two of the major themes that appear in the later part of Asher's career--his engagement with the institutional histories of museums, and the urban context of cities. Throughout, it argues for Asher's consistent attention to physical and conceptual infrastructure--namely, his consideration of the literal, material, and spatial elements constituting an artwork, as well as social, economic, or political concerns. Arguing for a more historically-accurate understanding of Asher's practice, this study consistently attends to the contemporary developments in art and art criticism with which Asher was deeply engaged, including debates surrounding painting, minimal art, process art, environmental art, conceptual art, and public sculpture.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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