Michael Asher: The Thing of It Is...

IF THE HISTORY OF MODERN art is not itself a straight line, certainly straight lines inhabit it—unerring connections from one group of artists to another, a year, five years, or several decades apart. Until the recent proliferation of personal, neo-Romantic, magical styles, by far the deepest groove was that traced by reductive formalism; art objects (or, in painting, the surface of an object) became steadily simpler, e.g., Gabo and Gonzalez to Smith and Judd, de Kooning and Hofmann to Reinhardt and Noland. Although a still fashionable Greenbergian axiom—a work is modern to the degree it consists only of those means peculiar to its own medium—channeled many recent oeuvres, perhaps reductive formalism is just an aspect of industrialism’s general, “If it doesn’t really do anything, throw it out.” So, along with spats, the running board, leaded glass windows, bow ties and surrey fringe, out

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