PRINT October 1991


THE FORMALIST OR ESTHETIC ERA of art bore within it a little-regarded contradiction: it cherished the idea of change, but put no value on change for its own sake, imagining it instead as a movement toward some kind of end or culmination of history. What wasn’t realized was that if no such conclusion were forthcoming, these endless changes would become mutually trivializing. If a great artistic innovation is only to last a few years or months, what really is the value of it? Shall history be rewritten for such a transient consummation? Are historical periods to become mere fads? In this way the formalists, who intended to affirm the high seriousness of art, ended by diminishing it. The proliferation of terminology to designate supposedly new styles and schools was kept going by a residual formalist habit even after formalism had supposedly ended. It soon became a joke: action painting,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. Please sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW and save up to 65% off the newsstand price for full online access to this issue and our archive.

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.