New York

Silvia Kolbowski


The term “Formalism” continues to suffer from a rather parochial reduction to the status of a code word that refers exclusively to a circumscribed species of painting and sculpture. This conventional usage will not be dislodged easily, even though its companion notion of artistic purity insists by definition on an enforced balkanization of media that is untenable today. Art practices that are conceptual and directed at institutional critique are not exempt from spiraling into the tautological extremities of formalism, especially when the methodological mantles of seminal precursor artists such as Michael Asher, Daniel Buren, Dan Graham, and Hans Haacke are actively reappropriated. During the ’80s, somewhat younger artists such as Louise Lawler and Silvia Kolbowski flirted with the perimeters of a conceptual formalism that threatened to undermine their frequently trenchant infiltrations

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