From Margin to Center: The Spaces of Installation Art
Julie H. Reiss
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Unlike traditional art works, installation art has no autonomous existence. It is usually created at the exhibition site, and its essence is spectator participation. Installation art originated as a radical art form presented only at alternative art spaces; its assimilation into mainstream museums and galleries is a relatively recent phenomenon. The move of installation art from the margin to the center of the art world has had far-reaching effects on the works created and on museum practice.
This is the first book-length study of installation art. Julie Reiss concentrates on some of the central figures in its emergence, including artists, critics, and curators. Her primary focus is installations created in New York City -- which has a particularly rich history of installation art -- beginning in the late 1950s. She takes us from Allan Kaprow's 1950s' environments to examples from minimalism, performance art, and process art to establish installation art's autonomy as well as its relationship to other movements. Recent years have seen a surge of interest in the effects of exhibition space, curatorial practice, and institutional context on the spectator. The history of installation art -- of all art forms, one of the most defiant of formalist tenets -- sheds considerable light on the issues raised by this shift of critical focus from isolated art works to art experienced in a particular context.
for a particular exhibition.” 3 The Glossary of Art, Architecture and Design Since 1945 (1992) concurs:“the word ‘installation’ has taken on a stronger meaning, i.e., a one-off exhibit fabricated in relation to the specific characteristics of a gallery space. . . . In the late 1980s some artists began to specialize in constructing installations with the result that a specific genre— ‘Installation Art’—came into being.” 4 “Environment” can still be found in recent reference books. Edward
prolonged presentation for the convenience and edification of the public, which pays fifty cents a head for the privilege of being part of one.” 64 The reviewer makes a generalization about what an Environment is, based on Kaprow’s piece, and this definition includes the idea that the public is part of the action—the viewer is a participant. Being part of the Environment was considered both its selling point and its problem. It was sometimes seen as something positive: a democratic attempt to
methods of Frankenstein,” sums up his response.73 Brian O’Doherty, writing for the New York Times, found the exhibition only slightly more substantial:“All of 40 I environments this is based on a perfectly reasonable premise—that the sculptor can shape the environment to the human scale, and then release us inside it to walk around and add to our experiences.” But he expressed disappointment that the artists appeared to take what they had done seriously. Obviously, O’Doherty did not.The one
20–26 January 1982, 72. 21. Marcia Tucker, Barry Le Va: Four Consecutive Installations and Drawings 1967–1978 (New York: New Museum, 1978), 46. 22. Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Artforum 5, no. 10 (June 1967): 80. 23. Jennifer Licht to author, 17 August 1994. 24. Jennifer Licht to Walter Bareiss, 23 September 1969. Museum of Modern Art, exhibition files of the Department of Painting and Sculpture, New York. 25. Jennifer Licht, Spaces. 26. Jennifer Licht to Larry Bell, 27 August
44. Glueck,“Museum Beckoning Space Explorers,” 34. 45. Cotter,“Dislocating the Modern,” 106. 46. David Deitcher,“Art on the Installation Plan: MoMA and the Carnegie,” Artforum 30, no. 5 ( January 1992): 80. 47. Roberta Smith,“At the Modern,Works Unafraid to Ignore Beauty,” New York Times, 18 October 1991, sec. C, 1. 48. Hilton Kramer, “MoMA Mia, You Call This Art?,” New York Observer, 4 November 1991, 1. 49. Gopnik,“Empty Frames,” 120. 50. Danto,“Dislocationary Art,” 32. 51. Gopnik,“Empty