Art Criticism as Social Critique. The Disintegration, Deculturalization, and Objection of Art Criticism in 1969

Frida Sandström, M.A.

In focus of this dissertation is a conjunctural specific transformation of art criticism into social critique, undertaken by critics and artists between 1955 and 1975, in USA and Italy. Their social critique was formulated and enacted against a formalist critical subjectivity which they all were embodying and simultaneously are expressing a polemic standpoint against. Introducing the notion of “the double character of the art critic,” specific for this context and period, I discuss three subjects: Italian art critic and separatist feminist Carla Lonzi (1931–1982), American cultural critic and lesbian activist Jill Johnston (1931–2009), and American-German artist and philosopher Adrian Piper (1948–). Central for all three is the abandonment, negation, or sabotage of formalist critical subjectivity. All three are making the critical subject – themselves – the object of critique, while simultaneously immersing their presupposed autonomy into the heteronomous social context in which they live. Therefore, the self-reflection of these critics and artists questions its own conditions of possibility and along with it, the historical categories of art, gender, race, and sexuality. The research focuses on published material and works, along with informal correspondence, and with a specific emphasis on the years 1969–1970. 

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