The social and environmental turn in late 20th century art [electronic resource] : a case study of Helen and Newton Harrison after modernism
- Laura Cassidy Rogers.
- Physical description
- 1 online resource.
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- Rogers, Laura Cassidy.
- Frank, Zephyr L., 1970- primary advisor.
- Heise, Ursula K. advisor.
- Wight, Gail, 1960- advisor.
- Stanford University. Program in Modern Thought and Literature.
- Contrary to prominent New York art critic Hilton Kramer and others who have lamented the weakening and death of the historical avant-garde and its fomenting political unrest, this dissertation argues that the avant-garde attitude is very much alive and thriving. The drive to challenge what exists and to locate oneself outside of a dominant paradigm in order to change it most certainly continues after the so-called triumph of modernism in the 1960s. Yet the contemporary avant-garde has undergone two significant changes. For one, to be avant-garde is no longer synonymous with antagonism against academic institutions. Secondly and more importantly, the contemporary avant-garde is no longer constrained by the modernist idea of polarizing revolutions as the driving force of change. Scholars Bruno Latour and Rosi Braidotti provide theoretical frameworks for understanding the work of art, for example, as complementary and not inherently oppositional to the work of science and technology. For Braidotti, nomadic studies across academic domains and cultural geographies are necessary to come to terms with the complexity of the world. To substantiate my argument about the ongoing vitality of the avant-garde, I draw primarily from the archive of two California artists named Helen and Newton Harrison. Born in New York City in 1927 and 1932 respectively, Helen and Newton came of age in the years following the Second World War and married in 1953 with ambitions to develop and use their respective abilities in a way that would benefit society. I present an intimate portrait of the young couple in the postwar era to show that training and self-reflection in those early years is key to appreciating their more than 50-year career in the University of California system, first at UC San Diego and subsequently at UC Santa Cruz, from 1967 to the present. For even within the UC system, the Harrisons have maintained a reputation as self-critical and inquiry-based learners. The latter part of this dissertation is dedicated to an expanded discussion on the Harrisons' nomadic approach to avant-garde aesthetics as it developed in the 1970s on the periphery of theoretical formations and artistic movements, driven by the common goal of realizing a life-support system that bridges social and environmental justice.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Program in Modern Thought and Literature.
- Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
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