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Artist as AuthorAction and Intent in Late-Modernist American Painting$
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Christa Noel Robbins

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226752952

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226753003.001.0001

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Introduction: The Artist as Author

Introduction: The Artist as Author

(p.1) Introduction: The Artist as Author
(p.iii) Artist as Author

Christa Noel Robbins

University of Chicago Press

Beginning with an account of Jack Tworkov’s large Abstract Expressionist painting, Barrier IV, hanging over a raucous event organized by John Cage in 1967, this introduction challenges narratives of late-Modernist American painting that position it in opposition to the neo-avant-garde. Focusing on the history of the “death of the author” argument, which is tracked to the first publication of Barthes essay in a 1967 issue of Aspen Magazine, the introduction shows that while Modernist painting and the neo-avant-garde parted ways in terms of technique, they participated in a shared field of inquiry, which included a concern over the authorial self as the sole source, content, and aim of the work of art. Advocating for a closer analysis of the specific practices cultivated by Modernist painters in the 1950s and 1960s, a methodological approach is described, which favors attending to ambiguity and tension in the treatment of authorial presence in late-Modernist American painting. That ambiguity is treated not as evidence of confusion or bad-faith on the part of the painters under discussion, but as a demonstration of the questioning way Modernist painters approached authorship as a problem to be investigated, as opposed to a value to be upheld or asserted.

Keywords:   authorship, neo-avant-garde, ambiguity, death of the author, modernist painting

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