The Task of the Critic: an Introduction to Rosalind Krauss
Rosalind Krauss is among the most formidable and incisive voices in art criticism today. When she left Artforum in 1976—following a dust-up over “vulgar” images and artworld economics sparked by the magazine’s publication of the now infamous “Benglis ad”—she would go on to found October, a progressive, politically engaged journal of contemporary art that, throughout the 1980s, transformed the way art objects and movements were seen and understood. The journal, above all through Krauss’s own contributions, became a vehicle for the introduction of poststructuralist, feminist, and psychoanalytic methods to the study of emerging new movements and artworks that tended, by virtue of their form and medium, to resist commodification: conceptual and performance art, film and video. Drawing on the work of Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Krauss developed an eclectic theoretical vocabulary (formless, the part-object, base materiality, post-medium) that is united by a preoccupation with how art objects and movements—from Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism to Minimalism, Conceptualism, and Pop Art—become comprehensible and categorizable to viewers and critics. What can reading Krauss teach us about not only the interpretive task of the critic but the possibilities of criticism to revise and revitalize art historical narratives and aesthetic experience itself?
In this course, we will pair essays from across Krauss’s career with rigorous visual analysis of representative artworks. Beginning with her early contributions to Artforum and Art International, we will consider her break with the formalism of Clement Greenberg and subsequent writings on modernism and postmodernism for October. We’ll then turn to her more recent writings on the post-medium condition, composed in the aftermath of her own short-term memory loss and recovery, in order to explore how a personal, biographical connection to the subject opens up new dimensions of aesthetic experience and interpretation. Readings will also include selections from Krauss’s collaborators and interlocutors, including Greenberg, Hal Foster, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloch, and others.
“The Task of the Critic: an Introduction to Rosalind Krauss” will also run in-person at BISR Central, starting Thursday, November 16th. For more information, please visit the course page.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
November 15 — December 13, 2023
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Wednesday, November 22nd.