The Return of the Real: The Avante-Garde at the End of the Century

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In The Return of the Real Hal Foster discusses the development of art and theory since 1960, and reorders the relation between prewar and postwar avant-gardes. Opposed to the assumption that contemporary art is somehow belated, he argues that the avant-garde returns to us from the future, repositioned by innovative practice in the present. And he poses this retroactive model of art and theory against the reactionary undoing of progressive culture that is pervasive today.

After the models of art-as-text in the 1970s and art-as-simulacrum in the 1980s, Foster suggests that we are now witness to a return to the real―to art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites. If The Return of the Real begins with a new narrative of the historical avant-gard, it concludes with an original reading of this contemporary situation―and what it portends for future practices of art and theory, culture and politics.

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About the Author:

Hal Foster is Townsend Martin '17 Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and the author of Prosthetic Gods (MIT Press) and other books.

From Publishers Weekly:

Dividing the century into two avant-gardes, the author passes on the one that runs from Picasso to Pollock and lays claim to another that begins with Duchamp and continues through Warhol into the present, a new avant-garde whose praxis will be bound to theory not metaphor. Foster, who teaches art history and comparative literature at Cornell and is an editor of the journal October, claims for his generation of cultural theorists, who came of age in the wake of minimalist and conceptual art, the primacy of ideas with their potential connection to real political time and space over objects. Following the leads of Althusser and Lacan, he urges structuralist re-readings of radical texts (including art) for content that breaks with "our decentered relations to the language of our unconscious" and "humanist problems of alienation." A chapter on recent "abject art" (like Mike Kelley and John Miller) finds interest in its surrealist-style rebellion to be as limited as ever by adolescent anarchical antics. For more productive models, Foster advocates the work of Renee Green, Mary Kelly, Fred Wilson?artists whose interdisciplinary approach bridges art, anthropology and ethnology. Thus as the old academy of the studio is replaced by this new one of the seminar room, reading becomes a primary activity for all, including artists, critics and historians. This book, however, is heavy reading throughout, and not a sentence goes by without linguistic convolution bringing the mind to a halt and forcing a re-reading. It's a brilliant work, but outside the seminar room, most readers will quickly decide to give up the struggle.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Book Description MIT Press Ltd, United States, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. In The Return of the Real Hal Foster discusses the development of art and theory since 1960, and reorders the relation between prewar and postwar avant-gardes. Opposed to the assumption that contemporary art is somehow belated, he argues that the avant-garde returns to us from the future, repositioned by innovative practice in the present. And he poses this retroactive model of art and theory against the reactionary undoing of progressive culture that is pervasive today.After the models of art-as-text in the 1970s and art-as-simulacrum in the 1980s, Foster suggests that we are now witness to a return to the real-to art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites. If The Return of the Real begins with a new narrative of the historical avant-gard, it concludes with an original reading of this contemporary situation-and what it portends for future practices of art and theory, culture and politics. Seller Inventory # AAC9780262561075

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