Rosalind Krauss and American Philosophical Art Criticism: From Formalism to beyond Postmodernism

By David Carrier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Deconstruction of
Structuralism

There can be no doubt that art did not begin as art for art's sake. It
worked originally in the service of impulses which are for the most part
extinct to-day. And among them we may suspect the presence of many
magical purposes.

Sigmund Freud

The Originality of the Avant-Garde presented a postformalist art history. But as we have seen, there were problems with Krauss's claim that Greimas diagrams translate the historical development of art into a visual structure. Thus, in her recent writings the structuralist theory is replaced by two quite distinct interpretative approaches, without any attempt to synthesize them. She has a semiotic theory of cubism, and, with Yve-Alain Bois, she developed an account of [the formless.] [For Bataille, informe was the category that would allow all categories to be unthought.]1 Cubist pictures, structured like a language, are thus as far as possible from the informal, that is, what lacks structure by definition. These two essentially opposed approaches together provide a poststructuralist account of modernism.

The best way to understand Krauss's recent development is to look back to Michael Fried's influential conception of theatricality. [Art and Objecthood] (1967) argues that the most basic division within 1960s art is between that superior painting and sculpture that

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