by Polly Ullrich

Pierre Cabanné: “What is the cerebral genesis of the ‘Large Glass?’”
Marcel Duchamp: “I don’t know. These things are often technical.”
Cabanné: “It’s odd that you, who are taken for a purely cerebral painter, have
always been preoccupied with technical problems.”
Duchamp: “Yes. You know, a painter is always a sort of craftsman.”1

Craftsmanship is “a word to start an argument with.”

British crafts theorist David Pye2

Art is shaping.

Joseph Beuys3

A generation after the advent of conceptual and electronic art, handcrafts—
long bound by tradition—have re-emerged as radical and fresh practices. Paul
Shimmel, North American curator for the most recent Sao Paulo Bienniale, has
identified “a concentration of decoration and craft as the new common ground”
for the next generation of young artists (Leffingwell 39). Lisa Phillips, curator of the
1997 Whitney Biennial, has also identified increased “attention to handmade
things and elaborate processes” as a noticeable characteristic of some of the
newest art (Kaufman 12). Laura Hoptman, an assistant curator at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York, who included works by the painters Elizabeth Peyton,
John Currin and Luc Tuymans in a recent show, calls their hand-built surfaces
“radical” because of their “unashamed” celebration of the act of painting itself
and their lack of postmodern ironic cynicism.4 Even the stuffy National Portrait
Gallery in London last year reported a record number of entries (689) to its portrait
competition for artists under the age of forty.

Much of the disembodied “avant-garde” conceptual art made now no longer
seems as fresh as it once did—perhaps because it relies too heavily on conventions
devised twenty-five years ago. Indeed, one of the original practitioners of “dema
terialized” art, Mel Bochner, has now embraced heavily handworked abstract
painting. Other artists who once worked in an “old-fashioned” conceptual, deconstructive
mode, such as Richard Prince, have followed suit. “Most of the forms
that artistic ‘rebellion’ has taken in the last twenty-five years have become academic,”
Bochner has said. “Ironically, painting is now a lot less predictable”(qtd. in
Meyer 142).

photo by Judy Rozencwiegphoto: shooting passing
through/torn formations,
Dachau Concentration
Camp, 1984. Photo by Judy

Today, embracing handwork does not necessarily mean abandoning
Conceptualism. Bochner, for example, uses his paintings to address philosophical
issues as dense as any he worked on in the ‘60s, primarily by recording—via
brushstrokes made by hand—the mental processes that go into making art. And
Courtenay Smith, curator of last year’s Post-Pop, Post-Pictures show at the David
and Alfred Smart Museum in Chicago, points out that while younger artists such
as Michelle Grabner, John Pomera and David Szafranski produce shimmering,
compact surfaces, their work still speaks to conceptual and postmodern themes,
and is not a regressive revisiting of Modernist purity and formalism.5

How can the handcrafts in art be “radical”? In some circles, the terms seem
mutually exclusive. Actually, the synthesis of hand facture and postmodernism has
roots in the nineteenth century with the invention of photography, when it
became clear that mimesis was no longer the primary function of art. The emphasis
on artworks as special, handmade, precious objects conveying a peculiar, individual
power, rather than as attempts to replicate reality, began to take hold. The
handcraftedness of fine-art objects, downplayed since the Renaissance in an effort
to distance them from less prestigious handcrafted objects such as pottery or textiles,
gained new respect. Now, with the postmodern blending and leveling of categories,
art and craft have edged closer toward an acknowledged, and not shameful,
union. But more than that, the increasing status of handcraftsmanship—and the
issues surrounding it in art—subverts some basic philosophical and aesthetic
tenets in the West. Handcrafts, with their relation to the body and the physical
senses, counteract the drive toward technology and dematerialization in our culture.
The traditional identification of handcrafts with minorities and women also
allows these processes to reveal alternative voices. Critic Barry Schwabsky commented
that the African-American artist Robert Colescott’s paintings in the
United States pavilion at the 1997 Venice Biennale were “a reminder that what
seems most traditional can be most subversive” (23).

What does it mean to be using hand processes to make art in this postmodern
age of the simulacrum? The recent renaissance of handwork can be identified
with a wide variety of sources. The following is an attempt to draw on some of
these sources to clarify the place of the hand in contemporary art.

The Hand and Art as Sensuous Idea
A sixteenth-century duel, recounted in the memoirs of the Renaissance sculptor
Baccio Bandinelli, was fought between Bandinelli’s cousin and the Vidame of
Chartres because of some particularly rancorous fighting words from the Vidame.
The Vidame claimed that Florentine nobles who had taken up painting and sculpture
were actually practising the “manual arts” (Mainzer 186). This, of course, was an
insult not to be ignored during the Renaissance. Artists were struggling then to
separate themselves from hand-oriented crafts such as glass-making or pottery
and to ally themselves with poets, architects, and musicians into a new, more
refined, intellectual and prestigious category called “fine art.” Historically, sculptors
and painters had been classified as artisans and craftspeople—not “artists”—
and they therefore suffered from an association with manual labor, a prejudice
going back to ancient Greece.

During the Middle Ages, sculptors belonged to guilds that included stone
masons and bricklayers, while painters belonged to guilds for gilders and saddlers.
Eventually, craft guilds became powerful political forces—powerful enough to challenge
the grip monarchs had thus far held over such activities. It was no accident
that the advent in the seventeenth century of artists’ academies, which drew artists
away from membership in guilds, was heavily sponsored by monarchs and those in
royal courts who saw an opportunity to break the power of the guilds. This separation—
between painters and sculptors and the other craft workers—definitively severed
fine art from craft, and also led to a separation of intellect and hand (or
body), a break that was a result of politics rather than aesthetics.

The duality between craft (the hand/body) and art (the mind) came to a head
in philosophical and aesthetic debates during the Enlightenment in the eighteenth
century. The foundation of this dualism—the Cartesian split between the
mind and the material world (where the act of thinking, rather than feeling or
sensing, assures us of our existence)—still reaches into our postmodern culture.
The dominance of brainwork over handwork is reflected today in art and cultural
theory that privilege language over images and objects. “I often talk about postmodernism
as precisely the fulfillment of certain Enlightenment agendas,”
University of Chicago art historian Barbara Maria Stafford has said. Nevertheless,
she adds, there is a human need to be “anchored in something that isn’t merely
simulated, degraded or cerebral … The body is our locus … for experiencing the
world. So we have to at some fundamental level revalue it again, and say that it is
aesthetically spiritual and that it is mental, just as the mind is corporealized and
spiritualized” (qtd. in Sculpture 13-14). The privileging of the human hand in art-making
calls into question Western dualism: what cultural theorist Homi Bhabha calls
“binary boundaries,” the domination of either/or polarities in defining the world
around us (251). However, the search to reintegrate the hand, the body, and the
physical senses in art does not mean a retreat into an essentialism or universalization.
The hand, as a sign of the individual, is potentially the ultimate purveyor of
idiosyncrasy, personal identity, and spiritual power. Probably for that reason, prehistoric
artists covered cave walls with hundreds of hand images.

The synthesis of the hand and the mind as a way of life has a long history in
craft art. The potter Marguerite Wildenhain, for example, writes:

This intimate correlation of the quick perception of the eye
with the inner concept of the heart and mind, and the sensitive
training of the hand, this immediate reaction of all
the capacities of a human being, will always be the aim of
any training of a craftsman and artist. It is only the potency
of these combined abilities that will give the artist the
power to convey what he feels in his own personal way. (133)

Contemporary craft theory of the hand also has deep roots in Asian art. Japanese
aesthetician and writer Shoetsu Yanagi, whose classic The Unknown Craftsman
influenced several generations of Western craft artists, calls the question of the
survival of handcrafts …

… not simply technological or economic, but, basically, a
spiritual question … It seems to me that there is something
so basic, so natural in the hand that the urge to utilize its
power will always make itself felt … The chief characteristic
of handcrafts is that they maintain by their very nature a
direct link with the human heart, so that the work always
partakes of a human quality. (107-108)

Yanagi helped popularize the 400-year-old Japanese tea ceremony in the West, an
aesthetic outgrowth of Zen Buddhism. The Way of Tea counters Western dualistic
notions of beauty and ugliness, asymmetry and symmetry. According to the
Japanese custom, the best art shows austerity, humility, depth, simplicity, restraint,
intuition, and even imperfection—qualities that are the very opposite of many
Greek ideals.

Trying to find the way out of the problem of dualism (beautiful/ugly,
mind/hand, art/life, consciousness/world) has been a persistent thread underlying
twentieth-century Western philosophy and aesthetics. Two writers—French philosopher
Maurice Merleau-Ponty and crafts theorist David Pye—have made perhaps
the most striking contributions by interpreting the work of art—and its making—as
a seamless fusion of the sensual and the intellectual. This radically moves the artwork
beyond pure idea or mere intentional act.

Merleau-Ponty, a phenomenologist, countered a dualistic philosophical tradition
beginning with Plato by suggesting that human consciousness and perception
are fundamentally connected to the world; there is no “inner realm” that opposes,
dominates, and organizes an otherwise impenetrable and meaningless “outside”
world of matter (including the body). This “theory of embodiment” argues that
human perception, rather than being cerebral and transcendental, is incarnated
through, and inseparable from, the body and its senses. Humans perceive the
world, then, from a position of reciprocity, not domination: when one touches,
one is touched in return. Since art is about perception, this interconnection has
striking ramifications. While works of art have semantic qualities, “formal configurations
which refer, in some sense, beyond themselves,” they are also more than
their linguistic structures (Crowther 48).6 Art tries to engage “our whole being”—not
just cognitively, but by constructing a sensual reality as we might encounter it in
perception itself, through the marks, the erasures, and the physical processes left
by the artist’s hand in the work. Artworks reflect our own insertion in the world
—a blend of transcendental meaning and physical presence—and are “individuals,
that is, beings in which the expression is indistinguishable from the thing
expressed” (44).

The craft world has always intermixed process, material and meaning. The
meaning of a traditional ceramic vessel, for example, is deciphered in the complex
of associations about it—its clay (and the historical lineage that the use of the clay
reflects), its method of making (and the historical alliance with artists who developed
the method over thousands of years), as well as its function (the meaning of
the pot is completed only when it is used). This last, of course, was recognized by
that great saboteur of art categories Marcel Duchamp, who, although he detested
sensual painting, handcrafted his masterwork The Bride Stripped Bare by Her
Bachelors, Even over a seven-year period.7 Duchamp insisted on calling himself a
“craftsman,” and maintained that bad craftsmanship in an artwork should never
be allowed to detract from the purity of its idea. Like a craft artist, Duchamp combined
meaning with use, linking the audience (or user) with the essential meaning
of the art: “I consider, in effect, that if someone, any genius, were living in the
heart of Africa and doing extraordinary paintings everyday, without anyone’s seeing
him, he wouldn’t exist,” Duchamp told the writer Pierre Cabanné. “The artist
exists only if he is known … because, in brief, it’s a product of two poles—there’s
the pole of the one who makes the work, and the pole of the one who looks at it.
I give the latter as much importance as the one who makes it … A work is made
of the admiration we bring to it” (Cabanné 69).

The British architect, designer and craftsman David Pye, who casts a skeptical
eye on the moralizing and sentimental aspects of the craft world, also subverts
dualism in art theory by identifying a core idea that has—until recent times at
least—always been valued both in fine and craft art. Pye, a woodworker, never
liked the phrase “done by hand,” saying that it is uselessly restrictive and inexact.
“What does ‘handmade’ mean?” Pye asks. “No tools?” What about a hand loom,
or a potter’s wheel? He likes to point out that the use of machine processes did
not begin with the Industrial Revolution, adding that the water-driven hammer is
an ancient tool. Pye’s core value, an essential component in the process of making,
is what he calls the “workmanship of risk.” The workmanship of risk

… means simply workmanship using any kind of technique
or apparatus in which the quality of the result is not predetermined,
but depends on the judgement, dexterity, and
care which the maker exercises as he works … The quality
of the result is continually at risk during the process of
making. (20)

Pye contrasts this with the “workmanship of certainty,” which is found in quantity
production and automation. Speed is usually the incentive behind the workmanship
of certainty, and the quality of the product predetermined and predictable.
Pye maintains that the workmanship of risk means that the “risk” must be real:
“Can the worker spoil the job at any moment?” (61-62)

Why is the workmanship of risk valuable in art objects? The workmanship of
certainty can also yield high quality. Only through the workmanship of risk, however,
is it possible to reveal the sense of life and moment-by-moment human decision
that are recorded in the process of making. The workmanship of risk may
produce subtlety, richness, and variety in a work’s formal elements, qualities that
deepen upon inspection. Pye writes: “A thing properly designed and made continually
reveals new complexes of newly perceived formal elements the nearer you
get to it” (61). These slight improvisations and irregularities, with contrast and tension
between them, from the smallest visible scale on up, are what vitalize and
individualize art.

Although Pye dislikes the term “handmade,” the qualities he finds most
important in art making are almost always associated with the hand: individuality;
variety; facility; close, tactile familiarity with a material; and an emphasis on an
intimate visual range in experiencing an artwork. To perceive what Pye calls
“diversity” requires the observer to move in close—within hand’s reach—and to
employ much more than a narrow, Cartesian cerebral capacity.

The Hand and the Problem of the “Real”
Art that is grounded in materials-based handwork holds a special dialogue with a
postmodern culture, which negates a firm foundation as a basis for constructing
reality. When Belgian artist Luc Tuymans describes his paintings as “authentic
falsifications,” an apparent oxymoron, he articulates the syncretic position of
artists who make handmade postmodern art. Tuymans’ pale brushmarks construct
aloof, barely legible, abstracted images of troubling subjects, as in his elegant,
understated, late-1980s paintings of concentration camps. These pared-down, psychically
bland works—which Tuymans calls “unimages”—force the viewer to complete
their meanings (Hoptman). But Tuymans’ evanescent paintings—like the work
of a number of younger and mid-career artists—pointedly remain physical objects
that accomodate and reflect their conditional, ever-mutating postmodern environment.
Their status as objects is gained through their handmade qualities.

This work elaborates on contemporary art theory inaugurated by Walter
Benjamin, who wrote that technology, with its speed and its endless ability to multiply
and reproduce, has transformed art irrevocably. Mechanically appropriated
images, while undermining traditional assumptions about originality in art (what
is real or authentic?), circumvent a direct, physical give-and-take with the art
object, for the maker and viewer alike. Even more broadly, deconstructive theories
coming out of a French philosophical context and taken up by the art world have
challenged the very idea of unequivocal, or grounded, perception itself and have
described a dematerialized “everyday surface of life.” Finding meaning either in
oneself or in the world depends not on a single perceptual standpoint and a
bedrock of certain meaning, but on deciphering an unstable, ever-changing network
of relations surrounding it (Crowther 5).

photo: Independent
Imaging Retreat.

While Tuymans’ paintings seem to echo the fleeting style of contemporary
electronic culture, his concentrated hand facture pulls his art into the physical
world. Significantly, Tuymans began his art career in film, and carefully culls his
images from books, newspapers and snapshots. But the work is obstinately somewhere,
of a place. Laura Hoptman calls this a “significantly changed attitude
among new painters,” an integration of the conceptual with a serious, passionate
and unironic love for the physical act of painting. “This work is about preparing
to stun you with the painting,” she says.8 Tuymans has called his work so “concentrated”
that he compares it to “another type of arousal” (qtd. in Hoptman). While
the images may be pulled from standard media sources, these artworks are not
merely “representations of representations.” Rather, they unabashedly seduce the
viewer into a visual engagement with the material qualities of the art, and as such
hold a radical, and rooted, position in the variable play of meaning.

The combination of a fleeting, transient, postmodern sensibility with the flatout
gorgeousness of handworked material is also apparent in the work of some
mid-career artists such as Lari Pittman’s baroque, flamboyantly decorated paintings,
for example, or Phillip Taaffe’s Islamic patternings, which involve numerous
hand processes that include constructing templates, sanding, painting, hand-inking
and collaging. Taaffe describes his art-making as “a search for the ruthless
thing,” noting, “what I want to make is something very physical and very perceptually
demanding” at the same time (122). The Smart Museum’s Post-Pop, Post-
Pictures featured work that is “highly conceptual and also a seductive object,”
according to curator Courtenay Smith.9 In the show, John Pomara’s heavily
worked enamel, Varathane varnish, and ink diptychs with images that echo the
electronic blurs on television; Michelle Grabner’s painstakingly hand-replicated
household patterns painted with enamel on plywood; and David Szafranski’s legal
pads minutely and densely covered with tiny prints and hand drawings all
expressed edgy postmodern themes while still calling attention to how carefully
the pieces were made. This intentional positioning of the artwork in the material
world does not deny the complexity—and diffusion of standpoints—in constructing
meaning in postmodern culture. But the mediation of meaning through the
human hand and body can rehumanize art and provide a powerful embodied reference
point—a “real” map—within a provisional experience that has been “analyzed
away in a mere play of relations” in much currently fashionable theory
(Crowther 17).

The Hand and the Convergence of Space, Time and the Senses
Early conceptual art evolved from what was called the “priority of the idea” in
art-making, a sense that the idea for the work comes first, and therefore is the
most essential part of art. In the early 1970s, Mel Bochner’s masking tape and text
artworks, for example, were not just straightforward vehicles for communicating
ideas, but were actually visual investigations into—and critiques of—ideas as institutions.
Bochner, however, had already begun to lose faith by the mid-1970s, noting
that there is no primacy to any aspect of experience. What, for example, about
ideas that develop while making art? Bochner’s transition to intensely handworked,
sensuous abstract painting allowed him to continue his investigations into
watching how the mind works. “For me, painting, because it is in and of the material
world, offers an access to the processes of the mind, to the indecisions and
uncertainties philosophy can’t cope with,” he notes (qtd. in Stuckey 19). His distaste for
“literalist” or “declarative” art—“painting is not merely a statement; it is also a
question”—allows Bochner to emphasize process in art-making, along with the
complexity, ambiguity and doubt that are part of it. In his early work, Bochner
explored the intersection of space and language (or ideas) through visual riddles.
Now, by recording a “narrative of revisions” through his brush strokes, Bochner’s
paintings intersect space (or the visual) with time. “In painting, I want to encode
time as it evolves” (qtd. in Meyer 101).

The compression of time into an artwork through hand processes turns up in
contemporary sculpture as well. Tom Friedman and Gary Justis both use meticulous
handwork to produce their conceptually oriented pieces. Friedman’s obsessively
hand-processed everyday materials—a self-portrait carved out of an aspirin,
a piece of bubble gum stretched twenty feet from floor to ceiling, or 30,000 toothpicks
glued into a starburst form—skewer Modernist conventions of solemnity and
scale. Justis’ elegant, hand-made machines echo a Duchampian mixture of
mechanics and mythology. There is no one-liner quality to these works; the sculptures
of both artists take time—both to make and to experience. Justis hammers
home the message with his sculptures, so to speak: they sometimes contain small
gongs that chime in repetitive cycles, lulling the viewer into a meditative wait—
with an emphasis on that interval of time—for each successive ring.

The use of the hand in art-making can convey extraordinary psychic depth
and physical density when time is part of the process. Vija Celmins’ thickly builtup
drawings and paintings of galaxies, oceans and deserts exude, for example,
what she calls a “fatness” or a “volume.” The pieces are “phenomenological
investigations,” translations of experience into condensed matter beyond a mere
idea. Celmins’ search for this “rich and complete form” in her work (such as putting
eighteen layers of paint on a canvas, and still not being finished) links time
and physical matter: “I like to think that time stops in art,” Celmins once told an
interviewer. “When you work on a piece for a long period it seems to capture time
… when you pack a lot of time into a work, something happens that slows the
image down, makes it more physical” (Silverthorn 42). Celmins’ hand-made paintings,
once again, balance the scale between idea and embodiment, emerging as relentlessly
consolidated fields of intellectual and physical matter.

The Hand and Ethical Development
Finally, for good or bad, the use of the hand in art has often carried overtly moral
and ethical overtones in some art circles. This attitude is often attributed to the
Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the last century, and especially to one of
its British leaders, William Morris. But in practice, Morris, who wrote and lectured
frequently about the importance of handcrafts and who founded the Morris and
Company craft and design firm, “never made a shibboleth of handwork” and
didn’t argue against the use of all machinery, especially when workers were not
exploited and the quality of the output was good (Harrod 7). Instead, his real aim
was social change; for Morris, who was a socialist, handcraft meant work without
the division of labour between worker and designer, unlike the rigidly hierarchical
and exploitive industrial workplace of the nineteenth century. Morris linked social
and political renewal with aesthetics, arguing that the promotion of handwork not
only improved society by reorganizing relationships in the workplace, but that it
was also a path to personal and moral development for the art worker. Because of
Morris and other Arts and Crafts leaders, “the mark of the hand” became a
prestigious feature in decorative art and manufactured goods at the time, no
matter what their quality—leading to David Pye’s ironic story about a potter who,
in discussing his teapot adds, “Of course it leaks. It’s hand-made” (Pye 123).

A rigorously pure theory of handwork, however, did evolve from the Arts and
Crafts movement and continues to affect the contemporary craft world today.
Pioneering studio-craft leaders—among them Bernard Leach, Michael Cardew, and
William Straite Murray—began to articulate values that placed less emphasis on
Morris’ social crusading and more on craft objects as the equals of painting and
sculpture. By the 1930s, craft had broken with the political Left; to socialists,
making “luxury” items by hand seemed self-indulgent during an economic
depression. No longer part of the industrial or economic base, craft objects
evolved into art objects.

Influenced by the modernists Clive Bell and Roger Fry (who democratized art
hierarchies), the new craft leaders conveyed attitudes that defined them more as
artists than designers or laborers. They emphasized integrity, timelessness and
authenticity in their work, with an extreme sensitivity to materials and the desire
to work spontaneously and simply with them (Harrod 8-9). Leach, at his Saint Ives
Pottery in England, lived out a stringent paradigm of handwork that still influences
craft artists, and which extends from the beginning to the end of the artmaking
process, “from digging the clay himself, to throwing and decorating the
pots, to firing them in a kiln he had built, with wood he had collected himself” (35).

This attitude, rather than promising social improvement in general, still carried
a high ethical tone: the arduous hand skills (and, consequently, life skills)
developed over time by the artist became the standard for his or her character
development and moral worth. As craft objects have become more like art objects,
a terrible anxiety has arisen in some corners of the craft world: that the crafts are
being corrupted by the fine-art world and its marketplace. In a talk titled “Craft as
Attitude,” delivered at a forum called Re-Visioning the Crafts at the Penland
School for Crafts in the mid-1980s, ceramist Wayne Higby complained about the
low quality of craft art, saying that crafts were becoming so “slick” that “the
maker’s hand is no longer visible.” Higby said that the humanistic, spiritual principles
originally at work in crafts because of their thoughtful, handmade qualities
are being degraded by an art establishment that rewards artists who are the best
marketers, not artists with the most integrity (qtd. in Malarcher 40).

This, ironically, is a complaint often heard from fine artists as well. Eric
Fischl, for example, in looking back at what he thought was the shallowness—the
inattentiveness to hand skills and art history—in his own early art training, comments

Part of the problem is that artists of my generation were not
educated. We were not given the equipment, because it was
generally believed to be irrelevant. Drawing, eye-hand coordination,
art history—really relevant stuff—was considered
unnecessary … in fact, it is incredibly disrespectful of the
importance of history that we train people to be amateurs. I
deeply resent the kind of flattery that replaced discipline.
We were made to feel from day one that we were artists,
fully sprung from the womb an artist. What experience has
shown me is that it takes your life to become an artist. (qtd.
in Tuten, 79)

As categories continue to be dismantled and mixed together, many fine artists and
craft artists alike find that they frequently stand on common ground, especially as
their work revolves around the issues of process, materials and handwork. In the
craft world, this is called “crossover,” and it is often met with consternation—as
well as elation. Clearly, a sculptor such as Jim Hodges, who constructs knotted
chains of silk flowers and thread into large-scale, delicate webs and floating walls,
has direct connections to fiber art through his hand processes and materials. And
among politically oriented artists, the painter Sue Williams, who developed a savvy
reputation based on her strident, painful images of sexual abuse, has continued
those themes, but now through intensely worked oil and acrylic paintings. In fact,
the prominence of a number of contemporary painters who are not necessarily
affiliated in any other way—Terry Winters, David Ortins, William Wood, Therese
Oulton, Hunt Slonem, Juan Usle, Prudencio Irazabal, and Juliao Sarmento—is due
in large part to the striking qualities of the hand work in their art.

To acknowledge the importance of hand work in art is not a revelation; early
modernist works such as Cezanne’s paintings reveal themselves through heavily
hand-applied brushwork and materials. And there is a strikingly handmade quality
to much of the avant-garde art of the early twentieth century. But handcrafts
have been a frequently ignored undercurrent percolating in fine art since
Renaissance artists quit the craft guilds for greener—and more prestigious—pastures
in the monarchical courts. Many contemporary artists, however, have deliberately
chosen a wide variety of hand processes to develop postmodern themes in
their art. This is not a regression to a narrow and purist modernist formalism, but
rather continues the postmodern journey toward multiplicity, and reacquaints us
all with the historical and aesthetic links between craft and fine art.

This article was first printed in the New York Art Examiner, April 1998.

1. Pierre Cabanné, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp.
2. David Pye, quoted in Tanya Harrod’s “Paradise Postponed.”
3. Joseph Beuys, quoted in Peter Burger’s The Decline of Modernism. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 1992.
4. Author’s interview with Laura Hoptman, fall 1997.
5. Author’s interview with Courtenay Smith, fall 1997.
6. Crowther’s analysis of Merleau-Ponty’s place in postmodern art is extremely insightful.
7. Robert Motherwell was the first to call Duchamp “the great saboteur” in his introduction to Cabanné’s book, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp.
8. Author’s interview with Hoptman.
9. Author’s interview with Courtenay Smith, fall 1997.

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi K.
The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Cabanné, Pierre.
Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp. London: Thames and Hudson, 1971.

Crowther, Paul.
“The Postmodern Sublime.” Art and Design (January/February 1995).

Crowther, Paul.
Critical Aesthetics and Postmodernism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Harrod, Tanya.
“Paradise Postponed.” William Morris Revisited, Questioning the Legacy. London: Crafts Council Gallery, 1996.

Hoptman. Laura.
Projects. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1997.
n. pag.

Kaufman, Jason Edward.
“The 69th Whitney Biennial, New York: Made By Hand, Telling Stories And Talking To The Public.” The Art Newspaper (March 1997).

Leffingwell, Edward.
“Report from Sao Paulo.” Art in America (March 1997).

Mainzer, Janet C.
“The Relation Between the Crafts and the Fine Arts in the U.S. from 1876 to 1980.”
Diss. New York U, 1988.

Malarcher, Patricia.
“Re-Visioning the Crafts.” Metalsmith (Spring 1986).

Meyer, James.
“Mel Bochner: The Gallery is a Theater.” Flash Art (Summer 1994).

Pye, David.
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