In her famous, problematic 1979 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,“ Rosalind Krauss claimed that postmodern art could no longer be categorized by materials (bronze and stone for sculpture, for instance), and instead was now organized “through the universe of terms that are felt to be in opposition within a cultural situation.” The binary terms she chose to form the fence posts of sculpture’s “expanded field” were architecture and landscape. “The postmodern space of painting,” she argued, “would … turn on the opposition uniqueness/reproducibility.
The fact that she frames the relationship between uniqueness and reproducibility as a binary opposition and as a problem reveals a critical blind spot. And yet she is largely right. For the past 50 years the critical discussion about uniqueness and reproducibility in art has itself played out in, because of its unparalleled economic heft. Prints have been largely ignored as objects of critical inquiry for obvious reasons: there is nothing transgressive about the powerless taking on attributes of the powerful (think of women wearing trousers versus men wearing dresses). This talk looks at a range of printed art that may or may not be identified by its maker as “prints”. These works raise intriguing questions about what it is we actually want from art and why. They may also supply unexpected answers.
Susan Tallman is a writer, critic and art historian. She has written extensively on contemporary art, the history of prints, and other aspects of art and culture. A regular contributor to New York Review of Books among other publications, she has authored and co-authored many books, most recently No Plan At All: How the Danish Printshop of Niels Borch Jensen Redefined Artists Prints for the Contemporary World. In 2011 she co-founded the journal Art in Print, and served as its Editor-in-Chief until its closure in 2019.