In a work that will become indispensable to anyone seriously interested in modern art, Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss introduce a new constellation of concepts to our understanding of avant-garde and modernist art practices. Formless: A User's Guide constitutes a decisive and dramatic transformation of the study of twentieth-century culture. Although it has been over sixty years since Georges Bataille undertook his philosophical development of the term informe, only in recent years has the idea of the "formless" been deployed in the theorizing and reconfiguring of the field of twentieth-century art. This is partly because that field has most often been crudely set up as a battle between form and content; "formless" constitutes a third term standing outside that opposition, outside the binary thinking that is itself formal.
In Formless: A User's Guide, Bois and Krauss present a rich and compelling panorama of the formless. They chart its persistence within a history of modernism that has always repressed it in the interest of privileging formal mastery, and they assess its destiny within current artistic production. In the domain of practice, they analyze it as an operational tool, the structural cunning of which has repeatedly been suppressed in the service of a thematics of art. Neither theme nor form, formless is, as Bataille himself expressed it, a "job." The job of Formless: A User's Guide is to explore the power of the informe. A stunning new map of twentieth-century art emerges from this reconceptualization and from the brilliantly original analyses of the work of Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Lucio Fontana, Cindy Sherman, Claes Oldenburg, Jean Dubuffet, Robert Smithson, and Gordon Matta-Clark, among others.
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