How images became texts in contemporary American art
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This dissertation examines how and why written information in a visual context as well as various theories of language (namely poststructuralism) became so influential in contemporary American art. It argues that many artists and writers from the mid 1960s until the late 1980s believed that the use of language would dramatically alter the nature of art. But the converse, in fact, is true. Indeed, the reliance on language facilitated the rapid assimilation of these works (artistic and critical) into the broader fold of the contemporary American art world. What was radical became conventional in no time. How Images Became Texts in Contemporary American Art begins in the early 1960s by describing why a number of Conceptual artists (John Baldessari, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner) gave up painting in order to work with x written information. Part of this explanation derives from their reaction to the work of Donald Judd and Frank Stella. From here this investigation shows how in the late 1970s and early 1980s a select group of progressive art critics (primarily Hal Foster and Craig Owens) began to react against some of the aesthetic consequences generated, in part, from the linguistic endeavors initiated by the Conceptualists mentioned above. There was a concern shared by Foster and Owens that the situation known pejoratively as Pluralism was out of control. In order to redress this development they imbued their writing with numerous references and allusions to such poststructuralist philosophers as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. This had the effect of producing a body of literature that emphasized linguistic analysis of visual objects. It also neatly coincided with the continued use of written information by such artists as Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, which made it possible to see that by the spring of 1988, images, at least rhetorically, had become texts.