Booklist: Public Art
The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena
Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, editors
Critical Press, 1998
Book Description: Art for the public? Art of the public? Art by the public? Single words signify a world of historical and critical issues facing the public artist today. Over the last 20 years, art workers have hotly debated how one broaches the concepts of the “public,” of the “responsibility” of the artist, and of the “purpose” and “meaning” of art---especially when art is moved out of the museum/gallery and into the spaces of daily life. The Citizen Artist, a compendium of articles from the magazine High Performance, brings forth the voices of the artists that form the backbone of these debates.
Key Points from the Introduction: “…more and more socially committed artists were changing the context of their work….this new sensibility didn’t necessarily reject the art world, but rather viewed it as one of many contexts in which art could exist. It followed that the context of art was just as crucial to its success as the form and content. These artists have chosen to invest themselves directly in the public in such a way that they are no longer viewing the public from the outside, but rather are an integral part of that public. In such a context, the art that develops is a direct reflection of the particular culture in which it is created. This creates an entirely different relationship between the artist and the public, because where the artist is invested in the public, the public is invested in art. The art need be no less innovative or experimental when the public views the work as developing from a common experience….Socially committed, community-engaged artists add depth to our culture and re-enchant their chosen publics, coming back to the reason why art was ever important in the first place.”
Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art
Mary Jane Jacob and Michael Brenson, editors
MIT Press, 1998
Book Description: This book addresses one of the most troubling questions of contemporary art theory and practice: Who is contemporary art for? Although the divide between contemporary art and the public has long been acknowledged, this is the first time that artists, critics, and the public have come together to debate the problem and to make artmaking, criticism, and public reaction part of the same process. Like the exhibitions, discussions, and seminars held at "The Castle" during the summer 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, this book is based on the premise that contemporary artists and the general public have something to say to each other. By positing the space of "conversation" as one in which artworks can be experienced as creative sites open to multilayered interpretations by changing audiences, the book provides an antidote to the modernist connoisseurial silence that has long been used to define quality. Contributors include: Jacquelynn Baas; Michael Brenson; Lisa Graziose Corrin; Amina Dickerson and Tricia Ward; Steven Durland; Susan Krane; and Susan Vogel.
Culture in Action: A Public Art Program of Sculpture Chicago
Mary Jane Jacob and Eva M. Olson
Bay Press, 1995
Book Description: The Chicago-based art program "Culture in Action" addressed such pressing urban issues as minority youth leadership and gang violence; HIV/AIDS care giving; public housing; multicultural demographics and neighborhood; achievements by women; labor and management relations; and ecology. "Culture in Action" took place from 1992 through 1993 and was organized by Sculpture Chicago, a decade-old visual arts organization that specializes in unique public art and education programs. Seeking to bridge art and life, eight innovative artist and community partnerships unfolded with results as diverse as a storefront hydroponic garden, a new line of candy, and an ecological field station. These investigations into urban art making were activated by participating artists selected by curator Mary Jane Jacob for their interest in critical social issues and testing the boundaries of public art.
Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art
Suzanne Lacy, editor
Bay Press, 1995
Book Description: Departing from the traditional definition of public art as sculpture in parks and plazas, new genre public art brings artists into direct engagement with audiences to deal with the compelling issues of our time. This is the first definitive collection of writings on the subject by critics, artists, and curators who are pioneers in the field. Contributors include: Judith F. Baca, Suzi Gablik, Guillermo Gómez-PeÑa, Mary Jane Jacob, Allan Kaprow, Jeff Kelley, Suzanne Lacy, Lucy R. Lippard, Estella Conwill Májozo, Patricia C. Phillips, Arlene Raven, and Susan Leibovitz Steinman.
Key Points from the Introduction: “The tremendous recent interest in engaged, caring public art demands a context in art history and present criticism…The critic evaluates, describing the standards by which the work will be measured and pointing our flaws in thinking. Their scrutiny is vital, as it is too easy to simply applaud the work’s social intentions at the price of its aesthetics or, conversely, to ignore them. The critical task is not an easy one, as we have tended to separate our political and aesthetic language in this country since the ascendancy of formalist criticism in the forties…The discussion of beauty, invention, and the artful manipulation and assembling of media need not be excluded from the consideration of work that represents values and is contextualized within the public…Some critics have suggested that the distance between the artist’s political intentions and real social change is the only criterion. This idea reflects the dualistic conundrum at the heart of critical thinking about this work---is it art or is it social work?… By leaning too far in the direction of evaluating the work’s social claims, critics avoid giving equal consideration to its aesthetic goals. Our current critical language has a difficult time coming to terms with any process art….New genre public art calls for an integrative critical language through which values, ethics, and social responsibility can be discussed in terms of art.”
Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society
Lucy R. Lippard
The New Press, 1998
Book Description: In the Lure of the Local, Lucy R. Lippard, one of America's most influential art writers, weaves together cultural studies, history, geography, photography, and contemporary public art to provide a fascinating exploration of our multiple senses of place. Expanding her reach far beyond the confines of the art world, she discusses community, land use, perceptions of natures, how we produce the landscape, and how we produce the landscape and how the landscape affects our lives.In this extensively illustrated, beautifully produced volume, she consistently makes unexpected connections between contemporary art and its political, social, and cultural contexts
Key Points from the Introduction: Lippard has signaled the highest political hopes of art, from her early embrace of '60s conceptual art to her '70s support of feminism to her careful documentation in the '80s of the art of America's ethnic communities. . . [The Lure of the Local] arrives at an auspicious time, as interest in community history is on the rise throughout the country. . . An encyclopedic study of the art of community."(Portland Oregonian)
Toward a People’s Art: The Contemporary Mural Movement
John Pitman Weber, James Cockcroft, Eva Sperling Cockcroft, and Ben Keppel..
University of Mexico Press, 1998
Book Description: First published in 1977, Toward a People's Art remains a classic study of the community-based mural movement that produced hundreds of large-scale wall paintings in the United States and Canada. The authors provide a comprehensive discussion of the muralists, the murals' effects on the community, and the funding these works received. Those interested in art and social change will welcome this new edition, which represents an ongoing faith in the ideal of participatory democracy as the best way to confront the nation's social problems and in the potential of activist art to have long-term social impact. The introduction describes the era---the late 1960s---and a new afterword looks at the 1980s and 1990s and the continuing commitment to the community-engaged process of making public art.