Marshall Plan Modernism
Is the future for art history? Like any specialized discipline, training in art history provides certain tools, + discourses with to aim of objects and their surrounding contexts. Art Historian, Jaleh Mansoor takes a unique approach to her subject by analyzing a trio of post-war Italian abstract painters, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Pierro Manzoni through a radically marxist framework. The twinning of the movement of real abstraction (in an economic sense) and a post-war moment of painterly abstraction provides a framework for some theoretical heavily lifting.
Mansoor makes a strong case for reading these Italian Post-War abstract painters in a context of the violent reshaping of global capitalism. By reading political economic and cultural-aesthetic across each other, she draws together a body of literature that provides a new lens to understand the economic miracle and the subsequent cultural upheavals.
"the readymades trajectory marks phases of subsumption and introduces them to a common arena of ideological struggle: art" p. 47 ART AS AN EXPLICIT COMMODITY (value-form)
"the factory transforming production in its own image. This is the definition of real over formal subsumption. This process, moreover, was where art practices and the systems-rationality of the assembly line collided. 48
The monochromes in Milan looked for agency against the external constraints of received forms. 50
A one-to-one relationship between the workers movements and the artistic gestures of Fontana, Burri, and Manzoni is not exactly tenuous but Prof. Mansoors approach says much more about political conditions in Italy. Occasionally, the text veers too much toward an obtuse and formalist case but manages to bring the aesthetic movements of the artists into dialogue with their social conditions. The best of what one would hope for in art historical writing and lays out stakes that can help us understand the current moment of art and politics.
Striking was that there no mention of Manfredo Tafuri. Although it many ways the end of architectures utopian project under late capitalism as articulated by Manfredo Tafuri reiterates a similar point. If global capitalism has found its expansion through real abstraction, than it would no doubt have spread through culture as well as production.
The key focus is to make the transition between abstraction within painting as various positions within the Marxist galaxy of abstractions: value, alienation, labor. Alberto Toscano's recent discussion of the geneology of thinkers understanding the concept of Abstraction within Marx seems to be a crucially useful piece to interpret Mansoors' work. "The aim of this inevitably limited survey has been to outline some of the ways in which, setting out from crucial moments in the Marxian corpus, the relationshipbetween abstract thought and capitalist reality has been investigated."
Abstraction in painting in the 20's is the end of painting. (cite)
"the act of considering something in terms of general qualities, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, oractual instances."
It is the alienation created within the Fordist mode of production that is most central to the workers resistance, strikes and slowdowns that inform the dark side of the economic miracle. The project of autonomy is to view oneself as part of a group constituted along a different set of lines than those produced by capitalist production.