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On American Ingenuity (And the Problem of the Readymade)

In 1979, Rosalind Krauss recognised a crisis in the institution of critique. Aimed at the anachronistic medium-based distinctions still prevalent at the time, her text ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ provided a cogent warning to would-be historicists. Krauss accurately surmised that, in the adaptation of conventional categories in order to account for contemporary art’s ruptures with certain object-based traditions, the critic was in danger of losing the validity of the very terms he or she sought to protect. As she argued, in the discussion of post-War American art, ‘categories like sculpture and painting have been kneaded and stretched and twisted in an extraordinary demonstration of elasticity, a display of the way a cultural term can be extended to include just about anything’.

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