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Discrepant Abstraction

Book relating to a publication, 2006
Published by: MIT Press/inIVA
Year published: 2006
Number of pages: 232
ISBN: 1-899846-43-3

image of Discrepant Abstraction

One of four books in a series titled Annotating Art’s Histories, jointly published by The MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts and iniva the Institute of International Visual Arts, London. Discrepant Abstraction was published in 2006 and edited by Kobena Mercer.

From the book’s back cover: “Discrepant Abstraction is hybrid and partial, elusive and repetitive, obstinate and strange: it includes almost everything that does not neatly it into the institutional narrative of abstract art as a monolithic quest for abstract ‘purity’. Exploring cross-cultural scenarios in 20th-century art, this groundbreaking collection alters our understanding of abstract art as a signifier of modernity by revealing the multiple directions it has taken in diverse international contexts.

Impure, imperfect and incomplete, the version of abstraction that emerges from this global journey - from Hong Kong and Islamic regions to Canada, Australia, Europe and the United States - shows how the formal ingenuity of abstract art has been cross-fertilised, from abstract expressionism onwards, by creating discrepancies that arise when disparate visual languages are brought into dialogue.

Featuring internationally renowned scholars and curators at the critical edge of contemporary research, Discrepant Abstraction is the second volume in the Annotating Art’s Histories series. Each volume builds up an in-depth understanding of cultural differences in the history of art. Presenting newly-commissioned writings alongside interviews, bibliographies, translations and selected reprints of key texts, the series is essential reading for students, practitioners and anyone curious about cross-cultural interaction in the visual arts.”

The book’s contributors were: Stanley K. Abe, Duke University; Mark A. Cheetham, University of Toronto; David Clark, University of Hong Kong; David Craven, University of New Mexico; Iftikhar Dadi, Cornell University; Wilson Harris, Novelist; Kellie Jones, Yale University; Nathaniel Mackey, University of California at Santa Cruz; Kobena Mercer, Middlesex University; and Angeline Morrison, Falmouth College of Art.  

The book’s contents:

6. Introduction, Kobena Mercer

30. Abstract Expressionism and Third World Art: A Post-colonial Approach to ‘American’ Art, David Craven

52. To Avoid the Inscrutable: Abstract Expressionism and the ‘Oriental Mode’, Stanley K. Abe

74. Abstraction and Modern Chinese Art, David Clarke

94. Rethinking Calligraphic Modernism, Iftikhar Dadi

116. Abstraction as Infection and Cure, Mark A. Cheetham

134. Autobiography of an (Ex) Coloured Surface: Monochrome and Liminality, Angeline Morrison

154. ‘It’s Not Enough to Say “Black is Beautiful” ‘: Abstraction at the Whitney, 1969-1974, Kellie Jones

182. Black Atlantic Abstraction: Aubrey Williams and Frank Bowling, Kobena Mercer

206. Quantum Ghosts: An Interview with Wilson Harris, Nathaniel Mackey

222. List of Illustrations

224. Select Bibliography

227. Biographies

232. Acknowledgements

The book’s flyleaf carried the following endorsements:

“A panoramic and revelatory survey of abstract art that dramatically expands its canon of artists, geographies and meanings. This compilation of new scholarly perspectives redefines abstraction as a global phenomenon. Vital reading for any student of the modern.” Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Art Gallery

“What art creates is no second world alongside the world in which we live; what art creates is the world in which we live: the site of its manufacture. Discrepant Abstraction challenges commodified pieties about modernity, difference, identity, hybridity and history, re-conceptualising the notion of representation itself in some of the most perceptive recent writing on art across the global spectrum.” Donald Preziosi, Oxford University.

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