The Most Iconic Artists of the 1970s
Across the globe, the 1970s art world was shaken by reverberations from the social and political climate ignited in the previous decade—though the ideas proliferating in the realm of artmaking were still tethered to formalist concerns and intellectual inquiry. The creation and reception of both land art and feminist art were indebted to the hippie movement and student protests of the late 1960s. In New York in the 1970s, the Greene Street collective echoed the now-communal feel of the SoHo streets—newly populated with artists—especially in the social experiments set up by
The decade saw performance art skyrocket from its crystallization in the 1960s as a style distinct from theatre or music, offering the body as a canvas more so than ever before. New frontiers opened up in the art landscape, extending it beyond the streets of New York—which had overthrown Paris as the capital of art in the 1950s—to California,
The 1970s also laid the groundwork for explorations into the mediated image, especially with
Despite the earth’s long being the site for artmaking—not to mention all of recorded human experience (think the cave paintings at Lascaux or the plinths of Stonehenge)—a genre that incorporated the earth itself as a material wasn’t instituted until a few Americans and Brits placed the concerns of formal artmaking directly into it. The movement was underscored by an environmental impulse, even if it refrained from giving rise to protest culture.
When New York-based artist
Female artists have been overlooked throughout much of history (and continue to be marginalized by the art world at large today), and prior to the 20th century, only a handful of women were recorded as having independent practices. But with the advent of the Women’s Liberation movement on the West Coast, feminist art boldly emerged in the wake of the second wave of feminism, addressing the social, political, and cultural concerns of womanhood.
The 1960s set the stage for performance art, especially with the kooky happenings of
Abramović wasn’t the only artist who blurred the line between body and canvas, pain and art. Sure, endurance ruled performance, but so did the abject. The
Performance art would never have been what it was without Laurie Anderson, who ushered in an entirely new aesthetic—matched only by
Though the 1960s established California as a surf-n-sun paradise, the state also produced some heavy conceptual thinkers, who drew increasing recognition in the 1970s.
Even though Baldessari became a figurehead for the California craze, a little further north of Los Angeles, in Pasadena,
Only recently has Gutai received Western market attention, with a handful of active dealers prioritizing it and ushering it into the institutional realm—but the Japanese proto-conceptual movement that formalized in 1954 was, in fact, hugely influential on the history of contemporary art.
While the group was active until the 1980s, much of their groundbreaking work had been produced in the 1970s.
Cover image: Marina Abramović, AAA-AAA, 1978. Image courtesy of Lisson Gallery.