The synthetic proposition

Conceptualism and the political referent in contemporary art

By Nizan Shaked

The synthetic proposition


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9276-7
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: June 2017
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Art & Design Styles: Conceptual Art, The arts / History of art & design styles: from c 1900 -, Politics & government, History of art, Conceptualism, 20th century, c 1900 to c 1999, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Contemporary Art, History, Art History, ART / Criticism & Theory, ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945), ART / History / Contemporary (1945-), ART / Conceptual, The arts / Theory of art
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


The synthetic proposition examines the impact of Civil Rights, Black Power, the student, feminist and sexual-liberty movements on conceptualism and its legacies in the United States between the late 1960s and the 1990s. It focuses on the turn to political reference in practices originally concerned with abstract ideas, as articulated by Joseph Kosuth, and traces key strategies in contemporary art to the reciprocal influences of conceptualism and identity politics: movements that have so far been historicised as mutually exclusive. The book demonstrates that while identity-based strategies were particular, their impact spread far beyond the individuals or communities that originated them. It offers a study of Adrian Piper, David Hammons, Renée Green, Mary Kelly, Martha Rosler, Silvia Kolbowski, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Lorna Simpson, Hans Haacke, Andrea Fraser and Charles Gaines. By turning to social issues, these artists analysed the conventions of language, photography, moving image, installation and display.


'Nizan Shaked's approach to Conceptual art is original, eloquent and informed by a quality of thought and scholarship that will set a new standard of excellence for work on this subject. Her grasp of the field is both capacious in its breadth and erudite in its depth and attention to artistic and historical detail. It is full of original insights - all delivered to the reader in unusually graceful prose. This book promises to be a ground-breaker.'
Adrian Piper


Nizan Shaked is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History, Museum and Curatorial Studies at California State University, Long Beach


1 Conceptual Art and identity politics: from the 1960s to the 1990s
2 Adrian Piper: the body after conceptualism
3 The synthetic proposition: conceptualism as political art
4 The political referent in debate: identity, difference, representation
5 Institutional gender: from Hans Haacke's Systems Theory to Andrea Fraser's feminist economies
A state of passionate detachment: Charles Gaines by way of conclusion

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