Michael Asher

(b. 1943)

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(1943– )

American installation artist, born in Los Angeles. His work generally consists of interventions within the museum and gallery space and in this respect his work can be compared to that of Hans Haacke, as a kind of ‘institutional critique’. However, in the case of Asher's work these interventions are so subtle they can easily pass unnoticed. In 1972 at the Lisson Gallery, London, the work consisted simply of a groove incised along the base of the wall in the main exhibition space. It could be regarded as an extreme piece of Conceptual art, in that he showed how it was possible to produce a work without introducing any object into the gallery or making any kind of mark-making gesture. In 1979 his contribution to the 73rd American exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago was the removal of a bronze bust of George Washington from its accustomed position at the main entrance to the 18th-century period room where, of course, it belonged historically. The point lay in the way that Asher underlined how, in its normal situation, the bust functioned outside history as a mark of authority and heritage. This would obviously not be apparent to any but regular visitors to the museum, but Asher had at the entrance a perspex box with leaflets directing viewers to the 18th-century period room. Only when they reached this would they find another box with leaflets explaining that this was an installation by Asher. His work might be regarded as an exemplar of the ideas in Rosalind Krauss's 1979 essay ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, except that Asher has gone beyond activities such as Land art in making the field itself, not only its material components but also its history and function, the materials of his art.

Further Reading

B. Buccloch, ‘Michael Asher and the Conclusion of Modern Sculpture’, in Wood, Hulks, and Potts (2007)

Subjects: Art.

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