Kobena Mercer

Kobena Mercer is a writer and critic living in London. He is the editor of Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures, Cosmopolitan Modernisms, and Discrepant Abstraction (all published by The MIT Press and inIVA), author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, and an inaugural recipient of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, presented by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

  • Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers

    Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers

    Kobena Mercer

    The first thematic and cross-cultural overview of the experiences of migration and displacement that characterize so much of twentieth-century art.

    Migration, whether freely chosen or forcibly imposed, has been a defining feature of twentieth-century modernity—and much of twentieth-century art. Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers examines life-changing journeys that transplanted artists and intellectuals from one cultural context to another, making clear the critical and creative role that migration, exile, and displacement have played in shaping the story of modern art. Whether manifested in the striking architectural innovations of Nigerian modernism in the 1920s or postmodern works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and black British filmmakers in the 1980s, the multidirectional appropriation and borrowing described in these essays give us new perspectives on twentieth-century art and modernity. Distinguishing between exile and diaspora, emigration and immigration, and “the stranger” and “the other,” the book examines the different conditions that structure the artist's experience and aesthetic strategies. From indigenous artists and the question of authorship to the influence of émigré art historians on art history, from the aesthetics of the African diaspora to Adrian Piper's metaphorical exile between philosophy and art, these connections and disconnections in a network of traveling cultures continue art history's efforts to come to terms with the postcolonial turn.

    • Paperback $35.95
  • Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures

    Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures

    Kobena Mercer

    A cross-cultural perspective on the aesthetics and politics of pop art.

    How does pop art translate across cultures? What does pop art look like through a postcolonial lens? In the global marketplace of images, artists have long challenged the discourse of officialdom by turning to dissident elements in the languages of vernacular culture. This volume casts new light on the aesthetics and politics of pop by taking a cross-cultural perspective on what happens when everyday objects are taken out of one context and repositioned in the language of art. Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures examines practices that range from the recycling of consumerist waste in Chicano “rasquachismo” to the painterly pastiche of Hindu “photo-gods,” exploring the semiotic transformations that arise when art reveals unexpected antagonisms in the social life of images. Showing how boundaries marking “high” and “low” are further corroded by strategies that question categories of “folk,” “nation,” and “people” in the global culture of modernity, this book breaks new ground in understanding pop art's ambiguous reaction to (and compliance with) the dynamics of high capitalism. When Mao goes pop, should we see the results as avant-garde, anti-modern, or postmodern? Who “owns” popular culture in South Africa or Brazil? The critical revision proposed by this third volume in the Annotating Art's Histories series dramatically expands the world map of the period from which our definitions of contemporary art are drawn.

    Kobena Mercer is a writer and critic living in London. He is the editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms and Discrepant Abstraction (both published by MIT Press), author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, and an inaugural recipient of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, presented by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

    • Paperback $29.95
  • Discrepant Abstraction

    Discrepant Abstraction

    Kobena Mercer

    How the formal ingenuity of abstract art has been cross-fertilized by creative discrepancies—a cross-cultural voyage stretching from Hong Kong and Islamic regions to Canada, Australia, Europe, and the United States.

    For anyone who thinks the question of abstract art is settled, this book will come as a surprise. Discrepant abstraction is hybrid and partial, elusive and repetitive, obstinate and strange. It includes almost everything that does not neatly fit into the institutional narrative of abstract art as a monolithic quest for artistic purity. Exploring cross-cultural scenarios in twentieth-century art, this second volume in the Annotating Art's Histories series alters our understanding of abstract art as a signifier of modernity by revealing the multiple directions it has taken in wide-ranging 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-fertilized, from abstract expressionism onwards, by creative discrepancies that arise when disparate visual languages are brought into dialogue. Discrepant Abstraction is essential reading for students, practitioners and anyone curious about cross-cultural interaction in the visual arts. Copublished with inIVA/Institute of International Visual Arts, London

    • Paperback $39.95
  • Cosmopolitan Modernisms

    Cosmopolitan Modernisms

    Kobena Mercer

    Moments of crisis and innovation in modernism's cross-cultural past, from the reception of modernist art in colonial India to the experience of African American artists in the New York art world of the 1950s.

    This first book in the Annotating Art's Histories series revisits the period in which modernist attitudes took shape, examining the ways in which a shared history of art and ideas was experienced in different nations and cultures. Original essays by leading art historians and curators trace the dynamic interplay of cultures across the story of modern art, looking at moments of crisis and innovation in modernism's cross-cultural past. An account of colonialism and nationalism in Indian art from the 1890s to the 1920s, for example, suggests that cultural identities are constantly modifying one another in the very moment of their encounter and points to primitivism as a counter-discourse to modernism. A collision between modernism and colonialism in the design of a Bauhaus model housing project reveals the volatile conditions of European modernism in the 1930s. Discussions of the abstract painting of Norman Lewis and the collages of Romare Bearden illustrate the conflicted experiences and multiple affiliations of African American artists in the New York art world of the 1940s and 1950s. The first English translation of an influential essay in the Brazilian neoconcrete movement of the 1950s takes up concerns similar to those of North American minimalism in the 1960s. These and the other journeys into modernism's past described in Cosmopolitan Modernisms return to our contemporary moment with questions about modern art and modernity that we are only beginning to ask. Copublished with inIVA/Institute of International Visual Arts, London.

    • Paperback $36.95

Contributor

  • Appropriation

    Appropriation

    David Evans

    Important documents and appraisals of appropriation art from Duchamp's readymades to feminist and postcolonial critique.

    Scavenging, replicating, or remixing, many influential artists today reinvent a legacy of “stealing” images and forms from other makers. Among the diverse, often contestatory strategies included under the heading “appropriation” are the readymade, détournement, pastiche, rephotography, recombination, simulation and parody. Although appropropriation is often associated with the 1980s practice of such artists as Peter Halley, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman, as well as the critical discourse of postmodernism and the simulacral theory of Jean Baudrillard, appropriation's significance for art is not limited by that cultural and political moment. In an expanded art-historical frame, this book recontextualizes avant-garde photomontage, the Duchampian readymade, and the Pop image among such alternative precursors as Francis Picabia, Bertolt Brecht, Guy Debord, Akasegawa Genpei, Dan Graham, Cildo Meireles, and Martha Rosler. In the recent work of many artists, including Mike Kelley, Glenn Ligon, Pierre Huyghe, and Aleksandra Mir, among others, appropriation is central to their critique of the contemporary world and vision for alternative futures

    Artists surveyed include Akasegawa Genpei, Santiago Álvarez, Art Workers Coalition, Ross Bleckner, Marcel Broodthaers, Victor Burgin, Maurizio Cattelan, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Douglas Gordon, Johan Grimonprez, Peter Halley, Hank Herron, Pierre Huyghe, Mike Kelley, Idris Khan, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Glenn Ligon, Steve McQueen, Alexandra Mir, Keith Piper, Richard Prince, Jorma Puranen, Cindy Sherman, John Stezaker, Retort, Martha Rosler, Philip Taaffe.

    Writers includeMalek Alloula, Jean Baudrillard, Walter Benjamin, Nicolas Bourriaud, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Johanna Burton, Douglas Crimp, Thomas Crow, Guy Debord, Georges Didi-Huberman, Marcel Duchamp, Okwui Enwezor, Jean-Luc Godard, Isabelle Graw, Boris Groys, Raoul Hausmann, Sven Lütticken, Cildo Meireles, Kobena Mercer, Slobodan Mijuskovic, Laura Mulvey, Jo Spence, Elisabeth Sussman, Lisa Tickner, Reiko Tomii, Andy Warhol.

    • Paperback $24.95