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Thematics in the art of Robert Morris

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:51 authored by Assimina Nena Tsouti-Schillinger
This dissertation investigates thematic unities within Robert Morris’s seemingly disparate body of work. It demonstrates the thematic similarities, structural continuities and formal associations used throughout his art despite the great diversity of the media employed. It departs at times from a strictly chronological approach because its primary purpose is to explore how one work begets another or one style morphs into the next. The research involved extensive archival work studying unpublished correspondence and texts, contracts, drawings and emails, along with traditional sources like books, interviews, lectures and Morris’s own published criticism and texts. The author also examined many original artworks or reproductions of unavailable ones. Chapter One discusses the definition and problem of style, establishment of artistic influences, and Morris’s reluctance to accept traditional boundaries. Chapter Two addresses the choreography and its task-oriented vocabulary, and Morris’s minimalist sculptures, examining his ideas on process and the phenomenology of perception. Chapter Three is devoted to Morris’s concept of space and exploration of the horizontal as a spatial vector. It studies his interest in structural continuity throughout his lead, mirror and felt works, and touches on both the physical space of the sculptures, and the virtual space of the mirrors, as well as the fleeting evanescent space of the steam. His elaborations on “how to make a mark” are considered, too, from the Blind Time drawings, riding on horseback and body-part imprints, to language and the natural world. Chapter Four turns to Morris’s philosophical investigations, his studies of language and imagery—some apocalyptic—and his increasing concern with destructive contemporary attitudes. Chapter Five takes up the works of the last two decades, his interest in memory and his growing cultural pessimism. Finally, analyzing one of the most recent works, the Conclusion makes clear that through its recurrent timeliness, Morris’s art achieves a certain sublimity which aims towards a suspension of time—a timelessness.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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