Theories of the Nonobject investigates the crisis of the sculptural and painterly object in the concrete, neoconcrete, and constructivist practices of artists in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela. Mónica Amor, a native of Venezuela, presents case studies of specific movements, artists, and critics, tracing their role in the significant reconceptualization of the artwork that Brazilian critic and poet Ferreira Gullar heralded in “Theory of the Nonobject,” a seminal essay published in 1959 in the Suplemento Dominical do Jornal do Brasil. Based on deep archival research, this distinctive book brings scholarly attention to a group of major art figures, including Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, and Gego, whose work proposed engaged forms of spectatorship that dismissed medium-based understandings of art. Exploring the philosophical, economic, and political underpinnings of geometric abstraction in post–World War II South America, Amor highlights the overlapping inquiries of artists and critics who, working on the periphery of European and US modernism, contributed to a sophisticated conversation about the nature of the art object.
Mónica Amor is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has contributed to publications such as Artforum, ArtNexus, Grey Room, October, Third Text, [TRANS-], and ARTMargins. Amor has also curated a number of exhibitions, including Altering History/Alternating Stories for the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas (1996); Beyond the Document for the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2000); re-drawing the line for Art in General, New York (2000); Gego: Defying Structures for the Serralves Foundation, Porto (2006); and Mexico: Expected/Unexpected for La Maison Rouge, Paris (2008).
"In this innovative, deeply researched, and historically imaginative book, Mónica Amor deftly stakes out the aesthetic, philosophical, and political underpinnings of South American geometric abstraction’s grapplings with the crisis of representation prompted by World War II. Superbly knowledgeable of both European and Latin American contexts, Amor analyzes the diverse developments of the nonobject as a transformative aesthetico-political response to that crisis. As such, her work positions itself on the cutting edge of research on Latin American modernism and on broader discussions of subject-object relations."—Robin Greeley, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Connecticut
"This thoroughly researched book convincingly constructs a theoretical thread around Ferreira Gullar's 1959 ‘Theory of the Nonobject,’ a seminal text from the Rio de Janeiro neoconcrete movement. Amor’s extrapolation applies it beyond the immediate regional context, producing a persuasive historical account that avoids the pitfalls of cartographic or teleology-based narratives."—Michael Asbury, Deputy Director, Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation, University of the Arts, London
"Amor has located a conceptual trope (nonobject) that allows her to trace a theoretical path for interpreting a wide and diverse range of modernist practices in Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina in their artistic search for transformation and their eventual clashes with ideological public agendas. Her book is a thoughtful attempt to create a comparative model of art history framed by the always thorny relationship between art and the sociopolitical utopias reinvented in the region."—Gabriela Rangel, Director of Visual Arts and Chief Curator, Americas Society