Temporary Monuments: Art, Land, and America's Racial Enterprise (Paperback)

Temporary Monuments: Art, Land, and America's Racial Enterprise By Rebecca Zorach Cover Image
IN WAREHOUSE - Usually Ships in 3-7 Business Days


How art played a central role in the design of America’s racial enterprise—and how contemporary artists resist it.
Art has long played a key role in constructing how people understand and imagine America. Starting with contemporary controversies over public monuments in the United States, Rebecca Zorach carefully examines the place of art in the occupation of land and the upholding of White power in the US, arguing that it has been central to the design of America’s racial enterprise. Confronting closely held assumptions of art history, Zorach looks to the intersections of art, nature, race, and place, working through a series of symbolic spaces—the museum, the wild, islands, gardens, home, and walls and borders—to open and extend conversations on the political implications of art and design.
Against the backdrop of central moments in American art, from the founding of early museums to the ascendancy of abstract expressionism, Zorach shows how contemporary artists—including Dawoud Bey, Theaster Gates, Maria Gaspar, Kerry James Marshall, Alan Michelson, Dylan Miner, Postcommodity, Cauleen Smith, and Amanda Williams—have mined the relationship between environment and social justice, creating works that investigate and interrupt White supremacist, carceral, and environmentally toxic worlds. The book also draws on poetry, creative nonfiction, hip-hop videos, and Disney films to illuminate crucial topics in art history, from the racial politics of abstraction to the origins of museums and the formation of canons.

About the Author

Rebecca Zorach is Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art and Art History in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University, with affiliations in programs in American Studies and Environmental Policy and Culture. Her books include Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance; The Passionate Triangle; and Art for People’s Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago 1965–1975.  

Praise For…

"Zorach discusses why monuments matter in a historical context, exploring how statues and sculptures have become political flashpoints against the backdrop of key moments such as the founding of early US museums. The author also aims to show how contemporary artists—including Dawoud Bey, Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall and Cauleen Smith—focus on social justice and disrupt White supremacism."
— Art Newspaper "Book Bag" column

Temporary Monuments represents the best of art history and visual studies, urgent, ethical, poetic, and sweeping in its scope. My students ask often about ‘hope’—a naïve expectation that groups, governments, systems, will begin to see things in ways that honor the dignity of all people and places and act accordingly. I speak to them instead of ‘obligation’—obligation to witness, give testimony, to find ways to act, and to never betray themselves. Zorach underscores obligation as her motive and motivation on every page. Zorach’s contribution is a timely and compelling history of resistance and of placeholding as the will to imagine better for ourselves and for one another.”
— Kirsten Pai Buick, author of "Child of the Fire"

“Zorach takes on a number of compelling and important considerations and an impressively wide range of methodologies, theoretical framings, and case studies. Zorach pulls no punches in laying out her arguments, and necessarily so, given the breadth of her project and what’s at stake in the difficult subject of land and its links to White supremacy that she convincingly unpacks. I found myself highlighting sentence after sentence, often consecutively—proof, or evidence, of the compelling narrative Zorach offers her readers.”
— Eddie Chambers, David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History, University of Texas at Austin

“Both theoretically sophisticated and passionate, Temporary Monuments shows the power of art to imagine a truly decolonized American landscape, in which temporary ‘place holding’ replaces monumental takeovers. Zorach convincingly uncovers how complicity in American histories of oppression and racialized violence can hide behind love of nature, urban renewal and abstraction, but also how artistic interventions by Black and Indigenous practitioners dismantle long-held assumptions about the past, present, and future of what we call home.”
— Mechtild Widrich, author of "Performative Monuments and Monumental Cares"

“Zorach opens a Pandora's box of history, politics, public art, and activism with a highly original take on one of the most pressing issues of our time: the battle for public space and people's minds. The tale is ongoing and this wonderful book is a guide not only to the past and contentious present, but to the future.”
— Lucy R. Lippard, author of "Get the Message? A Decade of Art for Social Change"

Product Details
ISBN: 9780226831015
ISBN-10: 0226831019
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: March 7th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English