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Sebastian Hackenschmidt

Introduction to the iconography of artistic material


Robert Smithson, Glue Pour, 1969; Temporäre Installation, Vancouver

© Bildrecht, Wien 2022

The spectrum of materials used in works of art has expanded in the second half of the 20th century in an almost limitless way. As never before, everyday and perishable materials have found their way into Western art: Marble, bronze, plaster and clay have long since ceased to be the only materials used for sculptural works of art. Since the 1960s at the latest, exhibitions of contemporary art have rather resembled material warehouses made of piles of wood, heaps of earth, lumps of grease, plastic parts, or metal molds. Organic materials from animal and human bodies, such as hair, blood, or bones, have also been added as material for works of art. And even color is now no longer found only on canvas: in pigment piles or puddles of color, artists have demonstrated the materiality of color. The lecture gives an overview of these developments in 20th century visual art and introduces the most important new materials.

Sebastian Hackenschmidt has been curator for furniture and woodwork at the MAK - Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna since 2005, where he has curated numerous exhibitions, most recently Missing Link - Strategien einer Architekt*innengruppe aus Wien 1970-1980 (2022), Bugholz, vielschichtig - Thonet und das moderne Möbeldesign(2019), Post Otto Wagner - Von der Postsparkasse zur Postmoderne (2018), andJosef Frank - Against Design, (2016). His research focuses on the history of furniture, design, and (interior) architecture, as well as the use of materials in 20th and 21st century art. He is co-editor of the Lexikon des künstlerischen Materials (2002/2010) and the volume Furniture as Media (2011). In 2014, his book Bone. A Material of Contemporary Art.

Guest lecture, 14.12.2022