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Dennis Oppenheim and the cartographic expansion of American sculpture

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Cartography was a model for Dennis Oppenheim’s territorial conception of sculpture and the road map was a site on which he sought to expand sculpture’s boundaries. This article focuses on five works conceived in the late 1960s in which Oppenheim built upon the proprietary claim to space implicit in cartography. Whether plotted on a map or constructed alongside the highway, Oppenheim viewed these sculptures as instruments of spatial orientation and territorial possession, as well as mechanisms to reroute the infrastructures and informational networks of everyday life. In Oppenheim’s sculpture, the liberatory aesthetics of minimalism’s phenomenology is marked with a territorial violence that plays out in cartographic and real space. He sought a way to force the body to register within abstract systems and, in turn, to imprint those abstract systems on the body. The road map was both a model and a site for this exchange.
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Keywords: body; city; highway; landscape; property; road map

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000123412786Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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