research > Structural Constellations > book project
Anthony Auerbach

Structural Constellations is the book stemming from my doctoral thesis. This project advances both the essayistic and the monographic aspects of my work, integrating my research on Albers with a broader critical reflection on the aspirations of the European avant-gardes between the two world wars, and on what may be called ‘late modernism’ in the United States after 1945.

The book traces the pre-history of modernism through drawing. In other words, my aim is to show how drawing transmits history — and inscribes it on the tabula rasa proposed by modernism.

My studies highlight how drawing practices and graphic signs are propagated across disciplinary boundaries. I inspect the traffic between fields of knowledge — mathematics, philosophy, science, technology, art — that share a repertoire of graphic gestures but nonetheless defend their respective domains. I observe how the transfer of signs — for example from drawing to geometry, from mathematics to art, from the academy to the polytechnic — can preserve contradictory or archaic notions.

The challenge to interpretation posed by Josef Albers’ Structural Constellations emerges as a lure: drawing the customary discourse of art history and criticism into the entanglements of its own inheritance. Albers’ drawings thus call for a reassessment of the tenets of modernism, that is to say, those beliefs which hold modernism together in our post-modern understanding.

Structural Constellations may be the signs which disclose the writing of history as the erasure of traces and point to the critical task of deciphering effacement.

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