"Process Art" is a trend within various neo-avant-garde movements of the 1950s and 60s. It suggests that the aesthetic of process provides a useful way of re-thinking Bürger's problematic central idea of the reintegration of "art" and "life" as a goal of the avant-garde. Process art calls for a re-ordering and re-thinking of these categories in that the stability of "life" (as action) and "art" (as object) is challenged or put into play. The paper reads Frank O'Hara's poetry as self-consciously working in "the gap" between art and life (as Robert Rauschenberg once put it), and thus complicating Bürger's oversimplified theory.
Process art emphasises the “process” of making art (rather than any predetermined composition or plan) and the concepts of change and transience, as elaborated in the work of such artists as Lynda Benglis, Eva Hesse, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Alan Saret, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Keith Sonnier. Their interest in process and the properties of materials as determining factors has precedents in the Abstract Expressionists’ use of unconventional methods such as dripping and staining. In a ground-breaking essay and exhibition in 1968, Morris posited the notion of “anti-form” as a basis for making art works in terms of process and time rather than as static and enduring icons, which he associated with “object-type” art. Morris stressed this new art’s de-emphasis of order through nonrigid materials, pioneered by Claes Oldenburg, and the manipulation of those materials through the processes of gravity, stacking, piling, and hanging.
Process artists were involved in issues attendant to the body, random occurrences, improvisation, and the liberating qualities of nontraditional materials such as wax, felt, and latex. Using these, they created eccentric forms in erratic or irregular arrangements produced by actions such as cutting, hanging, and dropping, or organic processes such as growth, condensation, freezing, or decomposition.
Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1-9), 1969. Nine chromogenic prints from 35mm slides, 24 x 24 inches (61 x 61 cm) each . Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee and with funds contributed by the International Director's Council and Executive Committee Members: Edythe Broad, Henry Buhl, Elaine Terner Cooper, Linda Fischbach, Ronnie Heyman, Dakis Joannou, Cindy Johnson, Barbara lane, Linda Macklowe, Brian McIver, Peter Norton Foundation, Willem Peppler, Denise Rich, Rachel Rudin, David Teiger, Ginny Williams, Elliot K. Wolk 99.5269. © Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Belts, 1966–67. Vulcanized rubber and neon, 72 x 300 x 20 inches (182.9 x 762 x 50.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Panza Collection 91.3863. © 2009 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Attilio Maranzano