In a conceptually challenging and forward-thinking text, Osborne puts forth the idea that the term ‘contemporary’ has been misused as a catch-all tag for current art that is actually quite the misnomer. He instead postulates the idea of a ‘post-conceptual art’, arguing that an accurate art-historical evaluation on the present is not only eventually foolhardy but ultimately misguided philosophical challenge. It can at best become an exercise in calculated speculation.
Osborne constructs a thorough argument to support his claim through the work of indisputably important figures in recent times. He moves through key aspects in the work of artists Robert Smithson, Sol Lewitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Gerhard Richter. Other seminal thinkers making substantial impacts on the writing are Rosalind Krauss, Kant, Hegel, and Gilles Deleuze. Osborne leaves very few stones unturned in this pervasive and exhaustive examination. The writing is scattered throughout with ideologically illustrative charts and work example images, serving to make his case more digestible to those less practiced in opening topics usually doused with academically rigorous jargon.
The text presents an overarching evaluation not only of important work of these times, but also of the institutions and spaces designed to hold the products created by the more advanced minds of recent art history. Osborne makes historically troublesome academic ideas appear lucid, his word choice cutting to the heart of complex notions. A minimal amount of digging is required for the reader.
I can’t sit here and tell you that I fully absorbed all that this soon-to-be important book had to offer, but to my mind that only validates the all-inclusive nature of the project it sets out for itself. I’m not quite as well read as Mr. Osborne, when all is said and done. If I was, there’d be no reason to read this book. Anywhere or Not at All entices readers such as myself with an opportunity to look forward to a second read, knowing that what was made clear on the first go-round will shed further light on the points that I did not previously grasp in full.
I have put eyes to it once, after all—which I am guessing puts me at least one read ahead of you, considering you were interested enough to read all the way to the end here. It’s true that I may be coming across just a touch too snarky, but this book has really instilled me with a feeling of intellectual confidence. Just do yourself a favor and go buy this book.
Reviewed by Matthew Hassell