Looking at an art historian's way of developing his/her reading of art history, one is allowed to see what is the most crucial thing about it; 'how to read' rather than 'what to see'. What is beneficial about tracking a trajectory of Krauss's theoretical concern is that we can get hold of some critical fluxes of the late 20th century western art. Most intriguing as it seems in dealing with Krauss is the fact that she started out as a Greenbergian formalist, but separated from him when she came to realise that what the period of the late 60s needed was a new kind of art which broke radically with tradition cherished by high Modernism.
Krauss's way of seeing gradually transformed from her Passages in Modern Sculpturein the late 70s as a postformalist and still historical progression through The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths in the middle of the 80s, which proposes her structuralist and post-structuralist perspective. In Passages she found an alternative way of describing a development of modernist sculpture. Then in Originality, she rejects narratives altogether in favor of a structuralist account of postmodernism. The latter's stance has been quite valued as anti-narrational as well as anti-formalist.
Most recently, in Krauss's poststurcturalist discussions of cubism and surrealist photography she acknowledges the problems inherent in a structural account of art history. Her turn to semiotic analysis and the concept of the 'informal' endows her theoretical strength to deconstruct structuralism. Through such multi-layered trajectory of art history, Krauss examplifies a philosophical art criticism' as David Carrier calls it, expanding the conventional scope of the discourse of Western Art History.
What I most highlight in this essay on Krauss's writing is her recent works such as The Optical Unconscious, The Formless and Bachelors. Through these books is seen her growing concern on Georges Bataille's notion of 'informe'. She uses Bataille to reread the history of modern art, especially aiming to critique Greenbergian formalism. Actually Krauss's early essays on Bataille were publicated in the mid-1980s (October 36) mainly with Annette Michelson. I pointed out that Bataille is referenced in Krauss's Originality, notably in her essays on Giacometti and Surrealists.
Through tracing Krauss's progressive writings in 1990s, I attempt to reveal that Surrealism and Dada provide her with material through which she could undermine hegemonic modernism. It is because she recognised that these two art groups were repressed by Formalist's stress on rationality and logical relatedness. In other words, Krauss's logical strategy attempts to reveal the underside of Modernism, from which she finds a way leading to the postmodern discourse of art history. Putting an emphasis on her position as an ex-disciple of Greenberg, this essay tries to follow her ways of negotiating at first and deconstructing at last the powerful paradigm of Modernism.
Surrealist photography in many forms is, in fact, what intrigues Krauss most recently. As is well known, Krauss with other contributors to October gave photography a privileged status over other mediums. Her theoretical concern on photography was encouraged by C.S.Peirce whose semiotic analysis has drawn its influence on Krauss's work from the 70s. It is, however, in quite recent works such as Bachelors that she resorts to psychoanalytic discourse - Lacan's theory in particular - as well as Peircean perspective.
In addition to those perspectives, feminist insight is something that Krauss refers to, but certainly not identify with. In terms of the issue of sexual difference, she arouses quite a controversial argument on whether it could be an integral way of dealing women artists' work without standing on a undeniable position from a female spectator. Nonetheless, no matter how various layers of reading Krauss tries on, it is quite certain that she offers a challenging account of theoretical and historiographic problems of contemporary art.