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Annette Michelson papers, ca. 1950–2014

photo of Annette Michelson / Hujar
The papers of the critic, editor, and scholar Annette Michelson (American, b. 1922) document her decades of prolific and influential engagement with avant-garde production in both contemporary art and experimental cinema. Ranging from the early 1960s to the present day, the archive features notebooks, photographs, and research and teaching materials that include notes and article offprints. There is significant correspondence, both to and from Michelson, with notable figures such as Lawrence Alloway, Robert Morris, Yvonne Rainer, Susan Sontag, and Harald Szeemann.

Michelson's influence is as pervasive as it is hard to gauge its full extent, but can be summarized by her significant role in the advancement of global scholarship in avant-garde visual culture, especially film. Her writing and editorial activities have been instrumental in establishing cinema studies as an academic field. Along with her papers, this archive includes Michelson's library of over 2,000 film-related books and magazines, which will be added to the Research Institute's general library collection.

In the 1960s Michelson became one of the earliest critical champions of minimalism, especially as the movement was represented by conceptual artist Robert Morris and experimental dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer. Michelson's criticism signaled a change in the pages of Artforum, where she worked and became acquainted with art theorist Rosalind Krauss. In 1976 the two founded the journal October, which has had a sustained influence on the theoretical inflection of much subsequent art-historical scholarship. In this regard Michelson helped introduce many French intellectuals, Jacques Derrida and Georges Bataille among them, to a broader American audience.

A related acquisition from Michelson's collection are two works by Robert Morris, who figured prominently in the minimalism, process art, and earthworks movements. Blind Time, a graphite drawing on paper that Morris dedicated and gifted to Michelson, testifies to the strong ties she developed with artists of the New York downtown scene of the late 1960s and 1970s. A suite of 10 color lithographs entitled Earth Projects documents his involvement with land art and features the artist's proposals for monumental projects involving the physical landscape. It was produced around the time when Michelson was most actively writing on Morris and is further evidence of their close relationship.