Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Art History and Criticism

Department or School/College

School of Art

Committee Chair

H. Rafael Chacon

Commitee Members

Prageeta Sharma, Valerie Hedquist


2009, aesthetics, art, art history, contemporary art, materiality, mills


University of Montana


A number of historical philosophical theories relate to materiality in contemporary art and the role of art objects as an extension of ontology, or the study of the nature of being. The Kantian idea of the “aesthetic experience” is the point of departure, tracing philosophical discourse of how art functions via its materiality through the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Maritain to the post-modern considerations of David Hickey and Arthur Danto. The research for this thesis focuses on how contemporary art, in all its various forms, functions via art’s material qualities or materiality. The objective is to ascertain the significance of materiality in contemporary art within the notion of temporal proximity and to establish the importance of the physical experience of works of art irregardless of whether the artwork manifests as an object, as in the case of painting, or as an experience as in performance art. The aim is to establish the fundamental relationship between the viewer and the work of art as it originates from material experience in all its manifestations. Considerations of materiality can be universally applied in the aesthetic assessment of diverse contemporary art forms that range from traditional, low-tech media to conceptual, ephemeral works. Examples here include works by Richard Tuttle, Eva Hesse, Marina Abramovic, Tara Donovan, Agnes Martin, Cecily Brown, Tony Fitzpatrick and Bill Viola.



© Copyright 2009 Christina Murdoch Mills