Hal Foster notes that postwar culture in the United States and Western Europe is informed "by neos and posts." Beginning in the early 1960s, numerous artists have consistently engaged in the recovery of prewar avant-garde practices. Often interfacing diametrically opposed models within a single work, they have thus contrived "an almost Borgesian array of predecessors," from Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi to Vladimir Tatlin and Aleksandr Rodchenko.  This is not to say that their reassessment is historicist in intent, or that it amounts to an unerring recycling of formal devices. On the contrary, some of the most challenging contemporary artists cast the act of reassessment as a gesture of seizure. Perhaps paradoxically, this tactic comes closer to the "truth" of the avant-garde than does its historicist contextualization. Or, to put it in another way, the intensity of this hijacking gesture effectively displaces the avant-garde from its prior and proper hermeneutic context. As Slavoj Zizek notes, "t he key point here is how this 'effect of truth' is strictly co-dependent with the violent gesture of 'anachronistic' appropriation." Because, the only way to uncover the "truth" about our predecessors, he argues, is to be able "to read them as 'our contemporaries."'  Along parallel lines, Foster asserts: "Thus the need for new genealogies of the avant-garde that complicate its past and support its future."  The work of Brancusi plays a central role in the formation of this historical riposte.
Brancusi's imprint on contemporary sculptural practice ranges from the dissemination of furniture-oriented sculpture and the emerging topos of architectural folly to new paradigms for public art. At the same time many postwar artists engaging in a dialogue with his legacy have read and productively misread Brancusi's work. Through the violent but fecund gesture of subjective intervention, these artists have extracted from it new practices of far greater critical and historical significance than might have resulted from an objective, historicist approach.
After his death in 1957, renewed interest in Brancusi occurred first and foremost in the United States. The Endless Column and many of the artist's bases and furniture pieces, such as his working tables and stools, proved to be relevant to the concerns of U.S. sculptors who came to prominence in the 1960s. In particular, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Richard Serra grew specifically interested in the structural makeup of the column based on the cloning of a single, identical unit. Its repetitive, modular, and nonhierarchical morphology provided them with an economical way of circumventing the relational orders of mainstream European art, which came under the scrutiny of Judd in his influential 1965 text "Specific Objects." Yet, if Minimalism was instrumental in the reformulation of the sculptural object (whose formal qualities of repetition and equity of units reflected the idea of political democracy), the object per se still remained relatively dependent on the established institutional networ k of studio, commercial gallery, and museum. During the late 1960s, anarcho-syndicalist and student uprisings echoed all across Western Europe, particularly in France during May 1968. In the United States, street-level activism prompted by civil rights movements and protests against the Vietnam War raised the stakes beyond the institutional setting of art exhibitions. Artists strove to break free from the gallery system and market forces that commodified their art and to relocate their work within civic space.
The public works of Scott Burton and Martin Puryear have contributed not only to the ongoing debate between high art and utilitarian design, but also to a heightened awareness of art's social function. Like the Russian Constructivist, Bauhaus, and De Stijl practitioners before them, or the generation of furniture sculptors succeeding them, including Andrea Zittel, Jorge Pardo, Tobias Rehberger, and Joep van Lieshout, Burton and Puryear both considered that art should serve society as design and architecture do. This is not surprising, since Burton arrived at his furniture work for public spaces via performance and an investigation of social behavior. Puryear, meanwhile, developed a model of site-specificity that focused on the indivisible relation between sculpture and topography, as well as on the peripatetic input of the viewer, who engages in the spatial field in order to experience the work. Burton's and Puryear's mutual interest in Brancusi's art-cum-craft background is also shared by Richard Pettibone, who has signaled a connection between Brancusi's aesthetic and that of the Shaker community.
Pettibone is a pioneer of appropriation art, yet, unlike other artists of his generation who have denounced the pursuit of ideal form, he has unapologetically extolled it. He argues that Brancusi's series of "Endless Columns aspire to a perfection similar to a Shaker chair or a candle stand."  This statement can be read at face value, or as the antinomy within Brancusi's project: that the most significant of his sculptures come close to the economy and integrity of the pedestal. Brancusi's revolutionary reversal of the base from passive podium to generative element has likewise informed Didier Vermeiren, who is best known for his large corpus of works based on the assemblage of two identical pedestals. In Vermeiren's so-called pedestal on top of a pedestal, pedestal and sculpture form replicas of …