07
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964 – 1977’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 13th December 2011 – 11th March 2012

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Many thankx to the Art Institute of Chicago for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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John Baldessari (American, born 1931)
The California Map Project Part I: California
1969, exhibition copy 2011
Twelve inkjet prints of images and a typewritten sheet
Each image, 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.); sheet, 21.6 x 27.9 cm (8 1/2 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© John Baldessar

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Eleanor Antin (American, born 1935)
100 Boots
1971-73
Fifty-one photolithographic postcards
Each 11.1 x 17.8 cm (4 3/8 x 7 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Endowment, 2000.106.1-51
© Eleanore Antin. Courtesy Ronald Fedlman Fine Arts, New York, NY

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Eleanor Antin (American, born 1935)
100 Boots
1971-73
Fifty-one photolithographic postcards
Each 11.1 x 17.8 cm (4 3/8 x 7 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Endowment, 2000.106.1-51
© Eleanore Antin. Courtesy Ronald Fedlman Fine Arts, New York, NY

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John Baldessari (American, born 1931)
Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (Best of Thirty-Six Attempts)
1973
Portfolio of fourteen photolithographs
Each 24.7 x 32.7 cm (9 11/16 x 12 7/8 in.)
Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
© John Baldessari

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The 1960s and 1970s are recognized as the defining era of the Conceptual Art movement, a period in which centuries held assumptions about the nature of art itself were questioned and dissolved. Until now, the pivotal role that photography played in this movement has never been fully examined. The Art Institute of Chicago has organized the first major survey of influential artists of this period who used photography in ways that went far beyond its traditional definitions as a medium – and succeeded thereby in breaking down the boundaries of all mediums in contemporary art. Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964-1977  on view December 13, 2011 through March 11, 2012 – is the first exhibition to explore how artists of this era used photography as a hybrid image field that navigated among painting and sculpture, film, and book arts as well as between fine art and the mass media. More than 140 works by 57 artists will fill the Art Institute’s Regenstein Hall in this major exhibition that will be seen only in Chicago.

Bringing to the fore work from the Italian group Arte Povera as well as artists from Eastern Europe who are rarely shown in the United States, Light Years also includes many pieces that have not been on public display in decades by such major artists as Mel Bochner, Tony Conrad, Michael Heizer, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Emilio Prini. To open the exhibition, the Art Institute has arranged a special outdoor screening of Andy Warhol’s Empire, an eight-hour film of the Empire State Building. In a first for the United States, Warhol’s Empire will be projected from the Modern Wing’s third floor to be seen on the exterior of the Aon Center on Friday, December 9.

The acceptance of photography as fine art was an evolutionary process. Early 20th-century avantgarde movements such as Dada, Surrealism, and Constructivism articulated a new set of standards for art in which photography played a major role. By the 1930s, modernist photography found a small but influential niche in museum exhibitions and the art market, and vernacular forms such as photojournalism and amateur snapshots became a source of artistic inspiration. Engagement with mass media, exemplified in Pop Art, became prominent in the 1950s. Yet only with the advent of Conceptual Art did artists with training in painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts begin to make and exhibit their own photographs or photographic works as fine art.

Some Conceptual artists, such as Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, and Valie Export took up photography seriously only for a few key months or years; others, like Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, Jan Dibbets, and Annette Messager have worked in photography their entire careers. Photography showed the way forward from Minimal Art, Pop Art, and other movements in painting and sculpture. But it came with its own set of questions that these artists addressed with tremendous innovation. Questions of perspective, sequence, scale, and captioning which have a rich history in photography, were answered in entirely new ways and made into central concerns for art in general.

Photography in these artists’ hands was the antithesis of a separate and definable “medium.” It became instead “unfixed”: photobooks, photolithographs, photo canvases, photo grids, slide and film pieces, and even single prints all counted as valid creative forms. The variety of work showcased in Light Years is crucial to conveying the greatest contribution of the Conceptual era: to turn contemporary art into a field without a medium.

Light Years showcases a great number of works that have not been seen together – or at all – since the years around 1970. Victor Burgin’s Photopath, a lifesize print of a 60-foot stretch of flooring placed directly on top of the floor that it records, has not been shown in more than 20 years and never in the United States. Likewise being shown for the first time in the U.S. are pieces by Italian artists Gilberto Zorio, Emilio Prini, Giulio Paolini, and others associated with the classic postwar movement Arte Povera. Paolini’s early photocanvas Young Man Looking At Lorenzo Lotto (1967), an icon of European conceptualism, has only rarely been shown at all after entering a private collection in the early 1970s. Mel Bochner’s Surface Dis/Tension: Blowup (1969) has not been seen since its presentation at Marian Goodman Gallery in the now legendary 1970 exhibition Artists and Photographs, from which no visual documentation survives. Equally rare and important early works by Laurie Anderson, Marcel Broodthaers, Francesco Clemente, Tony Conrad, Gilbert & George, Dan Graham, Michael Heizer, and many others make the show a revelation for those interested in key figures of new art in the 1960s and ’70s. A special emphasis is placed on artists from Hungary, a center for photoconceptual activity that has long been overlooked in Western Europe and the United States.”

Press release from the Art Institute of Chicago

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Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940–1994)
AW:AB =L:MD (Andy Warhol: Alighiero Boetti = Leonardo: Marcel Duchamp)
1967
Silk screen print with graphite on paper
58.8 x 58.8 cm (23 5/16 x 23 5/16 in.)
Colombo Collection, Milan. © Artists Rights Society (ARS)

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Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940–1994)
Twins (Gemelli)
September 1968
Gelatin silver postcard
15.2 x 11.2 cm (6 x 4 3/8 in.)
Private Collection © Artists Rights Society (ARS)

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Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941)
Light Trap for Henry Moore No. 1
1967
Gelatin silver print
157.5 x 105.7 cm (62 x 41 5/8 in.)
Glenstone. © Artists Rights Society (ARS).

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Dennis Oppenheim (American, 1938-2011)
Stage 1 and 2. Reading Position for 2nd Degree Burn Long Island. N.Y. Material… Solar Energy.  Skin Exposure Time. 5 Hours June 1970
1970
Two chromogenic photographic prints, plastic labeling tape, mounted together on green board with graphite annotations
Overall: 81 x 66 cm (31 7/8 x 26 in.)
Top photo: 20.1 x 25.8 cm; bottom photo: 20.2 x 25.5 cm; Image/text area: 41.8 x 25.8 cm
Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection
© Dennis Oppenheim Estate

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The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
T: (312) 443-3600

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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