Posts Tagged ‘American performance art

14
May
19

Exhibition: ‘The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day’ at ONE Gallery, West Hollywood, California

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 17th May 2019

Curator: David J. Getsy

 

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor' October 1975, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

“Varble’s total irreverence is no more evident than in his willingness to “cross party lines,” as he did when he wore his Suit of Armor, constructed with gold VO labels from Seagram’s boxes, to both the 1975 Easter Parade and to West Village leather bars! He was an equal opportunity offender, rubbing up against conformity in all forms.”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

 

Confusing queen reigns, on parade

In an era of reactionary religious and right wing hypocrisy – Christian sleaze and paedophilia anyone, anti-Muslim and gay Facebook posts in the Australian election, murderous right wing rampage in New Zealand – now more than ever, we need artists like Stephen Varble.

I love doing these posts on artists that certainly I, and I suspect a lot of the readers of this website, would have never have heard of. Artists full of spunk, full of daring-do, artists who rise to challenge the patrons of patriarchy, and the colluders of capitalism (Varble became ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism). Artists who declaim the value of the individual, who shine a light on the plight of the downtrodden and discriminated against. Can you not once bring yourself to utter the word “AIDS” you bigoted president?

“Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances… [He] sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both.” Australian artists such as Leigh Bowery and Brenton Heath-Kerr have a lot to thank Varble for.

He might have risen from the gutter, but his intentions were full of stars.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

Varble’s work wasn’t drag in the conventional cross-dressing sense, or “gay art,” which was often defined from a predominantly masculine perspective in the immediate post-Stonewall years. His intention was to stretch and break down the very idea of binary identities, confuse the concept of gender, leave it optional. And this goal puts him well in the framework of queer and transgender thinking now. …

For a series of mid-1970s performances he called “Gutter Art,” he would arrive, elaborately dressed, by limousine (paid for by a Japanese patron, Miyazaki Morihiro) in front of luxury stores on the Upper East Side. Once parked, he unloaded old kitchen utensils from the trunk and started washing them with black ink, as if referring to the domestic life of sweatshop labor. He soon gained notoriety as a kind of cultural terrorist. (Tiffany’s hired guards to keep him out.) He turned up, uninvited, at red carpet events – film premieres, the Met’s Costume Institute gala – to dazzle and deride the guests.

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Holland Cotter. “Stephen Varble: The Street Was His Stage, the Dress Was His Weapon,” on The New York Times website January 10, 2019 [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)' 22 March 1976, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe (for the Chemical Bank Protest)
22 March 1976, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

“A chauffeured Rolls Royce glides glacially to the curb in front of the Chemical Bank at New York’s Sheridan Square. The uniformed driver, out in an instant, holds open the passenger door. Rather than a well-heeled person to which such a car would belong, a more hallucinatory sight will emerge, equally glamorous and ridiculous. Two legs appear, only one of which has a shoe. The full length of the body gradually appears, improbably covered in netting and not much else, the entwined nets adorned with crumpled bills. What seem to be bare breasts droop from the chest of a figure of otherwise unidentifiable gender, further confused by a toy fighter jet, poised for takeoff, at crotch level. While no words are spoken, a cartoon speech bubble overhead proclaims, cheerily but with a disgruntled undertow: Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Bob Nickas. “Stephen Varble: Now More Than Ever,” on the Affidavit website [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

The Chemical Bank Protest was Varble’s most notorious and widely reported disruption, and it encapsulated his disdain for commerce, capitalism, and propriety. To contest a forgery against him, Varble went to the Sheridan Square bank to demand his money returned. He created his Demonstration Costume with Only One Shoe from Christmas tree packaging, gold leaf wrappers, and fake money. His costumes often combined different signs of gender, and here he wore tow condoms filled with cow’s blood for breasts and a toy jet fighter as a codpiece. The toy referenced the plane ticket the forger purchase with the money, and one shoe was missing to “symbolise his economic loss.” Hovering over his head, a speech bubble touted, “Even Though You May Be Forged, Chemical Still Banks Best!”

Varble’s performances often affected an ironic enthusiasms for his targets (be it a bank, a boutique, a gallery, or a presidential candidate), and his insincere flattery was meant to provide cover for his disruption of business as usual.

Arriving in a borrowed limousine, Varble boldly entered to make his demands as the line of customers at the teller window gawked. On being told by the manager that he could not be helped, Varble punctured the blood-filled condoms and dipped a pen in the spilled blood to write checks (for “none-million dollars”) in his dramatic, mime-like movements before sweeping out to the sound of applause from the customers.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

“Varble began to truly set himself apart from other gender-focused 1970s performance artists with his outré 1976 performance at Chemical Bank in Sheridan Square. After hearing that someone had forged his signature and emptied out his bank account, Varble walked into the bank dressed in fake money, with breasts made out of condoms and filled with cow’s blood. He demanded his money back. When the bank teller could not comply, Varble punctured his condom-breasts, spilling blood all over the floor, and wrote checks in blood for “none-million dollars,” which he addressed to his companion at the bank, Peter Hujar. The exhibition includes a photograph Hujar took that day, evoking a time when the lax security in banks allowed artists to perform and express themselves, however outrageously (although Varble was then escorted out of the cow’s blood-filled bank by security).”

Extract from Michael Valinsky. “A Forgotten Precursor of Genderqueer Performance Art,” in Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 14/05/219

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left top, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble with the Enormous Pink Satin and baby Doll (1975); left below Stephen Varble Performing in a Garbage Can at his Loft on Franklin Street (1975); and at centre, Closing Party with Varble’s Enormous Pink Satin Skirt (1975)

 

 

Franklin Street Exhibition and Party Performance

in 1976, Varble organised an exhibition of his own work in the loft her share with Jim McWilliams on Franklin Street. He painted the interiors pink, built large decorations, and displayed all his costumes on cut-out mannequins mounted on the walls. The largest piece in the exhibition was a new work the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, some fifteen feet in length. The object played a central role in the “Gala Ending” party that closed the exhibition, as can be seen in the photograph (main above). For this major event Varble enlisted the help of established gender non-conforming performers such as Mario Montez, Jackie Curtis, and Taylor Mead to act as living mannequins for his most iconic costumes. Modelling Varble’s art they paraded with his satin silhouette dolls through the crowd and did impromptu performances – such as when Agusta Machado enacted a campy drama of claustrophobia in Varble’s refrigerator. Day was there to capture the wild party, managing to take individual portraits of some of the major performers in attendance…

In the midst of the playful chaos, Varble gathered these Warhol stars and others (such as Paul Ambrose and New York drag personality Ruth Truth) inside the Enormous Pink Satin Skirt, and at a designated time they al burst forth dancing. As the exhibition gave attendees a retrospective view of his output the performance provided a testament to Varble’s place in the queer performance culture of New York. As the art critic Gregory Battock remarked, “It was the kind of event only Stephen Varble could have planned: chaotic, meandering, spurious and very New York […] Even though invitations were hard to come by, everybody was there.”

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery with, from left, Greg Day’s Stephen Varble Destroying his Blue and Green Corrugated Paper Dress from the Camera (October 1975); Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale; and Stephen Varble in the Suit of Armor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

'Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer' [recto] 1975

 

Stephen Varble, Gutter Art flyer [recto]
1975
Xerographic print on paper
Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum
Photo: Courtesy Greg Day and the Leslie-Lohman Museum

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale' October 1975, printed 2018

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble in the Elizabethan Farthingale
October 1975, printed 2018
Digital print
© Greg Day, 2019

 

 

In costumes made from street trash, food waste, and stolen objects, Stephen Varble (1946-1984) took to the streets of 1970s New York City to perform his “Gutter Art.” With disruption as his aim, he led uninvited costumed tours through the galleries of SoHo, occupied Fifth Avenue gutters, and burst into banks and boutiques in his gender-confounding ensembles. Varble made the recombination of signs for gender a central theme in his increasingly outrageous costumes and performances. While maintaining he/him as his pronouns, Varble performed gender as an open question in both his life and his work, sometimes identifying as a female persona, Marie Debris, and sometimes playing up his appearance as a gay man. Only later would the term “genderqueer” emerge to describe the kind of self-made, non-binary gender options that Varble adopted throughout his life and in his disruptions of the 1970s art world.

At the pinnacle moment of Varble’s public performances, the photographer Greg Day (b. 1944) captured the inventiveness and energy of his genderqueer costume confrontations. Trained as an artist and anthropologist and with a keen eye for documenting ephemeral culture as it flourished, Day took hundreds of photographs of Varble’s trash couture, public performances, and events in 1975 and 1976. Varble understood the importance of photographers, and Day was his most important photographic collaborator. This exhibition brings together a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble performing his costume works and also includes Day’s photographs of Varble’s friends and collaborators such as Peter Hujar, Jimmy DeSana, Shibata Atsuko, Agosto Machado, and Warhol stars Jackie Curtis, Taylor Mead, and Mario Montez.

Varble sought to make a place for himself outside of art’s institutions and mainstream cultures all the while critiquing them both. The story of Varble told through Day’s photographs is both about their synergistic artistic friendship and about the queer networks and communities that made such an anti-institutional and genderqueer practice imaginable. Together, Varble and Day worked to preserve the radical potential of Gutter Art for the future.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble builds upon the 2018 retrospective exhibition of Stephen Varble’s work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, titled Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble, as featured in the New York Times on January 11, 2019. The new ONE Gallery exhibition, with its focus on the collaboration of Varble with the photographer Greg Day, will explore the ways in which Varble’s disruptive guerrilla performance art has lived on primarily through vibrant photographs that captured his inventive costumes, transformed trash, and public confrontations.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s photographs by Greg Day is curated by David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the  School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble is organised by the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. Generous support is provided by the City of West Hollywood.

About the ONE Archives Foundation, Inc.

The ONE Archives Foundation, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) dedicated to telling the accurate and authentic stories of LGBTQ people, history and culture through public exhibitions, educational projects and trainings, and community outreach programs. Our exhibitions, school programs, and community outreach programs are free. We depend entirely on members of the public and private foundations for support.

Press release from the ONE Gallery [Online] Cited 10/04/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing, at left, a still from Stephen Varble’s video Journey to the Sun (1978-1983); and at right Greg Day’s Stephen Varble in the Piggy Bank Dress (1975)

 

Stephen Varble (American, 1946-1984)
Journey to the Sun
1978-1983
U-matic video transferred to digital, 2018
Courtesy David J. Getsy

 

 

Varble receded from the art world and from street performance around 1977, becoming ever-more critical of commodification and capitalism. As he told an interviewer that year, “This is the age of pornography and contempt. The dollar is good. […] The end of capitalism is coming.” Varble instead began to develop private performances and videos about his private mythologies and messianic dreams. His last five years were consumed with working on an epic, operatic work of video art: Journey to the Sun. It started in 1978 as a performance about the mythology of Greta Garbo, and Varble invited friends to his Riverside Drive apartment to view his monologues accompanied by project slides. His ambitions soon outgrew this format, and he turned to video for its ability to combine text, image and performance. He considered these videos to be revivals of illuminated Medieval manuscripts with their rich visual play between words and pictures, and he called his group of collaborators in the video the “Happy Arts School of Manuscript Illumination.” The aim of the “school” was to promote Varble’s vision of societal transformation through the making of modern fables in the form of videos, books, and prints. His “video books,” as he called the tapes, offered an “antidote to nature’s ruin on this heavenly globe.”

Journey to the Sun tells the story of a musician, the Grey Crowned Warbler, who undergoes tribulation and metamorphosis on a journey to transcendence. The tale is a loosely autobiographical fable of an artist who encounters a stern mystical teacher, Sage Purple Pythagoras (played by his partner, Daniel Cahill) who tests the Warbler. Many of Varble’s iconic costumes feature in the video, and he combined elements of his own history with references to literature, religion, and popular culture (notably, Garbo). Combining heavily scripted monologues with improvised performances. Journey to the Sun does not offer a tidy or easily understood narrative. Rather, it sketches a fantastic and surreal visual world in which dreams are realised through the transformations of everyday objects, popular imagery, and rubbish.

To make this “rodeo-paced” video, Varble filled his apartment with drawings and writings on the walls, blacked out the windows, and began filming scenes both scripted and improvised with collaborators. Journey to the Sun is remarkable for its time due to the complexity and density of the video editing – all of which was done by Varble in his apartment. He only completed about thirty percent of his planned work before his death from AIDS-related complications in January 1984. This screening copy presents a continuous segment of around 80 minutes that has been selected from the three surviving U-matic master tapes, but no changes have been made other than the choice of where to begin and end this combined excerpt. This is but a fragment of the much longer video epic Varble hoped would be his major contribution.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day' at ONE Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s, photographs by Greg Day at ONE Gallery showing Stephen Varble’s Blue Boy

 

 

“One afternoon, Stephen invited me to accompany him to a performance in midtown Manhattan. He bought Blue Boy with him. We took the F train uptown from Washington Square. Sitting on the subway car bench and wearing his Chemical Bank Protest attire. Stephen hugged, kissed, fondled and poked Blue Boy. He spoke to him in an affectionate and sometimes argumentative language of moans, “ohs” and clicks. I sat across from him and watched as people entered the car. They stared, laughed, gasped, and made disparaging remarks about his sanity before moving to another part of the subway car. Even riding the train was an opportunity for Stephen to shock.”

Greg Day
Wall text from the exhibition

 

Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy from Leslie-Lohman Museum on Vimeo.

 

Gutter Art: Stephen Varble and Genderqueer Performance on the Streets of 1970s New York with David J. Getsy

 

Greg Day. 'Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival' 1975

 

Greg Day (American, b. 1944)
Stephen Varble at the 12th Annual Avant-Garde Festival
1975
Digital print
© Greg Day 2019

 

 

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626 N. Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

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05
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles 1950-1980’ at Martin-Gropuis-Bau Berlin

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 10th June 2012

List of artists represented: Peter Alexander, John Altoon, Chuck Arnoldi, John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Karl Benjamin, Ed Bereal, Tony Berlant, Wallace Berman, Marjorie Cameron, Cameron, Vija Celmins, Judy Chicago, Mary Corse, Ronald Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Laddie John Dill, Melvin Edwards, Frederick Eversley, Lorser Feitelson, Llyn Foulkes, Sam Francis, Joe Goode, Robert Graham, Frederick Hammersley, George Herms, David Hockney, Stephan von Huene, Craig Kauffman, Edward Kienholz, Helen Lundeberg, John Mason, Allan McCollum, John McLaughlin, Ron Miyashiro, Ed Moses, Lee Mullican, Bruce Nauman, Helen Pashgian, Ken Price, Noah Purifoy, Ed Ruscha, Betye Saar, Henry Takemoto, DeWain Valentine, Gordon Wagner, Norman Zammitt.

 

 

Ed Ruscha. 'Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas' 1963

 

Ed Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas
1963
Oil on Canvas
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
Gift of James Meeker, Class of 1958, in memory of Lee English, Class of 1958, scholar, poet, athlete and friend to all

 

 

What a bumper posting – so much to enjoy and something for everyone!

Marcus

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropuis-Bau for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Betye Saar. 'The Phrenologer's Window' 1966

 

Betye Saar (African-American, b. 1926)
The Phrenologer’s Window
1966
Assemblage of two panel wood frame with print and collage
Private Collection; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

 

Eleanor Antin. '100 BOOTS Move On' 1971-1973

 

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)
100 BOOTS Move On
1971-1973
Halftone reproduction
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA
© Eleanor Antin

 

Sam Francis. 'Berlin Red' 1969-1970

 

Sam Francis (American, 1923-1994)
Berlin Red
1969-1970
Acrylic on canvas
Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
© Sam Francis Foundation, Cailfornia / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012
Foto: bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB / Jörg P. Anders

 

Wallace Berman. 'Semina Cover with Wife (Photograph of Shirley Berman)' 1959

 

Wallace Berman (American, 1926-1976)
Semina Cover with Wife (Photograph of Shirley Berman)
1959
Halftone reproduction on cardstock
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA

 

 

The exhibition project Pacific Standard Time – Art in Los Angeles, 1950-1980 traces the development of the Los Angeles art scene during the post-war period, when the city on the Pacific hosted an impressively varied and versatile art scene, thus proving that it was more than Hollywood and a sprawling metropolis in the land of sunshine and palm trees. Pacific Standard Time features such internationally esteemed artists as John Baldessari, David Hockney, Edward Kienholz or Ed Ruscha as well as protagonists that are yet to be discovered like the abstract painters Helen Lundeberg and Karl Benjamin, the ceramicists Ken Price and John Mason, and sculptors such as De Wain Valentine.

The mega show – over 60 institutions and galleries in Los Angeles were involved – is taking the two main core exhibitions of the Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute to Europe. The sole European venue is the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. The section of the exhibition that was to be seen in Los Angeles’ Getty Museum under the title of Crosscurrents in L.A. – Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970, presents painting and sculpture. In the second part that was to be seen in Los Angeles under the title of Greetings from L.A. – Artists and Publics, 1950-1980, posters, artists’ catalogues, postcards, invitation cards and other memorabilia are shown which offer a deeper insight into the networks of the Los Angeles art scene at that time. For Berlin the show has been supplemented to include photographs by Julius Shulman, whose architectural shots defined the image of the Californian lifestyle in the 1950s. His incomparable sensibility and intuitive feel for composition and the ‘critical moment’ established him as a master of his craft.

 

Part One: Crosscurrents

The first part of the Berlin show brings together more than 70 works by over 50 artists and traces the rise of the Southern Californian art scene between 1945 and 1980. The list of names reads like a Who’s Who of today’s internationally esteemed artists, as people like John Baldessari, David Hockney, Edward Kienholz, Bruce Nauman or Ed Ruscha began their careers here.

The entrée into Pacific Standard Time begins with British artist David Hockney’s iconic painting A Bigger Splash from the year 1967. It is one of the key pictures of the exhibition and stands for the hedonistic life under palm trees with permanent sunshine and never-ending parties.

The exhibition is structured both chronologically and thematically, comprising six sections that reflect the entire spectrum of the art trends that sprang up simultaneously in Los Angeles. Abstract works – ceramic sculptures and paintings of bleak clarity – are to be seen in the first section. The second section shows assemblage sculptures and collages by artists like George Herms, Wallace Berman and Ed Bereal, who paved the way for this artistic approach in the 1950s, and their successors, including many African-American artists. The third section documents the rise of Los Angeles to become an important art centre, while the fourth shows paintings by internationally recognised Los Angeles artists as Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney and Ed Ruscha. It becomes clear that Southern California was one of the leading centres for large-format pop art and abstract painting in the 1960s. The fifth section examines how, at a time when painting was growing in significance on the Atlantic Coast of the USA, artists on the West Coast were beginning to extend their notions of traditional painting and sculpture, with perceptual phenomena and the material processes of artistic production coming to the fore. Here we find works that have arisen out of a collision between art and technology, such as a sculpture by De Wain Valentine, who uses industrial materials like polyester casting resin, or a canvas by Mary Corse, into which the smallest, high-grade reflecting glass microspheres have been worked. We are also introduced to a group of artists whose works show traces of their creation, such as those of Joe Goode, Allan McCollum, Ed Moses and Peter Alexander.

Berlin is supplementing the Getty exhibition by devoting a special room to the early international perception of art in Los Angeles. It will feature the works Berlin Red by Sam Francis, a 8 x 12 meter painting that was commissioned by Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie in 1969, and Volksempfängers (People’s Wireless) by Edward Kienholz. As a DAAD scholar Kienholz often lived in Berlin from 1973 on.

Another distinctive feature of the exhibition are the various room installations, including Stuck Red and Stuck Blue by James Turrell and Four Corner Piece by Bruce Nauman. In 1966 Turrell began working on his Light Room installations. In the work displayed in the Martin-Gropius-Bau that he designed in 1970, he uses light to dissolve the borders of spatial structures and transform them. In his Four Corner Piece from 1971 Bruce Nauman creates a particular spatial experience through the interplay of physical information vs. visual information.

 

Part Two: Greetings from L. A.

In the second part of the exhibition, elaborated by the Getty Research Institute, the Martin-Gropius-Bau shows over 200 objects – photographs, artists’ catalogues, books, posters, postcards, invitations, letters and artworks, of which many are on public view for the first time. We are given a sense of how Californian artists, through the involvement of a wide audience, brought art into contact with the general public. We also see how intensely the international networks linking groups of artists functioned.

Greetings from L.A. begins with Making the Scene and describes the gallery scene in Los Angeles from the 1950s to the 1970s. We are introduced to art dealers and collectors of the kind who congregated at La Cienega Boulevard – Rolf Nelson, Riko Mizuno and Betty Asher. On this gallery-lined boulevard, which crosses the Sunset Boulevard immortalized by Ed Ruscha, the reputation of Los Angeles as a city of modern and contemporary art was made.

Public Disturbances, the second section of the show, is devoted to three important exhibitions which drew fierce criticism and even led to arrests. Wallace Berman’s 1957 exhibition in the Ferus Gallery was closed down by the police. Violent controversies were triggered by the War Babies exhibition (1961) in the Huysman Gallery. There were also strong differences of opinion between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors over the inclusion of Kienholz’s installation Back Seat Dodge ’38 (1964) in his grand retrospective of 1966.

The Private Assembly section of the exhibition focuses on the works created by Wallace Berman, George Herms, Charles Brittin and their circle in the 1950s and 1960s. The intimacy of these objects is explained not only by the unmistakable traces of artistic authorship they bear, but also by the fact that they were only accessible to a select, non-public audience. Mainly active outside the commercial gallery scene, this group of assemblage artists concentrated their energies on private artworks, which they handed over personally or sent by mail as a token of friendship.

The fourth section, Mass Media, introduces artists who selected the mass media as a model for their own art. Ed Ruscha, Allen Ruppersberg and Chris Burden occupied themselves with popular culture and mass production as alternative means of production and distribution. They used impersonal forms, such as those of objects or advertising materials commercially produced and sold as consumer goods. By avoiding conventional exhibition rooms, these artists reached a new public. They often exhibited anonymously, thus making the identity of artist and work secondary.

Art School as Audience, the fifth section of the exhibition, sheds light on the important role of art schools in the development of contemporary art forms. They served as the static pole, because in them artists constituted the audience of other fellow artists. The California Institute of the Arts, commonly known as CalArts, and its predecessor, the Chouinard Art Institute, were key venues for important groups of artists, as can be seen from the works of such students as Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode, and such teachers as John Baldessari, Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago. Other important forums were the new art faculties that came into existence at the universities and other higher education facilities in Los Angeles County. At the campuses of Irvine or San Diego in particular there was a stimulating audience for the experiments of such artists as Martha Rosler, Barbara Smith and Eleanor Antin.

The last section, The Art of Protest, examines how social and political developments mobilised artists to display their works in the street. In the 1960s Los Angeles became the scene of the first protests led by artists against the Vietnam War. This gave rise in 1966 to the construction of a Peace Tower at the corner of La Cienega and Sunset Boulevards. In the following decade it was feminism that moved many artists to become social activists, as can be seen from the work of Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz-Starus In Mourning and in Rage 1977, a highly esteemed protest performed on the steps of City Hall.

Greetings from L.A. offers a new look at art in Southern California by showing how the artists of this region changed the conventional relations between art and public and developed alternatives for a public role of art and its place in society.

The exhibition affords glimpses into some recently acquired archives, like those of Betty Asher, Hal Glicksman, George Herms, Wolfgang Stoerchle, High Performance magazine, the galleries of Rolf Nelson, Mizuno and Jan Baum as well as of the papers of Charles Brittin and Edmund Teske. These are supplemented by material from archives not normally associated with Southern California, such as the papers of the critics Irving Sandler, Barbara Rose and Lawrence Alloway of New York; of Marcia Tucker, the founder and curator of New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art; and of the Kasmin Gallery, London.

 

Part Three: Julius Shulman

The last part of the Berlin exhibition shows over 50 photographs by Julius Shulman – the most important American photographer of architecture in the post-war period. For more than thirty years he photographed Modernist houses –  built by Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, or Frank Gehry – thus making many of them into architectural icons. The exhibition shows some of his key works.

Press release from Martin-Gropuis-Bau website

 

Julius Shulman. 'Malin Residence, "Chemosphere”' 1960

 

Julius Shulman (American, 1910-2009)
Malin Residence, “Chemosphere”
1960
Gelatin silver print
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Julius Shulman. 'Case Study House #22' 1960

 

Julius Shulman (American, 1910-2009)
Case Study House #22
1960
Gelatin silver print
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Charles Brittin. 'Peace Tower' 1966

 

Charles Brittin (American, b. 1928)
Peace Tower
1966
Silver-dye bleach print
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Peter Alexander. 'Cloud Box (Large)' 1966

 

Peter Alexander (American 1939-2020)
Cloud Box (Large)
1966
Cast polyester resin
Janis Horn and Leonard Feldman
© Peter Alexander
Foto: Brian Forrest

 

Jerry McMillan. 'Ed Bereal in His Studio' c. 1961

 

Jerry McMillan (American, b. 1936)
Ed Bereal in His Studio
c. 1961
Gelatin silver print mounted on board
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA
Gift of George Herms
© Jerry McMillan

 

David Hockney. 'A Bigger Splash' 1967

 

David Hockney (British, b. 1937)
A Bigger Splash
1967
Acrylic on canvas
96″ x 96″
© David Hockney
Tate Gallery, London, 2011

 

Wallace Berman. 'Untitled (Verifax Collage)' 1969

 

Wallace Berman (American, 1926-1976)
Untitled (Verifax Collage)
1969
Verifax collage on board
Collection of Michael D. Fox, Berkeley CA, Courtesy Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco CA
© Courtesy of the Estate of Wallace Berman and Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles
Foto: Joe Schopplein

 

 

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

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Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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