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John Steen

( Nicolaas )

(b Papendrecht, May 3, 1928).

Dutch sculptor, collagist and draughtsman. From 1948 to 1949 he studied architecture at the Technische Hogeschool in Delft. During this period, he saw in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam the exhibition 13 beeldhouwers uit Parijs, with work from Hans Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Julio Gonzalez, Henri Laurens and Jacques Lipchitz. Influenced by these artists as well as by Picasso, Visser made welded constructions in iron, usually representing plants and small animals such as Dying Horse (h. 1.5 m, 1949; Otterlo, Kröller-Müller). With a recommendation from the architect Gerrit Rietveld, he started training between 1949 and 1951 at the Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague. In 1951 he travelled to London and Paris where he visited Brancusi and Giacometti in their ateliers.

In the mid-1950s Visser explored the concepts of the work of De Stijl artists. He applied their principles of composition but at the same time sought more dynamic expression. During his travel in ...


Marita Sturken

Culture of images and visuality that creates meaning in our world today. This includes media forms such as photography, film, television, and digital media; art media such as painting, drawing, prints, and installations; architecture and design; comic books and graphic novels; fashion design, and other visual forms including the look of urban life itself. It also encompasses such social realms as art, news, popular culture, advertising and consumerism, politics, law, religion, and science and medicine. The term visual culture also refers to the interdisciplinary academic field of study that aims to study and understand the role that images and visuality play in our society; how images, gazes, and looks make meaning socially, culturally, and politically; how images are integrated with other media; and how visuality shapes power, meaning, and identity in contemporary global culture.

The emergence of the concept of visual culture as a means to think about the role of images in culture and as an academic field of study is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging in the late 1980s and becoming established by the late 1990s. There were numerous factors that contributed to the idea that images should be understood and analysed across social arenas rather than as separate categories, including the impact of digital media on the circulation of images across social realms, the modern use of images from other social arenas (such as news and advertising) in art, and the cross-referencing of cultural forms displayed in popular culture and art. It was also influenced by the increasingly visible role played by images in political conflict and a general trend toward interdisciplinarity in academia....


Joachim Hahn

Cave site in Kreis Heidenheim, Germany. It has yielded one of the earliest and best-executed assemblages of art objects of the Upper Palaeolithic period (c. 40,000–c. 10,000 bp; see also Prehistoric Europe §II ). Excavated in 1931 by Gustav Riek, Vogelherd has the longest known stratigraphic sequence in south-western Germany, having yielded Middle Palaeolithic, Micoquian, Mousterian, Aurignacian, Magdalenian and Early Neolithic stone tool assemblages. The most important in terms of the number of artefacts and bones recovered are the Aurignacian levels, which also yielded human skeletal remains belonging to the earliest known specimens of Homo sapiens sapiens in the region. The rich fauna comprised mammoths, horses, reindeer, rhinoceroses, red deer, cattle, chamois, wolves, foxes and lions. Radiocarbon dates for these levels range from c. 32,000 bp to c. 27,000 bp. During this period stone artefacts were produced on the terrace outside the cave, and many tools have been found in the interior, where most of the antler and bone artefacts were concentrated around a large hearth belonging to level V; almost all the art objects in the cave were also found in a single location, suggesting an intentional cache. The art material recovered from the site is exhibited by the university library, Tübingen, and the Altes Schloss, Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart....


Grischka Petri

(b Leverkusen, nr Cologne, Oct 14, 1932; d Berlin, April 3, 1998).

German painter, sculptor, décollagist, composer, video artist, and performance artist. He was one of the fathers of the European Happening movement. Vostell studied typography, lithography, and painting in Cologne, Wuppertal, Paris, and Düsseldorf (1950–58). In 1959 he married Mercedes Guardado Olivenza in Cáceres, Spain. Early in his career he discovered Décollage , a technique of cutting, tearing away or otherwise removing pieces of an image. His spelling of the term, dé-coll/age, underlined the term’s dialectical implications of destruction and creation. In the 1960s he worked with chemicals to transfer the process to photography, video, and film, turning it into an all-encompassing strategy of image deconstruction, often within the iconographic framework of violence and sexuality as communicated by mass media.

Vostell’s combined décollage with car parts and television sets, being one of the first artists using such a device as part of a sculpture in 1958. In 1962 he joined the ...


Mary Chou

(b Stockton, CA, Nov 26, 1969).

American silhouettist, printmaker, painter, installation artist and film maker . At the age of 13, Walker moved from California to Stone Mountain, GA, when her father, the painter Larry Walker (b 1935), accepted a teaching position at Georgia State University. She received her BFA at the Atlanta College of Art, GA, in 1991 and her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, in 1994. In 2001 she began teaching at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York.

Walker’s work explores issues of race, gender, sexuality and identity through paper cut-out silhouettes of scenes depicting slavery and plantation life in the ante-bellum South. Often life-size and spanning an entire wall or room, Walker illustrated racial stereotypes with exaggerated representations of mammies, pickaninnies and sambos, alongside white southern belles and gentleman engaged in acts of violence, torture and sex (e.g. Consume , 1998). Using the silhouette, a 19th-century craft created mostly for the middle class, Walker initially seduces viewers with a polite, delicate and feminine veneer; she compared the technique of silhouettes to the nature of stereotypes themselves, in which the complexities of an individual or situation are reduced and simplified into easily identifiable forms. As all figures are depicted in black or in shadows, racial identity can only be approximated by their profile or actions. As a result, viewers create their own narrative, thus implicating themselves in the creation and perpetuation of these stereotypes....


Eva Meyer-Hermann

(b Fulda, July 22, 1939).

German sculptor and conceptual artist. He studied at the Werkkunstschule, Offenbach (1957–9), and at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt (1959–61). By the end of the 1950s he was already breaking away from a naturalistic style and creating works that emphasized process and materials over form, such as cross-hatched drawings and composite sculptures. From 1962 to 1964 he attended the Staatliche Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf, under Karl-Otto Götz, where he was influenced by Art informel. In the 58 works from his First Movement series of 1963–9 (versions in Bonn, Städt. Kstmus., and New York, Dia A. Found.), he defined a new concept wherein the artwork was no longer autonomous but was ‘completed’ by interaction with the viewer. The participant was invited to don variously shaped and stitched linen ‘instruments’ and place part or all of their physical selves within the perimeters of the object. Between 1967 and ...


Catherine M. Grant

(b Nieuwer Amstel, nr Amsterdam, March 12, 1959).

Dutch photographer, video artist and installation artist. She trained as a sculptor at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam between 1987 and 1990. In 1992 she began to use video and film loops, often incorporating them into larger installations, using the monitor or projections as sculptural objects within the gallery space. These looped pieces use repetition to undermine any narrative or resolution in the action, as in Handstand (1992; see 1995 exh. cat.) where a girl performs a handstand against a wall over and over again. The viewer is held in a state of anticipation by the possibility of some kind of climax, recalling the early video work of artists such as Bruce Nauman. In Warmerdam’s installation Untitled (1994; see D. Birnbaum, p. 64), a room is filled with helium balloons attached to cans of soft drink; the balloons have phrases such as ‘I Love You’ written on them, their cloying sentiment attached to the artificial sweetness of the drinks. Here the objects function in a similar way to the video loops, generating an atmosphere that is both celebratory and disturbing because of the lack of narrative. In the installation ...


Ewa Mikina

(b Volhynia, Oct 10, 1938).

Polish performance artist and conceptual artist. He studied at the Faculty of Architecture at Kraków Technical University from 1956 to 1962 and at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kraków (1964–5). After 1969 he produced at intervals powerful linear semi-abstract paintings resembling three-dimensional projections on to a plane. His first performance, Poetic Quarter Hour with Piano and Record Player (1967; Kraków), based on an improvised poetic recitation, was transformed into verbal-jazz improvisations featuring Tomasz Stańko (1967–8). In the early 1970s Warpechowski produced a number of conceptual works bordering on performance art (e.g. a clock encased in a block of plaster of Paris, a blank tape-measure, a bookbinding press with an empty plate, darkness enclosed in the palms of hands). The performances of the 1970s, such as Liberation of Pure Usefulness (1974), were inspired by Daoist philosophy and dealt with ideas, reality and nothingness, whereas his understanding of the creative process stemmed from the European Romantic tradition. After ...


Margaret Barlow

(b Holyoke, MA, Feb 12, 1943).

American photographer, video artist, conceptual artist, sculptor, draughtsman and painter . He studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA (BFA 1965), and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (MFA 1967). During these years he produced Minimalist sculptures and paintings. In the early 1970s he used video and photography, primarily as a means of documenting such conceptual works as Untied On Tied Off (1972), a photograph of the artist’s feet with one shoe on, untied, the other with the shoe tied to his ankle. These documents gave way to photographs that took on greater artistic qualities in terms of composition and technique, while he continued to use concepts and approaches seen in the earlier pieces (particularly irony, humour and satire on both popular culture and the high culture of contemporary art). He was most well known in the 1970s for his photographic and video works featuring his Weimaraner dog, Man Ray. By ...


Claire M. Roberts

(b Beijing, Dec 19, 1957).

Chinese painter and installation artist, active also in Australia. Guan Wei graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Beijing Capital University in 1986 and worked as an art teacher in a secondary school while pursuing his own experimental artistic practice. In 1989 he was invited to Australia as artist-in-residence at the Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart. Following the violent suppression of democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere on June 3–4, 1989 Guan Wei returned to Australia and undertook further artistic residencies in Tasmania (1990–1991), Sydney (1992–1993), and Canberra (1993–1994). In 1993 he was granted permanent residence and in 1999 held a solo exhibition at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. He established a studio in Beijing in 2008.

Guan Wei is descended from a noble Manchu family. His father was a Peking Opera performer and Guan Wei acknowledged his underlying influence in the gesture and humor that permeates his art. ...


John-Paul Stonard

(b New York, Feb 10, 1942).

American conceptual artist. Self-taught as an artist, he achieved international recognition for text-based works that arose from his sculptural and painterly experiments of the 1960s. In an early work of this decade, The Stone on the Table (destr.; see Alberro, p. 39), consisting of a limestone block placed on a simple wooden table, Weiner rejected the privilege attached to traditional artisan skills. Such a reappraisal of the relationship between artist and materials was paralleled by a challenge to traditionally privileged relationships between artist and audience. In 1968 he made the first of many books, Statements, which contained 24 terse typewritten descriptions of works only some of which had actually been produced, implying that their realization was entirely dependent on audience subjectivity. From this time Weiner concentrated on language as a material, presenting it as a sculptural object central to his practice. His varied and flexible methods of distribution demonstrate his concern to reach a wide audience, breaching cultural and social barriers. This dissemination has taken the form of posters, books, wall texts, graffiti, videotapes, LPs, compact discs, and (in ...


Britta Erickson

(b Beijing, May 13, 1957; official birthdate Aug 28, 1957).

Chinese conceptual artist, curator and architect. Son of the poet Ai Qing (Jiang Haicheng) (1910–96). For 25 years Ai Weiwei was consistently one of the most innovative figures in China’s art world. He helped direct the course of Chinese art, not only through his own artistic production, but also through his curatorial, editorial and design projects, and his encouragement of younger artists.

In 1978 Ai Weiwei enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. His public career as an artist began when he participated in the first Stars group show (1979), an unofficial exhibition hung prominently on a fence next to the National Art Gallery in Beijing. Because the exhibition—and the heavy-handed reaction of the police—drew the attention of foreign reporters, the Stars gained fame as China’s first well-known post-Cultural Revolution dissident artists.

In 1981 Ai Weiwei moved to the USA where he lived mostly in New York, returning to Beijing in 1993. While in New York he studied briefly at the Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League and was exposed to original works by artists who proved to be important influences: Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. As a result he began experimenting with the concept of the ready-made, a process that continues throughout his subsequent work. Characteristic of his early works, ...


Melissa Chiu

[Wenda Gu]

(b Shanghai, Feb 7, 1955).

Chinese installation artist. Gu received his training in Shanghai, first at the Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts, and then at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now the National Art Academy) in Hangzhou, where he studied with the distinguished ink painter Lu Yanshao, amongs others. He became a faculty member at Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in 1981, teaching until 1987, when he migrated to the USA.

In China Gu participated in the New Wave Movement—a period of great artistic experimentation across the country beginning in the mid-1980s, when scores of artists exhibited their work as individuals and collectives in galleries, museums and public spaces. Gu’s ink paintings attracted attention and were shown in various exhibitions. His most important work from this period was the Pseudo-Character series, for example Pseudo Character Series: Contemplation of the World (1984), which comprises three works that both conform to and challenge the conventions of ink painting and calligraphy. The placement of the characters, looming much larger than the landscape, emphasises the primacy of the word, but Gu’s characters are pseudo-characters in that they resemble real characters, but the radicals have been combined incorrectly to create nonsensical words....


Morgan Falconer

(b Vienna, 1947; d Vienna, July 25, 2012).

Austrian sculptor and installation artist. He attended the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna. His first important works, produced in the mid-1970s, were the Adaptives, a series of small amorphous objects designed as both sculptures to be contemplated and as comic playthings to be handled. West described them as prostheses, a term which suggests their biomorphic character, their incompleteness and their close relation to the body. An element derived from performance art exists alongside traditional sculptural techniques in these works, the conception of which was also affected by West’s reading of pyschoanalytical texts. Around this time he also made a series of collages that combined images drawn from advertising with abstract compositional methods. He rose to prominence in the mid-1980s and around this time began to produce furniture, conceived of as installation sculpture and also often as interventions in museum spaces. His first pieces in this vein, influenced by the work of the Vienna Secessionists of the early part of the 20th century, employed welded scrap metal in a manner which recalled his interest in collage. ...


Christoph Tannert

(b Ziegehaid on Hessen, Aug 24, 1890; d Leipzig, May 17, 1978).

German painter, draughtsman and collagist . He took his teaching diploma in art as a pupil of Lothar von Kunowski (b 1866) in Düsseldorf in 1913. During World War I he served as a soldier and then continued his studies with Otto Ubbelohde in Grossfelden at Marburg on the Lahn (1920–22). From 1923 to 1924 he studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin with Igor von Jakimow. For most of his life he earned a living by manual labour rather than through his art. In 1925 he took a post as a window-dresser in Dresden, which he kept until 1943. Thereafter he was employed as an unskilled worker in the Dresden-Reick gasworks until 1945. After World War II he worked as a street-light keeper in Plauen, Dresden (until 1956).

Most of Wigand’s work comprises drawings made with a soft pencil in a style that barely changed throughout his life. His earliest-known works are drawings and woodcuts (...


Anne K. Swartz

(b Primavera, Paraguay, 1943).

American installation and performance artist, writer and educator of Paraguayan birth. Emigrating from Paraguay to the United States in 1961, Faith Wilding consistently examined the social role of women and their bodies as the subject of her art. She received her BA in English with honors from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Wilding did postgraduate studies in Art and Art History at California State University, Fresno, where she met the artist Judy Chicago, who founded the first Feminist Art Program. Wilding completed her MFA at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and served as teaching assistant for the renowned Feminist Art Program (FAP), team-taught by Chicago and artist Miriam Schapiro. In the FAP, Wilding led a consciousness-raising group and a journal writing class, in addition to participating in the famed collaborative project Womanhouse (Jan 30–Feb 28, 1972) with her crocheted installation Crocheted Environment (Womb Room) , which resembles a loosely crocheted spider’s web, and in the performance ...


Morgan Falconer

(b London, Aug 17, 1943).

English conceptual artist and sculptor. He studied at Ealing School of Art (1962–3), began editing and publishing Control Magazine in 1965 and in 1972–3 was Director of the Centre for Behavioural Art in London. Consistently interested in art as an intervention in social patterns and identities, Willats frequently grounded his work in research-based projects. His early art, however, was more object-based. Light Modulator No. 2 (1962; see 1979–80 exh. cat., p. 13), for example, was a project for an outdoor public sculpture made of moving vertical panels, perspex and painted wood, through which people would pass and interact. Willats soon developed these more phenomenological and behavioural concerns into sets of problems concerned with social interaction and cognition. Another early work, Meta Filter (1973; Lyon, Mus. St Pierre A. Contemp.), demonstrates this: a very large installation organized around a large computer, it invites two participants to seek agreement over the meanings of a set of images and statements. Throughout his career Willats continued to design similar interactive projects aimed at encapsulating problems of social conflict. Often his exhibitions evolved out of complex research-based initiatives and extensive collaboration with the public. ...



Aurélie Verdier

English photographers, video and installation artists. Jane (b Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 6 Jan 1967) and her twin sister Louise initially studied separately, Jane completing her BFA at Newcastle Polytechnic, Louise at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art at Dundee in 1989. They both went on to Goldsmiths’ College in London, where they graduated in 1992. Their first collaborative works made reference to stereotypes associated with twins. Their early films, such as Normapaths (1995; 16 mm film transferred to video), also scrutinized the boundaries between the normal and the pathological. They focused on elements of repression and transgression through a sophisticated and careful composition. The Wilsons’ approach often entailed the production of works from the same elements: the video installation, related photographic stills and props appearing in the film presented as sculptures in their own right. In Normapaths, the setting of the charred kitchen of the video was recreated. Their sensitivity to the darker side of the psyche led them to choose historically charged buildings as settings. The video installation ...


Geraldine Craig

(b Detroit, MI, April 16, 1949).

American sculptor, animation, performance, and installation artist. Wilson was a leading figure among artists who began working in the progressive contemporary craft movement of the 1970s and1980s and gained prominence in the art mainstream by the 1990s. Influenced by the alignment of textiles with feminist art that emerged in the 1970s, Wilson employed the cultural associations of diverse source materials (table linens, bed sheets, human hair, lace, thread, wire, glass) to interrogate how craft and context can define a feminist position in art by subverting the boundaries of middle-class propriety and social values.

An early favoured subject and material for Wilson was human hair. Her internet-based project hairinquiry (1996–9) solicited responses to the questions: ‘How does it feel to lose your hair?’ and ‘What does it mean to cut your hair?’, returned through e-mail, fax, and conventional mail. Her sculptural work Lost (1998) was made by embroidering black human hair onto a used white linen tablecloth that was draped over a chair – the discarded hair treated with transgressive care suggests a powerful residue of memory and life lost. With her installation ...


Tracy Fitzpatrick

(b Bronx, NY, 1954).

American sculptor, installation and conceptual installation artist. Wilson was born in the Bronx, attended the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, and received his BFA from Purchase College, The State University of New York in 1976.

While at Purchase College, Wilson studied performance art and dance and also served as a guard at the Neuberger Museum of Art. After college, he worked in various capacities at several New York City museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. In 1987, he became the director of the Longwood Arts Project, where he organized “Rooms With a View,” an exhibition for which he borrowed museum experiences, weaving together art objects, display space, and institutional labels to interrogate methods of museum display and the meanings generated therein. This strategy, an Institutional Critique that Wilson referred to as “tromp l’oeil curating,” has emerged as the focus of his artistic practice....