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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, ...

Article

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....

Article

Hripsimé Visser

(b Amsterdam, Jan 26, 1942).

Dutch photographer . He studied at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and then with the Dutch photographer Ata Kando, also working as a freelance press photographer in Amsterdam. From the end of the 1960s he worked as a documentary photographer in the tradition of politically engaged, concerned photography. His early work showed the influence of Ed van der Elsken with its interest in human drama, its use of a direct, lively approach and a dark printing technique; but he soon evolved a personal style, combining these elements with a strong formal approach.

Wessing made his first major photo-reportage in Paris during the student revolts in 1968, publishing it as Parijs, 1968 (Amsterdam, 1968). From the 1970s he became deeply involved with the political situation of South America, later publishing collections of these images, such as Chile, September 1973 (Amsterdam, 1974) and Van Chili tot Guatemala: Tien jaar Latijns-America (‘From Chile to Guatemala: Ten years in Latin America’; Amsterdam, ...

Article

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. ...

Article

John B. Turner

[ Anna ] ( Jacoba )

(b Leiden, April 28, 1936).

New Zealand photographer of Dutch birth. Inspired by the Family of Man exhibition, which she saw in 1957 in Amsterdam, and Johan van der Keuken’s book, Wij Zijn 17 (We are seventeen) in 1956, Westra documented her classmates at the Industrieschool vor Meisjes in Rotterdam, where she studied arts and craft teaching. Holidaying in New Zealand in 1957 she was captivated by the relaxed lifestyle of the indigenous Maori people and stayed to photograph them. Encouraged by assignments from the Maori Affairs Department’s magazine Te Ao Hou (The New World) in the early 1960s, her work, at first romantic, became increasingly insightful as she documented contemporary Maori life. In 1964 Westra was at the centre of a public controversy when the government ordered the pulping of one of her primary school bulletins, Washday at the Pa (e.g. Wheeee! Baby Erua is all gurgles as… ). This essay on the life of a rural Maori family living in a dilapidated farmhouse was deemed by her critics, especially the Maori Women’s Welfare League, to reinforce stereotypes of Maori as backwards and unambitious....

Article

( Isabel )

(b Glossopdale, Derbs, April 8, 1941).

English fashion designer. The early phase of her career was closely affiliated with contemporary music, including costume design for the rock band the New York Dolls. Over the course of more than 30 years in fashion, Westwood became known for her use of historical sources and her enthusiasm for British dress and textile traditions ( see fig. ).

Westwood grew up in Derbyshire, where her parents managed a post office. The family moved to north-west London when she was 17. After her grammar school education, Westwood attended Harrow Art College, where she studied fashion and silversmithing, but left after one term. She trained to become a primary school teacher, married Derek Westwood in 1962 and had a son, Benjamin, one year later.

Westwood had a subsequent relationship with Malcolm McLaren (1946–2010), whom she met in 1965 after her divorce from her first husband. They had a son, Joseph Ferdinand Corré, in ...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Arizona, 1950).

American jeweler, sculptor, painter, and silversmith, of Mescalero Apache–Navajo descent. White Eagle began his career as a silversmith under the tutelage of legendary Navajo artisan Fred Peshlakai , at age five, learning by observation and developing an artistic understanding of Peshlakai’s aesthetic approach. At nine, he began making and selling his own jewelry at Union Square in Los Angeles. Later moving to Palm Springs, CA he continued to generate and sell his jewelry on the street under the date palms trees.

Always handmade, his jewelry pieces used the finest available quality of semi-precious stones. Singular details and features demonstrated his exclusive and unique artistic vision and styling. In 1973, the Yacqui artist, Art Tafoya, began a silversmith apprenticeship with White Eagle, studying the hand-stamped old style embossing skills of jewelry; he continued the historic creation of extraordinary designs.

Bold and substantial, White Eagle’s jewelry balanced a focal fluid turquoise stone against deeply carved flora and linear design lines. His pieces represented transcultural combinations of traditional Navajo silver interwoven with mainstream expectations of Native American style. He daringly counterbalanced mixed semi-precious stonework with irregular fusions of silver positive space. Smooth, amazingly detailed stamp work combined with bent offset features providing an overall asymmetrical daring quality....

Article

Jim Barr and Mary Barr

(b Te Puke, NZ, July 12, 1946).

New Zealand painter and printmaker . In 1967 she graduated in fine arts from the University of Auckland and trained as a teacher. The following year she moved to Paremata near Wellington, and in 1971 moved south to Dunedin to work full-time as an artist. The relationship between her painting and printmaking was always important to her development. In both she presented flat, simplified frontal images, as in Jerry at the Paekak Pub (1971; Lower Hutt, Dowse Mus.). The legacy of Rita Angus was central to her work, and she was frequently grouped with the New Zealand painter Don Binney (b 1940) and Michael Smither as an artist exploring realist concerns in a regional context. She was keen to make her images widely accessible through her silk-screen prints; in these she often simplified further the architectural and landscape forms of her environment. The birth of her son led to the inclusion of family imagery in works such as the screenprint ...

Article

Octavia Nicholson

(b London, April 20, 1963).

English sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker . She studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic (1982–5) and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art (1985–7). Employing traditional casting methods and materials that are commonly used in the preparation of sculptures rather than for the finished object, such as plaster, rubber and resin, she makes sculptures of the spaces in, under and on everyday objects. Her art operates on many levels: it captures and gives materiality to the sometimes unfamiliar spaces of familiar life (bath, sink, mattress or chair), transforming the domestic into the public; it fossilizes everyday objects in the absence of human usage; and it allows those objects to stand anthropomorphically for human beings themselves. Her practice borrows formally from Minimalism and intellectually from conceptual art, displaying impersonal, austere and mass-produced objects as transformed and personalized through use, so that the viewer may revisit the objects and emotions of the quotidian world....

Article

Tom Williams

Exhibition of contemporary art held periodically at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. It was first held in 1932, shortly after the museum first open its doors to the public and has consistently showcased a broad range of trends in contemporary art. Its organization and frequency has varied wildly over the years. In its early years, the exhibition typically alternated between painting and other media, and it occurred either on an annual or biennial basis. In 1973, however, it assumed its current form as a single exhibition of painting, sculpture, and other media occurring every two years. The exhibition has often been controversial and widely criticized, but it continues to be regarded as a crucial barometer of current trends in contemporary art.

It was originally conceived as a continuation of an earlier series of annual exhibitions that were organized for members of the Whitney Studio Club. This organization was founded in ...

Article

Tracy Fitzpatrick

( New York )

The Whitney Museum of American Art, located in New York City, is “dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting American art.” It was founded by Whitney family §(1) in 1930 and opened to the public in the fall of the following year. Whitney, a sculptor and collector, began exhibiting contemporary, avant-garde art in her art studio in Greenwich Village on West 4th Street in 1912. Six years later, she moved her studio to new quarters on West 8th Street and formally established the Whitney Studio Club. The Club served not only as an exhibition space, but also as a salon for its members. In 1929, Whitney revamped the Club, calling it the Whitney Studio Galleries and continuing to exhibit avant-garde art.

While running these spaces and with help from Juliana Force, who directed the Whitney Studio Galleries and became the first director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Whitney began collecting avant-garde art by American modernists. In particular, she amassed a large body of work by artists of “the Eight,” also known as the ...

Article

Louise Sandhaus

( Yvonne Elizabeth Stella )

(b Ontario, May 31, 1953).

American graphic designer, art historian and art educator of Canadian birth. She studied at Michigan State University, East Lansing, transferring in 1973 to the design programme run by Katherine McCoy at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI, receiving her BFA in 1975. She then worked for Vignelli Associates in New York from 1977 to 1978, while researching the history of American graphic design post World War II on weekends. Her personal research led to further study at Yale University (1982). While at Yale she designed Perspecta 19, Yale’s architectural journal, followed by the Chamber Works and Theatrum Mundi portfolios for the architect Daniel Libeskind (b 1946), and architect John Hejduk’s book Mask of Medusa in 1985. These projects launched her reputation for thoughtful and distinctively designed books on architecture, art and design.

Her 1982 MFA thesis, entitled Trends in American Graphic Design: 1930–1955, was quickly recognized as an important contribution to design scholarship and subsequently led to many commissions for essays. While teaching in the University of Houston’s architecture school during the early 1980s, Wild wrote the influential essay ‘More Than A Few Questions about Graphic Design Education’ (...

Article

(b Blackburn, Lancs, 1948).

English sculptor and draughtswoman . She trained in London at Ravensbourne College of Art (1967–70) and the Royal College of Art (1970–73), where she specialized in sculpture. An interest in perceptual and philosophical questions concerning the nature of art underlay the preoccupation with light, territories, boundaries and their embodiment in matter that was evident in such works as Without Casting Light on the Subject (1975; destr.), an installation comprising a chair, table, lights, sheets of slate and glass, and other objects. The arrangement of the work suggested a quasi-scientific investigation of the properties, status and relation of things. From 1978 she was occupied more with the purely material and physical. Untitled (1980; AC Eng), two brass bags placed in a roughly circular wall of zinc, was a pivotal work and mapped out elemental sculptural concerns that she later consolidated, especially an interest in the sensual and textural properties of materials and their location in space and light. Another recurrent feature of her work in this period was a preoccupation with dual forms, as in ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Kristina Wilson

(b Los Angeles, CA, Feb 28, 1977).

American painter. Wiley grew up in south central Los Angeles and at the age of 11 his mother began enrolling him in weekend art classes at area museums. He attributed his later focus on the genre of portraiture to his early exposure to portraits in the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, by Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds . He earned a bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, and then received an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2001. He subsequently became the artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. It was during this residency that Wiley developed the artistic program that would define his career for most of the next decade: large scale oil portraits of African American men wearing 21st century hip-hop-inflected attire (sweatshirts, down jackets, jeans, jewelry) in poses taken from old master paintings. Instead of a coherent narrative background, these figures stand against an abstract ground (a solid color or blue sky with billowing clouds) and are surrounded by ornate patterns (taken from a variety of sources) that swirl behind them and occasionally over their bodies. Wiley’s style is similar to that of the Photorealists of the 1970s, with its painstaking detail and lush, almost fetishistic attention to the folds of clothing and the glow of skin (...

Article

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. ...

Article

Rochelle LeGrandsawyer

(b Newark, NJ, June 28, 1955).

African American performance and conceptual artist. Pope.L attended the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn (1973–5), Montclair College (BA 1978) and the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York (1977–8) before earning his MFA from Rutgers University (1981).

As the self-proclaimed “Friendliest Black Artist in America,” Pope.L approached the taboo and divisive subjects of race, sex and class as a comedic provocateur. Well-known Pope.L works, such as Eating the Wall Street Journal (2002) and Selling Mayonnaise for 100 Dollars a Dollop (1990–91), used humor and absurdity to engage socially-loaded subject matter. While Pope.L’s oeuvre spanned multiple media, much of his work took the form of public performance. For example, in The Great White Way: 22 miles, 5 years, 1 street (2002), Pope.L crawled, scooted and dragged himself—in segments over a five year period—through New York City on a 22-mile path from the Statue of Liberty to the Bronx, wearing a Superman costume and a skateboard strapped to his back....

Article

Francis Summers

(b Chicago Heights, IL, 1954).

American painter. She studied at the California Institute for Art and Design, Valencia, in 1972 and 1975–6 and at Cooper Union in New York in 1973. She established herself with paintings that combined text (by turns humorous and scathing) with an expressionistic style, as in Money is Congealed Energy (1989; see Artforum, xxviii, Sept 1989, p. 141). Her work expressed the belief that there was a wide spread hatred and violence towards women, operating on all levels of society, all mutely condoned. With works such as A Funny Thing Happened (1992; see Artforum, xxxi, Nov 1992, p. 72) Williams derided acts of violence with an acerbic nihilistic humour using a post-feminist and post-theoretical, rather than a positivist, discourse. Her painterly technique played on a very conscious formal degeneration and crafted hysteria that used incompetence and anger as an artistic strategy; this was in marked contrast to work produced by feminists before her, such as Judy Chicago or Mary Kelly. In the 1990s, Williams turned from a hard-edged literalism to a pornographic lyricism, as in ...

Article

Kevin Mulhearn

(b Lichfield, Staffordshire, Jan 22, 1941).

South African multimedia artist, art critic, and art historian of English birth. Williamson immigrated to South Africa in 1948. She studied at the Art Students League of New York from 1965 to 1968 and received an Advanced Diploma from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, in 1983. One of South Africa’s most distinguished artists, she has also served a critical role as an interpreter and disseminator of information about the country’s art scene.

Williamson’s work has consistently engaged with South Africa’s social and historical circumstances. In the 1980s she endeavoured to reveal through images the people and ideas that the apartheid regime worked to suppress. In the series A Few South Africans (1983–5), for example, she produced postcard-sized prints of women engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle, such as Winnie Mandela and Helen Joseph, which could circulate at a time when the women themselves were often prohibited from doing so. ...

Article

Camara Dia Holloway

(b Philadelphia, PA, Feb 5, 1948).

American photographer, curator and scholar. Willis was born in North Philadelphia to a hairdresser mother and a policeman father who was an amateur photographer. Within a familial and communal context, Willis learned that photographs could function as powerful statements of African American identity. These ideas were reinforced by reading her family’s copy of the publication The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955) that featured the photographs of Roy DeCarava, a major African American photographer. She also attended the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, Harlem on My Mind in 1969. Willis earned a BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1975 and an MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1979. Inspired by the quilting and storytelling traditions in her family, Willis developed a practice that combined her photographs, family photographs and other elements into autobiographical quilts. Her later works focused more on the female body.

From 1980 to 1992...