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James Smalls

(b Somerville, NJ, 1955).

African American sculptor, printmaker, and conceptual artist. He grew up in New Jersey and attended the Boston University School of Fine Arts, the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League of New York City. Cole is best known for assembling and transforming ordinary domestic objects, such as irons, ironing boards, high-heeled shoes, lawn jockeys, hair dryers, bicycle parts and other discarded appliances and hardware into imaginative and powerful configurations and installations embedded with references to the African American experience and inspired by West African religion, mythology and culture. Visual puns and verbal play characterized his works, thereby creating layered meanings. The objects he chose were often discarded mass-produced American products that had themselves acquired an alternate history through their previous handling and use.

In 1989, he became attracted to the motif of the steam iron both for its form and for its perceived embodiment of the experience and history of the unknown persons who had previously used it. He referred to the earliest versions of these irons as ‘Household Gods’ and ‘Domestic Demons’. With them, he engaged with ideas utilizing not only the found object but also the repetitive scorch mark of the iron arranged in either purely decorative patterns or in such ways as to suggest a face or African mask (...

Article

Adrian Locke

(b São Paulo, 1961).

Brazilian printmaker and conceptual artist. She was introduced to contemporary art and artists from an early age by her collector parents, Fulvia and Adolfo Leirner. She went on to study art at the College of Fine Arts, Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado, São Paulo, between 1979 and 1984, and at the Licenciatura in 1984; she returned to teach at the Fundação from 1987 to 1989. From the 1980s Leirner made sculptures and installations using such products of modern life as devalued bank notes, airline tickets, cigarette packages and shopping bags. This involved a process by which these mundane items are removed from circulation and placed into the art world, often in a conscious inversion of the work of the Brazilian conceptualist Cildo Meireles. To this end Leirner remade Meireles’s Zero Cruzeiro (1978) and the work of another Brazilian artist, Dinheiro para treinmento (‘Money for training’; 1977) by Waltercio Caldas (...

Article

Denise Carvalho

(b Rio de Janeiro, 1948).

Brazilian interventionist, multimedia, installation and conceptual artist, considered the most influential contemporary artist of his country. While international critics have compared his work with North American Minimalism and Conceptual art, Meireles insisted that art should be seductive. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts and at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. Coming of age at a time of the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964–85), he circumvented strict state censorship with a series of interventionist works, adding politically charged texts and reinserting the works back into circulation.

Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project (1970) included Coca-Cola bottles with the added text ‘Yankees. Go Home!’ In Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Cédula Project (1970), the same message was printed on one dollar bills, and on the current Brazilian currency, the Cruzeiro. Some bills also queried ‘Who killed Herzog?’ referring to a Brazilian journalist who died while in police custody. Meireles’ series utilizes a mechanistic process of capitalistic insertion and circulation, adding phrases that question the methods and policies of the dictatorship. ...

Article

Anna Bentkowska

(b Abbeville, Aug 27, 1931).

Polish painter, etcher and conceptual artist. He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Łódź (1949–50) and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1950–56). His early works were influenced by Neo-Constructivist tendencies, then very prevalent in Polish art. He gradually moved towards conceptual art and developed monochrome compositions that repeat a particular motif in rhythmic sequences. Chronomes (1961–3; Łódź, Mus. A.) are abstract paintings composed of a multitude of minute dots. In Banners (1967; Warsaw, N. Mus.), a series of etchings, Opałka took a fragment of a photograph showing a street demonstration and repeated it many times in different sizes in the same work. He also created the series Three-dimensional Structures (1964–7; artist’s col.), made of battens and canvas, composed of only horizontal lines. In a series of etchings based on biblical themes, Description of the World (1968–70; Warsaw, N. Mus.), Opałka again explored the idea of the repetition of similar motifs, as in ...

Article

Ađalsteinn Ingólfsson

(b EskifjörÐur, Dec 25, 1929).

Icelandic stage designer, sculptor, printmaker, performance artist and conceptual artist. He studied stage design in Birmingham, Reykjavík and Vienna (1949–56) and was periodically engaged in stage design for Reykjavík theatres from 1956 to 1975. In the late 1950s he became disillusioned with traditional theatre and began to think in terms of proto-happenings or visual tableaux. None of these went beyond the planning stage, but they were undoubtedly precursors of the ‘collage’ plays (random collections of dialogue from literature as well as ephemeral printed material) and performances that Pálsson organized with his students in Reykjavík, the Netherlands and Norway in the 1980s.

Pálsson’s interest in the visual arts was fuelled by his friendship with Dieter Roth. Though their concerns were essentially very different, they shared an ironic, even aggressive attitude to art and an interest in ephemeral or fragile materials. During the 1960s Pálsson’s work was mostly neo-Dadaist: for example the mimeographed prints of ...

Article

(b Newark, NJ, April 10, 1938).

American painter, printmaker, and conceptual artist. She wanted to become an artist from an early age. She studied graphic art at the Pratt Institute, New York (1956–8), and painting and comparative literature at Boston University (1958–60). Steir noted her teachers Richard Lindner and Philip Guston and her studies of Voltaire and Leibniz as highly influential on her work. Her wide visual vocabulary stems from her foundation in graphics and illustration at Pratt. In the early 1960s she worked as a freelance book-cover designer, and as art director at publishers Harper & Row, New York (1965–9), simultaneously pursuing her own painting. Her first mature works were exhibited in solo shows at the Graham Gallery and Paley & Lowe, New York (1972). They are characterized by grids, informalized colour or tonal charts and scales, painterly marks, letters, numbers, signs, and the rendering of such simple motifs as birds, shells, flowers, mountains, and clouds. In the late 1970s Steir was on the board of the feminist magazines ...

Article

Susan T. Goodman

(b Tel Aviv, 1939).

Israeli sculptor, painter, draughtsman, printmaker and conceptual artist. He studied at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and in 1965 at Central School for Arts and Crafts in London. After painting abstract pictures in an expressionist technique he began to make etchings and (from the early 1970s) drawings. He also became involved in land art and conceptual art projects, some of them politically oriented, such as the Messer-Metzer Project in 1972, which involved an exchange of earth between an Arab village and an Israeli kibbutz. On some of these projects he collaborated with other artists, among them Moshe Gershuni and Avital Geva.

From 1978 Ullman evoked graves, archaeological excavations or trenches both in drawings and in sculptures in earth such as Lot’s Wife (1984), a six-foot deep pit dug in Har Sedom, Israel. As Israel’s representative at the Venice Biennale in 1980 he showed a large work, the ...