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Article

Elisabeth Roark

(b National City, CA, July 17, 1931).

American conceptual artist . After studying art at San Diego State College (1949–53) and the Otis Art Institute (1957–9), among other institutions, he began to develop his painting style, soon incorporating letters, words, and photographs in his works. By 1966 he was using photographs and text, or simply hand-lettered text, on canvas as in Semi-close-up of Girl by Geranium … (1966–8; Basle, Kstmus.). From 1970 he worked in printmaking, film, video, installation, sculpture, and photography. His work is characterized by a consciousness of language evident in his use of puns, semantics based on the structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss, and the incorporation of material drawn from popular culture. All are apparent in Blasted Allegories (1978; New York, Sonnabend Gal.), a series combining Polaroids of television images captioned and arranged to suggest an unusual syntax. Baldessari differed from other conceptual artists in his humour and commitment to visual images, often obscured by flat, brightly coloured geometric and organic shapes including round forms that he likened to bullet holes. Baldessari dramatized the ordinary, although beneath the apparent simplicity of his words and images lie multiple connotations....

Article

Eduardo Serrano

(b Cartagena, Oct 27, 1945).

Colombian painter, sculptor and conceptual artist. He studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes of the University of Atlántico in Barranquilla, Colombia, from 1958 to 1960, and in Italy from 1966 to 1967 at the University of Perugia. In 1966, under the influence of Pop art, he made the first of a series of collages combining cut-outs of well-known individuals and comic strips with drawn elements. Two years later he added frosty effects and velvet flowers to his interpretations in black and red ink of figures with distorted bodies and the faces of film stars. In 1969 he began to present these in increasingly three-dimensional boxes or glass cases, accompanied by clouds of cotton wool, plastic figures and other additions that combined to make up fantastic or nostalgic scenes, dream-like and surrealist in appearance and tone.

Barrios was among those who introduced conceptual art to Colombia, for example by publishing in newspapers a series of ...

Article

Margaret Barlow

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Aug 23, 1940).

American conceptual artist, draughtsman, painter, and writer. He studied painting at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh (BFA, 1962). In 1964 Bochner moved to New York. His first exhibition (1966), described by Benjamin Buchloch as the first conceptual art exhibition, was held at the Visual Arts Gallery, School of Visual Arts, New York, and titled Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed as Art. In his work he investigated the relation between thinking and seeing. In his first mature works (1966), which are both conceptual and perceptual in basis and philosophical in content, he was interested to eliminate the ‘object’ in art and to communicate his own feelings and personal experience, and he did not wish to accept established art-historical conventions. He also experimented with word-drawings (see fig.) and number systems. For his Measurement series (late 1960s) he used black tape and Letraset to create line drawings accompanied by measurements directly on to walls, effectively making large-scale diagrams of the rooms in which they were installed. Bochner continued to make series of installational line drawings into the 1970s and 1980s, but from ...

Article

Manuel Cirauqui

(b Mexico City, 1981).

Mexican conceptual artist. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bonillas started his career before, and instead of, undertaking an official fine arts education. Widely and internationally exhibited before he reached age 20, his work began with highly analytical studies of ordinary photographic procedures such as printing (in his foundational piece, Trabajos fotográficos, 1998) or pressing the shutter (Diez cámaras documentadas acústicamente, 1998).

Bonillas’s work investigates the materiality and semiotic depth of the photographic medium in a somewhat topographic manner: starting, and never ending, in a periphery that stands ambiguously as both the material margins of photography as well as its self-reflective dimension. However, the “peripheral” nature of Bonillas’s inquiry quickly reveals itself as a strategy to address core aspects of a medium whose substance lies, precisely, on its surface. As the artist exerts infinite variations on generic aspects of the photographic practice, alternately related to structure and meaning (primary colors, family photographs, erasures, captioning, fiction, archival habits, etc.), he delivers a paradox with each of his works. In them, background becomes foreground, face becomes pigment, anecdote becomes the main theme, stain becomes signature, and vice versa....

Article

Julia Detchon

(b Lübeck, 1937).

Uruguayan conceptual artist, critic, educator, and curator of German birth, active in the USA. Of Jewish ancestry, he fled with his family to Uruguay in 1939. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1953–1957 and 1959–1962, working with students to reform the school’s curriculum. In 1961, a Guggenheim fellowship took him to New York to study printmaking. Though he retained his Uruguayan citizenship, he settled permanently in New York, where he taught at the Pratt Graphics Art Center; co-founded the New York Graphic Workshop in 1964 with Liliana Porter (b 1941) and José Guillermo Castillo (1938–1999); and in 1971 helped establish New York’s Museo Latinoamericano and its subsequent splinter group, the Movimiento de Independencia Cultural de Latino América. From the 1970s, political repression in Latin America inspired a series of conceptual installations that addressed such issues as language, identity, freedom, political violence, and the role of art. For Camnitzer, the task of the artist was to identify and express the problems that surrounded him, transforming art into a political instrument. His questioning of traditional values applied not only to the themes of his work, but to its material form; employing objects of little intrinsic value, he rejected traditional notions of art as beautiful and of commercial worth....

Article

Tom Williams

(b East Orange, NJ, March 29, 1947; d Falls Village, CT, June 25, 2013).

American photographer and conceptual artist. Charlesworth received a BA in art history from Barnard College in New York in 1969. During her undergraduate years, she enrolled in a number of studio courses, including those taught by conceptual artist Douglas Huebler, and her work was decisively shaped by late 1960s debates about conceptual art. In 1974–5 she joined with Joseph Kosuth and others to establish and edit the combative conceptualist journal The Fox, to which she made several contributions, including ‘Declaration of Dependence’, her well-known essay about the artist’s place in the larger society. Her photo-conceptualist practice is often associated with the so-called Pictures Generation that included other photographers such as Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, and Cindy Sherman, and in this context, she is often regarded as a key figure in the development of appropriation art during the late 1970s and early 1980s. From 1992 she taught at the School of Visual Art in New York and from ...

Article

Mary M. Tinti

(b Houston, TX, 1951).

American sculptor, installation and conceptual artist. His multimedia works investigate the pathology of contemporary culture. Mel Chin was born and raised in Houston, Texas to parents of Chinese birth and received his BA in 1975 from the Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. The works in Chin’s oeuvre are diverse in both medium and subject, but a consistent undercurrent of social, political, and environmental responsibility runs throughout. Whether a sculpture, film, video game, installation, public project or earthwork, Chin’s artworks consistently targeted a broad spectrum of pressing cultural and ecological interests and spread their message in subtle, if not viral ways.

In the 1980s, Chin produced a number of sculptures that set the stage for his ever-evocative artistic journey. The Extraction of Plenty from What Remains: 1823 (1988–9) is a frequently referenced piece from this period. It is a symbolic encapsulation of the effects of the Monroe Doctrine, referencing the complicated dealings between the US (represented by truncated replicas of White House columns) and Central America (represented by a cornucopia of mahogany branches, woven banana-tree fiber, and a surface layer of hardened blood, mud, and coffee grinds). From the 1990s, however, Chin moved away from strictly gallery-based installations and began creating works that directly engaged contemporary culture in a variety of physical and theoretical landscapes....

Article

Francis Summers

American photographers and conceptual artists of Irish and Israeli birth. Collaborating under a corporate-sounding name, Michael Clegg (b Dublin, 1957) and Martin Guttman (b Jerusalem, 1957) began making photographs together in 1980. Using corporate group portraits as their resource material, they made constructed photographs in the manner of 17th-century Dutch paintings. A Group Portrait of the Executives of a World Wide Company (1980; see 1989 exh. cat., p. 33) shows five suited men seated in a brooding darkness, their heads and hands illuminated in a chiaroscuro effect. The reference to historical paintings is made particularly explicit in The Art Consultants (1986; see 1989 exh. cat., p. 37): the figures are posed directly in front of a canvas so as to mirror the painted figures, illustrating Clegg & Guttman’s proposition that within the hierarchies of power, the essential nature of pose, emblems and dress have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. Pushing these images to the point of indetermination, Clegg & Guttman also occasionally carried out actual commissions (although not always successfully), as well as creating collaged and altered portraits such as ...

Article

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

Constance W. Glenn

(b Worcester, MA, Oct 7, 1943).

American photographer and conceptual artist. He studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston (1961–5), and the University of Illinois, Urbana (1965–7). He first won recognition for his 8×10 view camera photographs, for example Chair Trick (1973; see Alinder, pl. 12). In such works as these, where he constructed the objects and their settings and then photographed them, Cumming explored perception, illusion, logic, time and motion. In the 1980s he began using drawing, printmaking and colour photography, for example X-ray Crystallography Mounts (DNA Molecule Research) MIT (photograph, 1986; Cambridge, MA, MIT; see 1988 exh. cat., pl. 24), with the same attention to pragmatic detail and often magical humour. His interest in narrative fantasies first provided storylines for photo-sequences and later led him to write, illustrate, and publish five books including Discourse on Domestic Disorder (Orange, CA, 1975).

J. Alinder: Cumming Photographs: Untitled 18...

Article

(b Budapest, 1931).

American conceptual and environmental artist of Hungarian birth. She was educated in Sweden and the USA. In much of her work she presented analytical propositions in visual form, seeking to re-evaluate existing knowledge, and her work came to be seen as a process of investigation, incorporating both philosophy and science but also using elements of myth. In her book Map Projections she relinquished accepted forms of knowledge of the planet earth and sought new possibilities, presenting them in the form of drawings. Thus, for example, ‘longitude and latitude lines were unravelled, points of intersection cut, continents allowed to drift, gravity tampered with [and] earth mass altered.’ The element of game-playing in this was important, as was the belief in the possibility of changing our understanding of the world. Denes felt it was important to ‘accept the possibility that there may be no language to describe ultimate reality, beyond the language of visions’ (e.g. ...

Article

Mary M. Tinti

Architecture, design and conceptual art partnership. Diller Scofidio + Renfro [Diller + Scofidio] was formed in 1979 by Elizabeth Diller (b Lodz, Poland, 1954) and Ricardo Scofidio (b New York, NY, 1935) as an interdisciplinary design practice based in New York.

Diller studied at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York (BArch, 1979) and then worked as an Assistant Professor of Architecture (1981–90) at the Cooper Union School of Architecture, becoming Associate Professor of Architecture at Princeton University in 1990. Scofidio, who also attended Cooper Union (1952–5), obtained his BArch from Columbia University (1960) and became Professor of Architecture at Cooper Union in 1965. In 1997 Charles Renfro joined the firm and was made partner in 2004, at which point the partnership changed its name to Diller Scofidio + Renfro. While the couple (who are married) initially eschewed traditional architectural projects in favor of installations, set design and landscape design, by the 21st century their firm had received commissions for both new buildings and renovations of existing architecture. Diller and Scofidio were the first architects to receive a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (...

Article

Morgan Falconer

(b New Haven, CT, 1949).

American painter. He completed a BA at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, in 1971 and later settled in New York. Initially influenced by Post-minimalism, process art and conceptual art, he was soon attracted to the tactility and allusions to the body in the work of Brice Marden, Robert Mangold and Robert Ryman. Spurred on by the revival of interest in Surrealism in the 1970s, Dunham began to make abstract, biomorphic paintings reminiscent of the work of Arshile Gorky and André Masson, executed with a comic twist enhanced by lurid colours and the suggestion of contemporary psychedelia. In the 1980s he began to paint on wood veneer and rose to prominence in the context of a broader return to painting in the period. Age of Rectangles (1983–5; New York, MOMA) is a highly abstract composition of differing forms, symptomatic of his work at this time: geometric sketches co-exist with eroticized organic shapes while the forms of the wood veneer show through the surface of the paint to suggest surging forces. Towards the end of the 1980s he began to move towards single, dominating motifs; wave-like forms were particularly common. In the ...

Article

Amy Rosenblum Martín

(b Miami, FL, May 12, 1968).

Cuban American conceptual artist. Known for her immersive installations and grand public art projects that represent natural phenomena, Fernández explored the potential of artifice to create authentic perceptual and psychological effects, and to reveal the degree to which reality is constructed. From 1997 she resided in Brooklyn, New York, and visited Japan for work almost yearly. She earned her BFA at Florida International University, Miami (1990) and her MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (1992). She received a MacArthur Foundation“Genius Grant” (2005) and was the first Latina to serve on the US Commission of Fine Arts (2011–2014).

In her installations and public sculptures Fernández made sublime, abstracted waterfalls, wisteria, fire, stars, pools, ocean, beach, sand dunes, sunset, aurora borealis, bamboo, gardens, snow, clouds, fog, and dew. Her clearly artificial “nature” uncannily feels more real than reality. The experience of viewing her work shifts from seeing paint fade up a wall to being overtaken by the feeling of standing on a misty ...

Article

Canadian partnership of conceptual artists working as performance artists, video artists, photographers and sculptors. It was formed in 1968 by A. A. Bronson [pseud. of Michael Tims] (b Vancouver, 1946), Felix Partz [pseud. of Ron Gabe] (b Winnipeg, 1945) and Jorge Zontal [pseud. of Jorge Saia] (b Parma, Italy, 1944; d Feb 1994). Influenced by semiotics and working in various media, they sought to examine and subvert social structures, taking particular interest in the products of mass culture. Their existence as a group, each with an assumed name, itself undermined the traditional notion of the solitary artist of genius. In 1972 they began publishing a quarterly journal, File, to publicize their current interests and work. In the 1970s they concentrated on beauty parades, starting in 1970 with the 1970 Miss General Idea Pageant, a performance at the Festival of Underground Theatre in Toronto that mocked the clichés surrounding the beauty parade, resulting in the nomination of Miss General Idea ...

Article

Morgan Falconer

(b Vancouver, BC, Jan 16, 1949).

Canadian conceptual artist. He studied at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (1968–71), but did not complete a degree. Much of Graham’s early work sprang from an interest in the Romantic landscape and the way in which its image has often been used to bolster notions of individuality and creative inspiration. Camera Obscura (1979; see 1998 exh. cat., p. 4) is the first of a number of large, outdoor viewing chambers which explore these themes. This piece, first installed in a farmer’s field, reproduced (upside-down) the image of a nearby oak tree. His interest in dramatizing the means of representation continued in his first film, Two Generators (1984; see 1999 exh. cat., figs. 2 and 19), which depicted a nocturnal landscape illuminated by spotlights driven by noisy and distracting generators. Both of these works reflect Graham’s interest in the work of Robert Smithson, but another important influence on him, Marcel Duchamp, inspired a very different interrogation of the development of Modernism. ...

Article

revised by Margaret Barlow

(b Pittsfield, MA, Dec 23, 1939; d New York, Oct 21, 1995).

American conceptual artist. While studying English literature at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, Graves received a fellowship in painting to the Yale–Norfolk Summer School. From 1961 to 1964 she studied fine art at Yale University, New Haven, CT, and in 1964 received a Fulbright–Hayes grant in painting to study in Paris. In 1966 she moved to New York, where she established a studio. Her first solo exhibition was in 1968 at the Graham Gallery, and later she became the first woman artist to have a solo retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her work is founded on 20th-century conceptual discourses on art and draws on a wide range of sciences, including anatomy, palaeontology, anthropology, computer mapping, psychology and perception. Her curiosity for many subjects was a consistent feature in works that include drawings, paintings, installations, sculptures and film. She became renowned for her first figurative pieces, for example Camel VIII...

Article

Horacio Safons

(b Buenos Aires, Jan 14, 1915; d Barcelona, Oct 14, 1965).

Argentine painter, sculptor, performance artist, conceptual artist, poet and illustrator. After studying in Buenos Aires at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes and with Cecilia Marcovich and Tomás Maldonado, he quickly established a reputation for his scandalous views, attracting extreme disapproval and equally strong support. After delivering a lecture at the Juan Cristóbal bookshop, Buenos Aires, entitled ‘Alberto Greco y los pájaros’ he was briefly imprisoned for his ‘Communism and subversive acts’. On his release in the same year he travelled to Paris on a French government grant, selling drawings and watercolours in the cafés and studying painting with Fernand Léger and printmaking with Johnny Friedlaender. Between 1956 and 1958 he lived in São Paulo, where he became aware of Art informel; he painted in this style in the late 1950s and early 1960s (Glusberg, pp. 284–5).

As early as 1959, when he had returned from São Paulo to Buenos Aires, Greco had expressed his corrosive vision of society through the form of his work. In his shows he exhibited tree trunks and rags for cleaning window gratings or floors. He moved again to Paris in ...

Article

Eva Meyer-Hermann

(b Cologne, Aug 12, 1936).

German painter and conceptual artist, active in the USA. He studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Kassel from 1956 to 1960, and during this period he painted pictures in a style close to Tachism, working on the visualization of movement. He also worked on examinations of colour fields, and in 1960–61 he spent a year in S. W. Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris. While there he was brought into contact with the work of Yves Klein and the Zero group. He stayed in touch with Zero until 1965, and this was revealed in his work through a demonstration of optical phenomena that is more objective than romantic. In 1961–2 he received a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, spending the remainder of 1962 in New York. From 1963 to 1965 he had a number of teaching posts in Germany, first at Kettwig, then at Düsseldorf, but he returned to the USA in ...

Article

Annie Dell’Aria

American painter, sculptor, conceptual artist, writer and curator. Hammond became active in feminist and lesbian art circles following her move to New York in 1969 after receiving her BA from the University of Minnesota in 1967. Hammond soon co-founded the feminist cooperative gallery AIR in ...