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Matico Josephson

American multi-ethnic arts organization based in New York’s Chinatown. The Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) and its predecessors, the Asian American Dance Theatre (1974–93) and the Asian Arts Institute (1981–8), emerged from the milieu of the Basement Workshop, the first working group of the Asian American Movement on the East Coast, whose mouthpiece was the journal Bridge (1970–81). After the closing of the Basement Workshop in 1987, the Dance Theatre and the Asian Arts Institute were consolidated as the AAAC.

Directed by Eleanor S. Yung, the Dance Theatre was at the core of the organization’s activities from the 1970s through the early 1990s, performing traditional dances from several Asian cultures alongside modern and postmodern forms. In the early 1980s, the Asian Arts Institute began to hold exhibitions and collect slides of artists’ work and documentation of their activities, working primarily with artists involved in the downtown art scene. Early programs included open studio events for artists working in Chinatown and exhibitions of the work of Arlan Huang (...

Article

Sascha Scott

(b Pittsburgh, PA, May 25, 1874; d Albuquerque, NM, June 6, 1960).

American painter and illustrator. Raised in Dayton, OH, Blumenschein showed an early aptitude for music, art, and sports. Upon graduating from high school, he began training as a musician on a violin scholarship at the Music Academy of Cincinnati. Blumenschein left the Academy after a year and enrolled in the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where he received a prize for illustration in Fernand Harvey Lungren’s class. In 1893, he moved to New York City and enrolled at the Art Students League, where his instructors included John Twachtman and Kenyon Cox. Over the course of the next 15 years, he moved back and forth between New York and Paris, periodically visiting other locales, including Taos, NM, Italy, and Giverny. He twice enrolled at the Académie Julian (1894–6 and 1899), where he studied with Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. In 1905, he married artist Mary Shepard Greene (1869–1958), and, with the birth of their daughter in ...

Article

Aileen June Wang

(b San Leandro, CA, Feb 3, 1972).

American performance and video artist of Chinese ancestry. Chang earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1994. She showed her first solo exhibition at Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, in 1999. Her body of work focused on how people can be deceived, either through sight—what one sees is not necessarily true—or through mainstream assumptions about such topics as Asia, sexuality, and socially accepted behavior. Chang attributed her past stint in a cybersex company as the catalyst for exploring illusion as a theme. She realized that video flattened three-dimensional, live performances into a stream of two-dimensional images, enabling her to engage in visual deception.

Most of Chang’s early works investigated problems of gender and sexuality, using her own body and elements suggesting violence or transgression. The photograph Fountain (1999) depicted her inside a cubicle of a public lavatory, with a urinal visible on the far wall. Wearing a business suit, she knelt on hands and knees, seemingly kissing herself but actually slurping water off a mirror on the floor. The accompanying video focused on Chang’s face and her passionate interaction with her own reflection. While the photograph suggested female humiliation in a male world, the video complicated matters by implying that the act was motivated by narcissism....

Article

Anne K. Swartz

(b New York, NY, June 26, 1940).

American dancer and choreographer. Born in 1940, Childs grew up in New York City. In her teens she studied with such dancing legends as Hanya Holm and Helen Tamiris. Childs majored in dance at Sarah Lawrence College, where she received a Bachelor’s degree. There she studied with Judith Dunn, Bessie Schonberg, and Merce Cunningham, whose iconoclastic approach to dance was of particular importance. In 1963, at Cunningham’s studio, she met Yvonne Rainer, another dancer who became a renowned choreographer, who told her about the dance, performance and art activities at the Judson Church in New York City. Childs became one of the founding members of the Judson Dance Theater. There she had the opportunity to investigate and experiment. As an original member of the troupe, she performed with Robert Morris and Yvonne Ranier. She would incorporate elements from everyday life, evident in such works as Pasttime of 1963 where she performed a solo in three parts showcasing the movements of the body. By ...

Article

Leah Lipton

(b Perth Amboy, NJ, Feb 18, 1766; d New York, Sept 28, 1839).

American painter, writer and Playwright. After working in England with Benjamin West between 1784 and 1787, Dunlap concentrated primarily on the theatre for the next 20 years. His two main interests are documented in his large Portrait of the Artist Showing his Picture of Hamlet to his Parents (1788; New York, NY Hist. Soc.). He wrote more than 30 plays and was called by some the ‘father of American drama’. He was the director and manager of the Park Theatre in New York from 1797 until its bankruptcy in 1805 and again, in its revived form, from 1806 to 1811. He began to paint miniatures to support his family in 1805 and travelled the East Coast of America as an itinerant artist. By 1817 he had become, in his own words, ‘permanently a painter’.

Dunlap always lived on the verge of poverty. To increase his income, he produced a large showpiece ...

Article

Sandra Sider

(b East Chicago, IN, 1933).

American installation and performance artist. Feminist artist Mary Beth Edelson created numerous private rituals, as well as installations and performances around the world relating to the “Great Goddess.” Edelson became famous in the early 1970s among members of the Women’s Movement for her collaged poster parodying Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (c. 1495; Milan, S Maria delle Grazie) titled Some Living American Women Artists/Last Supper (1971), in which she replaced the central figure of Christ with Georgia O’Keeffe, and images of the disciples with women artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, and Yoko Ono. The original poster is now owned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Edelson, also a painter and book artist, has had artist’s books featured in several Book as Art exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC. Recurring themes throughout her career have been female identity, how women are portrayed in art and the media, and women’s recognition as artists. Edelson’s opposition to the patriarchal establishment began while she was a senior at DePauw University, where she received her BA in ...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

(b Evanston, IL, 1956).

American performance artist. Finley is noted for her controversial pieces and her work has been called “obscene,” “lewd” and “vulgar” because she has graphically examined such subjects in her art as politics, sexuality, scatology, identity, violence and abuse, among other divisive topics. Her works are also called theatrical solo shows. She explored feminist content through her performances, which were often derided by the public, even after she developed her audience within the art world. In her art, she combined monologues with manipulation of her body, including pouring substances onto herself. Using her partially or fully nude body, she entices the viewer, but then quickly subverts the experience of looking at her by pouring, smearing, or otherwise covering parts or all of herself. Her writing is well-crafted and provocative both in subject and form.

Finley studied art as a child at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Young Artist Studio program in ...

Article

Ellen G. Landau

(b Allegheny, PA, May 11, 1894; d New York, NY, April 1, 1991).

American dancer and choreographer. Graham is widely considered a major pioneer and exponent of modernism. Her collaboration with American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who designed costumes and sets for the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1935 to 1966, and the extraordinary photographs of her in performance by Imogen Cunningham, Soichi Sunami (1885–1971), Philippe Halsman (1906–79) and especially Barbara Morgan, link Graham’s revolutionary accomplishments in dance to experimentation in the visual arts. During the late 1930s and 1940s, her belief in the ability of dance to tap the power of myth and the unconscious anticipated and was analogous to the tenets of Abstract Expressionism.

Brought up in California the daughter of a physician, in 1916 at age 22, Graham began studying dance under Ruth St Denis (1879–1968) and Ted Shawn (1891–1972). Ten years later she formed the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in New York. While her own performances were initially based on the Denishawn style, by ...

Article

Julia Robinson

Term first formally used by the American artist Allan Kaprow for his 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, presented in early October 1959 at the Reuben Gallery, New York City, as the inaugurating event for that space. (Informal “happening-like” experiments had been presented by Kaprow in April 1958 at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, and at the Reuben Gallery in a pre-opening piece called Intermission [June 1959].) Through 1960, the artists pioneering the Happenings form were: Kaprow, Robert Whitman (b 1935), Claes Oldenburg, Simone Forti, Red Grooms, Al Hansen and Jim Dine. Happenings appeared at experimental downtown spaces such as Groom’s “Delancey Street Museum” (his studio on the lower East Side), the Judson Church (on Washington Square) and the Reuben Gallery, as well as in New Jersey, at George Segal’s farm, and on the campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where Kaprow was teaching and Whitman was a student. According to Whitman, when Kaprow named ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Valrico, FL, 1930).

American performance artist and sculptor. Hay started out in the performance scene at Judson Memorial Church in downtown New York City in the early 1960s. He arrived in New York from Florida in 1959, after studying at the Florida State University (1953–8). His wife, the dancer Deborah Hay, was a key figure in the Judson Dance Theater, launched in the summer of 1962, and Alex Hay performed in many of its productions. In the early 1960s he assisted Robert Rauschenberg on set designs for Merce Cunningham, and danced with him with roller-skates and parachutes in Rauschenberg’s now famous performance piece Pelican (1963). After these collaborations, Hay was invited to participate in 9 Evenings: Theater & Engineering at New York’s 69th Regiment Armory (fall 1966). This initiative, conceived by Rauschenberg with critical contributions from the engineer Billy Klüver, was an idealistic effort to pair artists with engineers, to merge art and new technologies. That project evolved into ...

Article

Julia Robinson

American artists’ space located at 239 Thompson Street at the south edge of Washington Square in New York City. Beginning in the late 1950s the Judson Church hosted experimental avant-garde activities—art installations, Happenings, the beginnings of postmodern dance—launching a now celebrated group of artists, dancers, poets and composers, and fueling the radical downtown art scene. The platform of free expression Judson provided for the untested work of the 1960s generation, at a time when these artists were far from established, was a critical contribution to the invention, originality and ultimate international renown of these preeminent American artists.

Built in 1890 and designed by the renowned architect Stanford White (of McKim, Mead & White), the church’s original mission was to serve the immigrant population of Lower Manhattan with health and recreational programs as well as religious services. In the 1950s Reverend Bob Spike (1949–55) asked his seminary intern, Budd Scott, to go into the neighborhood and spend time with the locals—including a significant contingent of struggling artists—to discover their needs. Scott found out that the artists urgently needed a place to present their work. Judson’s national reputation for fostering radical artistic practice came under the tenure of Reverend Howard Moody (...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Monaco, Nov 13, 1927; d Berkleley Heights, NJ, Jan 11, 2004).

Swedish–American engineer. Klüver was known for his important collaborations with artists at the dawn of media art. Having grown up in Sweden, he came to the USA in 1954, and pursued a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. After relocating to the East Coast, he worked as a staff scientist at Bell Telephone Laboratories (1958–68). In 1960, Klüver’s compatriot, the renowned museum director H. K. G. Pontus Húlten, introduced him to the artist Jean Tinguely, to help the latter with his landmark, self-destroying, kinetic sculpture, Homage to New York (a 27-minute event staged in the Garden of New York’s Museum of Modern Art). This led to numerous collaborations, initiated by Klüver, in which he (and other engineers) would work with artists, dancers, and composers (e.g. Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Whitman (b 1935), Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Yvonne Rainer, and John Cage), culminating in ...

Article

Midori Yoshimoto

(b New York, NY, 1933).

American printmaker, sound artist and performance artist. She was one of the founding members of Fluxus, the international avant-garde collective formed in 1962. Transferring from Middlebury College to Pratt Institute in New York, Knowles studied painting and drawing with Adolph Gottlieb and Richard Lindner and graduated in 1956. By the late 1950s she had lost interest in painting and burnt all her early paintings in a bonfire. It was then that she befriended artists Dick Higgins (1938–98), George Brecht and composer John Cage whose meditation on everyday life and music of indeterminacy inspired her to pursue a new artistic path.

After marrying in 1960, Knowles and Higgins were invited by George Maciunas to perform in the Fluxus inaugural concert series in Europe. There Knowles started to write her “Propositions,” radical reinterpretation of Cagean text scores, which transferred the artistic agency to the audience. Among her early events, Make a Salad...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

(b Wasco, CA, 1945).

American installation, video and performance artist. The oldest of three children of a father from Tennessee and a mother with a Canadian–Scottish background, Lacy attended Bakersfield Junior College in 1963 and continued her studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. After receiving her BA in Zoology she joined Volunteers in Service Training to America (VISTA), administrated by the Maryland School of Social Design, becoming a community organizer in health care.

In Washington, DC, in 1969, she became radicalized as a feminist. She applied to graduate school at Fresno State University to study psychology. There she encountered Faith Wilding, a graduate student in English, and they began leading consciousness raising sessions. Soon after, artist Judy Chicago arrived from Los Angeles and started the Feminist Art Program; Lacy joined the program with Wilding and made the decision to become an artist (though she did continue to take classes in psychology at the same time). There, she learned to make art from her experience, including performances with other members of the program....

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b San Francisco, CA, Oct 5, 1937).

Native American (Maidu–Wintu) painter, printmaker, photographer, writer, educator, traditional dancer and poet. LaPena, also known as Tauhindauli, spent time with the Nomtipom Wintu and other regional neighboring elders to conserve and regain traditional cultural practices. He was taught traditional tribal songs, dances and ceremonial rituals of Northern California Native American culture that inspired his interest in reviving and preserving Northern California tribal culture and accompanying performance arts. His work, along with Frank Day (1902–76), a late Maidu elder and painter, aided the founding of the Maidu Dancers and Traditionalists, a group dedicated to carrying out traditional cultural forms and social practices. Earning his bachelor’s degree from California State University (CSU), Chico (1965), and an Anthropology Masters of Arts degree from CSU, Sacramento (1978), he taught for the next 30 years in the CSU, Sacramento American Indian Studies program.

For LaPena, his art was a spiritual act, which empowers the maker with an opportunity to achieve a stronger sense of understanding life. Inspired by prehistoric rock painting, some painted images are depicted in total abstraction, while others illustrate a narrative theme. His strong consciousness of his Californian Native American heritage is distinctive and many themes in his compositions provide a powerful commentary in their depiction of the struggles of Northern California Native Americans; “To let the world know what happened in California, and to the indigenous populations points out that survival issues are still of great concern.” His paintings and prints reached a popular acceptance. LaPena exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at the Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe, NM, the Chicago Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum, the Linder Museum, Stuttgart, the American Arts Gallery, New York, the George G. Heye Center of the Smithsonian, New York, and numerous galleries. In ...

Article

Sandra Sider

(b Waterbury, CT, Oct 2, 1949).

American photographer. Born Anna-Lou Leibovitz, she was one of six siblings in a family that traveled extensively because her father was an officer in the US Air Force. Her mother, who taught modern dance, encouraged her daughter to pursue a career in the arts. While a student at the San Francisco Art Institute, Leibovitz at first focused on painting, but then she took a photography class that captivated her. After spending a brief period on a kibbutz in Israel, she earned her BFA in 1971. Leibovitz landed a job as a staff photographer with the new magazine Rolling Stone and began to document the rock music scene. For ten years Leibovitz was the publication’s chief photographer. In 1983 she began to work for Vanity Fair, photographing celebrities for numerous covers and feature articles and her work has been published in many other magazines. From the 1980s Leibovitz began working on advertising campaigns, for which she won a CLIO award in ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Kaunas, Lithuania, Nov 8, 1931; d Boston, MA, May 9, 1978).

American artist, architect and designer. Maciunias is best known as the key impresario of Fluxus, the international group of artists, composers, poets and performers who came together in 1962. Maciunas chose the name “Fluxus” to galvanize the radical activities of this group, and to define a sense of constant, dynamic, agitation and thus a politics for the work. Arriving in the USA in 1948, he studied graphic design at New York’s Cooper Union, architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA, and art history at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. At this time he developed vast, genealogical art history charts, which he called “Learning Machines.” He later used this model to situate Fluxus within the genealogy of 20th century avant-gardes.

A 1960 class in Electronic Music with Richard Maxfield at the New School for Social Research introduced Maciunas to the New York avant-garde. In 1961 he opened the AG Gallery on Madison Avenue, New York, asking ...

Article

Virginie Bobin

(b New York, NY, Nov 20, 1942).

American composer, performer, choreographer, vocalist, filmmaker and visual artist. After graduating from a combined performing arts program at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, in 1964, Monk joined the Judson Church group, which influenced her use of gestural movements in dance and her denial of the proscenium, already at stake in early pieces such as Juice: A Theater Cantata in 3 Installments (1969), which was performed in the spiraled ramp of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Minor Latham Playhouse at Barnard College and at her own New York loft. She founded her own company in 1968, the House, to explore an interdisciplinary approach to performance and quickly imposed her own style through pioneering site-specific works that established correspondences between dance, cinema, music and theater, and often explored cosmic themes such as spirituality, the quest of identity or the building of a community, as in Vessel, an Opera Epic...

Article

Kate Wight

(b Lafayette, AL, 1900; d New Orleans, LA, July 8, 1980).

American painter, musician and evangelical preacher. Morgan lived in Alabama and Georgia in her early life and was married to Will Morgan in 1928. At the age of 38 she experienced a divine calling, which prompted her to become a street evangelist. Morgan believed she was called by God to preach the Gospel and serve through her art. She left her family and husband and moved to New Orleans. There, she ran a mission and orphanage for 17 years until in 1956 she again heard the voice of God, this time specifically telling her to paint.

The subject of her art was primarily the Bible, and particularly the Book of Revelation. Morgan’s drawings and paintings were often figural and featured text with apocalyptic messages. A popular phrase in her works was “Jesus is my airplane.” After a later revelation, Morgan believed she was the bride of Christ and began wearing only white garments. She began portraying herself in this way within her works....

Article

Deborah Cullen

(Raphel)

(b Brooklyn, New York, 1934).

American performance artist, educator and founder of El Museo del Barrio, New York. Ortiz grew up in New York and received his BFA and MFA from Pratt Institute in 1964, and his PhD in Fine Arts and Fine Arts in Higher Education at the Teachers College of Columbia University, 1982.

In the late 1950s, Ortiz began exploring ritual and destruction. Taking found filmstrips, he placed them in a medicine bag and used a hatchet to cut them into pieces. He then spliced them together in random order, creating a series of short, cut-up films. This led to his first private, ritually transformed domestic objects between 1959 and 1961, which often included cushions, chairs and sofas from his studio worked over several days, and the Archaeological Finds series between 1961 and 1967. He authored Destructivism: A Manifesto between 1957 and 1962.

Carrying out public Destruction Ritual Realizations between 1965 and 1970...