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Article

German, 20th century, male.

Born 1921, in Krefeld; died 23 January 1986, in Düsseldorf.

Performance artist, installation artist, assemblage artist, engraver.

Neo-Dadaism, Fluxus, Conceptual Art.

Joseph Beuys spent his youth in Cleves. Relatively little is known about his early years, but he is thought to have begun studying natural sciences when he was mobilised in 1941 as a bomber pilot in the Luftwaffe. In winter 1943, his plane was shot down over the Russian steppes near Sevastopol. According to Beuys, some Tatars found him buried in the cabin wreckage and just managed to save his life by smearing the wounds of his half-frozen body with animal fat and wrapping him in felt. There is some doubt as to the truth of parts of this story, but certainly the metaphorical power of the fat and felt became a recurring theme throughout the rest of his career....

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1940, in Pittsburgh.

Painter (mixed media), watercolourist, engraver, draughtsman.

Conceptual Art, Copy Art.

Mel Bochner studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He settled in New York in 1964.

He stood out among the exponents of Conceptual Art in his use of writing systems as a primary material for artistic expression, especially figures or series. There is a similarity between certain works by Bochner and some of those of Berlewi, but whereas Berlewi, in the 1920s, used stencils to repeat geometrical structures in mechanical fashion, Mel Bochner, in the 1960s, drew his geometrical figures by hand, although they were also based on the repetition of the same element, usually the point. For a period of a few years, Bochner's interest in the problem of the representation of writing and the word led him to construct installations. From ...

Article

French, 20th century, male.

Born 1944, in Limoges.

Painter, sculptor, installation artist, engraver.

Conceptual Art.

Bouillon lives and works in Bagnolet, on the outskirts of Paris, and has taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Dijon since 1988.

He collects objects, haphazardly, and subsequently uses then as symbols. The same object, the same figure, can take on several functions or be used to signify several different things, until it sometimes completely loses its own identity, and is no longer any more than the function it has been given. This was the case, throughout one period of his career, with his objects in stone, wood or metal. They were covered in ashes, so that one could no longer see the material, and could only focus on the function given by him to the object....

Article

Native American (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1946, in Montana.

Printmaker, photographer, conceptual artist, installation artist.

Corwin Clairmont, or ‘Corky’, received his MFA from California State University, Los Angeles in 1971. His early work, concerning social and environmental issues, earned him a Ford Foundation Grant (...

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

Native American (Cheyenne and Arapaho), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 22 November, 1954, in Wichita (Kansas).

Painter, draughtsman, sculptor, printmaker, installation artist, conceptual artist, educator.

Edgar Heap of Birds is one of the most distinguished North American indigenous artists of his generation. His works reveal a distinctly critical and historical awareness of the ways that American Indian peoples, their histories and their viewpoints have been ignored and written over under colonialism. He has received numerous honours, presenting his work in competition for the United States Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 7 August 1939, in Sharon (Pennsylvania); died 8 December 1996, in Richmond (Virginia).

Printmaker, painter, installation artist. Artists’ books.

Conceptual Art. Fluxus.

Davi Det Hompson was primarily known for making artists’ books, at a time in the 1970s when they had become a significant medium for artists in the Conceptualist tradition. Hompson studied at Anderson College in Indiana, and received an MFA in graphic design from Indiana University-Bloomington in ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1930, in Bellingham (Washington State).

Engraver, lithographer, installation artist, sculptor.

Conceptual Art.

David Ireland studied industrial design and printmaking at the Californian College of Arts and Crafts, graduating in 1953. He worked as an architectural draughtsman, a carpenter and an African safari guide before returning to art education in the 1970s. In ...

Article

Belgian, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1948, in Tongeren (Limburg).

Painter, sculptor, assemblage artist, screen printer.

Conceptual Art.

Hélène Keil studied at the Hoger Institute for the Fine Arts. She is a member of the Research Group of Hasselt. She exhibits mainly in Belgium and teaches at the Art Academy in Genk. In ...

Article

German, 20th century, male.

Born 12 February 1941, in Oberammergau.

Sculptor, engraver, assemblage artist, installation artist, draughtsman.

Conceptual Art.

Nikolaus Lang trained at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich from 1960 to 1966; he was awarded a bursary to study in London and attended the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts ...

Article

Maeve Coudrelle

(b São Paulo, 1961).

Brazilian installation artist and sculptor. She studied at the private college Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado (FAAP), São Paulo, from 1979 to 1984, earning her Licenciatura Plena there. Leirner is known for her compelling accumulations of consumer objects, which she organized and assembled into installations.

Leirner was introduced to contemporary art at an early age by her parents, Fúlvia and Adolfo Leirner, who had a large art collection that included Brazilian Constructivist work. During her time at FAAP, instructors there included Nelson Leirner (her uncle; b 1932), Julio Plaza (1938–2003), Regina Silveira (b 1939), and Walter Zanini (1925–2013). In 1981 she traveled to New York and Europe, where her interest in conceptual art, Minimalism, and Arte Povera developed. The next year, she had her first solo exhibition at the Galeria Tenda in São Paulo, where she showed Imagens objetuais (Objectual Images, 1982), a series of collages comprised of cord, wire, and paper. The series’ title highlights the ambiguity of the work of art, which is at once an image—a representation of something—and an object—a physical thing....

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Active in Italy.

Born 9 September 1928, in Hartford (Connecticut); died 8 April 2007, in New York.

Painter (gouache), installation artist, sculptor, engraver, draughtsman, illustrator. Artists’ books.

Conceptual Art, Minimal Art.

From 1945 to 1949 Sol LeWitt was a student at the University of Syracuse, New York. In 1951–1952 he did military service in Japan and Korea. By 1953 he was studying in New York at Cartoons Illustrators, which later became the School of Visual Arts. He worked for the magazine ...

Article

British, 20th century, male.

Born 6 November 1944, in Glasgow.

Performance artist, painter, sculptor, installation artist, printmaker, ceramicist.

Conceptual Art, Land Art.

Bruce McLean studied at Glasgow School of Art (1961-1963), and at St Martins School of Art in London (1963-1966) under Anthony Caro, Phillip King and William Tucker. He has taught at the Croydon School of Art (...

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

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1960, in Brooklyn (New York City).

Engraver, photographer, mixed media, installation artist.

Conceptual Art, Identity Art.

Lorna Simpson studied at the University of San Diego and then at the New York School of Visual Arts. She started out as a photo-journalist and her work has retained a connection between the photograph and text. She is an African American artist who works from texts and photographs and sometimes makes sound installations. She portrays the black female body and questions the usual stereotypes, as in the series ...

Article

Canadian, 20th–21st century, male.

Active in USA 1964–1972.

Born 10 December 1928, in Toronto.

Painter, sculptor, collage artist, lithographer, video installation artist. Artists’ books.

Conceptual Art.

Michael James Snow was a student at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto from 1948 and graduated in 1953. He spent time in Europe in 1954–1955. He also made a name for himself as a jazz musician. He mainly chooses the most ordinary subjects and objects from everyday life, which he empties of their usual significance in order to transmute them by making their place in space and time perceptible. His early works were figurative, interiors and figures. However, from 1961, he particularly exploited the theme of the ...

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 ...