Magazine article Artforum International

"Materializing 'Six Years': Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art": Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York

Magazine article Artforum International

"Materializing 'Six Years': Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art": Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York

Article excerpt

AS ARTISTS OVER THE PAST DECADE have revisited earlier works of art--whether to interpret them anew, test their methods of production, or engage their liveness and mediation--curators have likewise revived landmark exhibitions to reassess their effects on the expansion of artistic and curatorial form. "Materializing 'Six Years': Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art," curated by Catherine Morris and Vincent Bonin at the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, examines the birth of Conceptualism using Lippard's Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 as a chronological structuring device. Devised as an exhibition in a book, Lippard's legendary 1973 compendium gathered fragments of writings, photographs, quotes, and citations to survey Conceptualism's manifold origins.

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While paying homage to Six Years' part-exhibition, part-bibliophilic abundance, Bonin and Morris's show dislodges the original's premium on dematerialization--with objects holding the floor, films suspended from the ceiling, and walls filled with art and ephemera. Lippard's curatorial work is threaded throughout, represented by spare selections of installation images, archival materials, and works in situ (reconstructions and original objects) assembled in illuminating juxtapositions. Shots of her instructional project Groups, 1969-70, antiwar agitprop with the Art Workers' Coalition, and seemingly empty fund-raiser for the latter, "Number 7" (1969), appear amid other important Conceptual projects prioritizing communications over installation, such as Seth Siegelaub's 1968 Xerox Book and materials from the "Art by Telephone" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the following year. Occupying the heart of the show, Lippard's "number" exhibitions, titled after the populations of their host cities (such as "2,972,453" in Buenos Aires in 1970), are remarkable for their administrative organization (artists often submitted instructions or completed questionnaires, from which art would be installed) and nonhierarchical catalogues made from index cards, through which essays, checklists, and artist contributions can be endlessly reshuffled.

Such curatorial comparisons amended anglophone narratives of Conceptualism that typically foreground its break with high-modernist formalism. Six Years' eighty-three-word subtitle describes Conceptualism's appearance across "the Americas, Europe, England, Australia, and Asia (with occasional political overtones)," an ambition partially realized in Lippard's actual selections but judiciously mined in Bonin and Morris's exhibition, which includes more ideological work by curators and artists such as Jorge Glusberg and Orders tic Co. The show's focus on Six Years affords it more coherence than earlier surveys of global Conceptualism, but as an exhibition composed of exhibitions, "Materializing 'Six Years'" sometimes overlooks polemical distinctions therein. While Lippard included both the Artist Placement Group and Art & Language in her shows, for instance, she supported the "interruptive device" of the former's infiltration of corporate bureaucracy but remained skeptical of the latter's analytic Conceptualism and hermetic impenetrability. …

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