Answering Society’s Thorniest Questions, With Performance Art

Pope.L, photographed in his Chicago studio this past December. For the last four decades, the artist has created intense, often provocative performances.

Now that he is not only an artist of renown but also a father and a professor, Pope.L’s ambivalence about his own authority hasn’t abated. If anything, his responsibilities have made him feel more vulnerable. He recounts a memory that still rattles him: the night his son, then in nursery school, declared, “I’m good like Mommy. I’m white. Not like you.” The artist pauses. “I didn’t know what to say to him — he’s this young little creature, we’re standing there brushing our teeth — but I knew I needed to talk to him about it right then. And I said, ‘Well, where did you hear that?’ and he says it again: ‘I don’t know. I’m good like Mommy, I’m white. Not like you.’ And I said, ‘Well, I love you, don’t I?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ ‘And you love me, don’t you?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘So how does this work?’ Now that he’s older, he’s much more savvy, so I don’t know if he tells me everything he hears. I think he wants to be protective of his family.”

Allan Kaprow, Before the Happenings

Considered the Father of the Happening, Kaprow started off as a painter whose work reflected a Cubist-inspired, pre-AbEx aesthetic.

In his essay for the catalogue accompanying the exhibition ALLAN KAPROW. PAINTINGS NEW YORK at Hauser & Wirth’s uptown outpost, art historian Philip Ursprung describes Kaprow’s progression from painting to performance in three swift strokes:

The story began in the 1950s when Kaprow relinquished the norms established in panel painting by implementing collages of photographs, texts, objects, and mirror fragments to expand the pictorial space. In 1958, he created his first environment, in which canvas, newspaper, tar paper, sheets of transparent plastic, colored lamps, and sounds created a space that the visitors could immerse themselves in. In 1959, he presented the first Happening with the title 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, a series of short performances in an environment where the breaks were as long as the performances.

Kaprow (1927-2006) coined the term “Happening,” but he didn’t invent the genre of performance art, which can be traced back to the antics of the Dadaist and Futurists at the beginning of the 20th century. (The honors for the first Happening have been ascribed to the Fluxus artist —and Kaprow’s future-fellow-Rutgers-professor (and grandfather of the musician Beck) — Al Hansen, who more than a decade earlier threw a piano off the roof of a building in Frankfurt, Germany.)

Young Painters Are Trying to Kill Me, Says the German Artist Albert Oehlen—But He’s Cool With It

As his new paintings and drawings go on view in Los Angeles and Berlin, the artist reflects on his experience as a young artist in Berlin in the ’70s.

Albert Oehlen is something of a living legend. He might be 63, but his reputation as an enfant terrible remains. There’s something eternally youthful about the German painter, who first came to prominence in the 1980s and, along with his partners in crime Martin Kippenberger and Werner Büttner, redefined what painting could be. Earlier this month, TASCHEN published an epically sized Oehlen monograph featuring 400 works, a survey of the abstract painter’s extraordinary career so far.

artnet News spoke to Oehlen ahead of the opening of his two-person exhibition at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles on March 1, which places his work alongside that of his former student, the New York-based Peppi Bottrop. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Oehlen is showing new paintings and drawings at Galerie Max Hetzler alongside the work of Julian Schnabel in an exhibition opening on March 14.

100 Years of Dadaism – Influence and Genius of the First Avant-Garde Art Movement

I could have done that” is a cynical statement that I’m sure we’ve all come across at some point. Some artists occasionally feel invited to respond rudely to the dilettantish comment (and sadly, very often with the similar amount of ignorance). The truth is that there was a series of events that preceded the multivalent character of art today, and ultimately led to these kinds of comments. That is why it is absolutely essential to understand the context of the time in which a movement, or an idea, starts to exist. The aspects of art that still, after all of these years, confuse people who are not that well informed, are mere consequences of very deliberate actions from the past. Today, saying that art isn’t art sounds arrogant, predictable and even worse, mediocre. But in 1916 in Zurich, it was a completely different story.

Marcel Duchamp

If you were to make a list of who you believe are the most controversial artists in history, the name of Marcel Duchamp would be topping many of the lists. He was a French painter, sculptor, writer and a master chess player whose work is often associated with Dadaism and branches of conceptual art, although he does not really seem to fully fit with neither of the two. Duchamp is considered by many to be responsible for the 20th century’s change in perception of what art is and how art is made. We believe it’s appropriate to start this biography by quoting Marcel himself: You cannot define electricity. The same can be said of art. It is a kind of inner current in a human being, or something which needs no definition.

Performance Art and its Journey to Recognition

We could start the journey of performance art as we know it today in Ancient Greece, where philosopher Diogenes used his body as a medium in performative acts which purposefully stated his opinion inside the public space – by pretending to be a dog (cynic), living in a barreldisregarding Alexander The Great by telling him to move away and stand out of his light.[1] Moving on to the 16th century Iberian Peninsula, poets are autonomously presenting their art through live acts which connect visual arts, music and literature inside the public space. In the 19th century, we find romantics invading cemeteries and dishonoring corpses so they can recite poetry to the dead.

It can be seen that all these mentioned acts happened outside the gallery space, as a necessary part of life, before the “official” beginning of performance art which dates to 1909 as a part of the Futurist avant-garde – based on the most important art-historical research written on this topic, Performance: Live Art 1909 to the Present, by the leading art historian and curator in this field, RoseLee Goldberg.

10 Famous Installation Artists Whose Work You Have to Know

In a plethora of different forms and styles, the emergence of installation artists has changed the face of art. Involving the configuration of installation of objects in a space, installation artpresents a unified experience practiced by an increasing number of postmodernist artists. Mostly temporary, installation art draws the viewer in, engaging them in multiple ways and making them a part of the art. In this way, art becomes something you can touch, hear, feel or smell.

Often associated with found objects and Conceptual Art, the earliest form of this avant-garde movement was referred to as the environment, which was started by the American artist Allan Kaprow in 1957. Referring to his first installation, Kaprow stated in a 1965 interview: “I just simply filled the whole gallery up…When you opened the door you found yourself in the midst of an entire environment…The materials were varied: sheets of plastic, crumpled up cellophane, tangles of Scotch tape, sections of slashed and daubed enamel and pieces of colored cloth…five tape machines spread around the space played electronic sounds which I had composed”.

Conceptual Art Movements and Examples

The Conceptual art movement is probably the most radical and the most controversial plane in modern and contemporary art. Some artists, experts and art historians even dismiss it as art. Conceptual art is based on the notion that the essence of art is an idea, or concept, and may exist distinct from and in the absence of an object as its representation. Many examples of conceptual art (well-known works or statements) question the notion of art itself. Some conceptual artists believe that art is created by the viewer, not by the artist or the artwork itself. Since ideas and concepts are the main feature of art, aestheticsand material concerns have a secondary role in conceptual art. Conceptual artists recognize that all art is essentially conceptual. In order to emphasize these terms, they reduce the material presence of the work to an absolute minimum – a tendency that some have referred to as the dematerialization of art – which is one of the main characteristics of conceptual art. As many conceptual art examples show, the conceptual art movement itself emerged as a reaction against the tenets of formalism. Formalism considers that the formal qualities of a work – such as line, shape and color – are self-sufficient for its appreciation, and all other considerations – such as representational, ethical or social aspects – are secondary or redundant.

5 Empowering Artworks (and Exhibitions) Made During the Civil Rights Movement

Ai Weiwei proclaimed that “art is a very important weapon to achieve human freedom.” When examining the civil rights movement, there is no doubt that art played a pivotal role in shaping and advancing the fight for equality. Throughout the era, countless artists reacted to issues of violent racism, segregation, and black identity in the United States. In honor of Black History Month we’ve compiled a short, chronological list of five artworks—from five different exhibitions (one of which opened recently in the U.S.)—to highlight some of the influential art made during the battle for civil rights. Our list barely skims the surface, so we encourage you to further explore the diverse works and themes presented in the exhibitions mentioned.  

Back When Painting Was Dead

When Clement Greenberg, Frank Stella, and Donald Judd tried to define what makes a painting, they overlooked a central feature — capaciousness.

It is routine to characterize the 1970s as a decade dominated by Conceptual Art, and artists such as Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, and Mel Bochner. Part of this thinking is market-driven: the phenomenon of a group of artists who conveniently fall under a single heading and who steadily gain attention over the course of a decade. In 1978, LeWitt had a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Critics described Conceptual Art as the next logical step after Minimalism while suggesting that artists engaged with painting did three things wrong: they worked in an obsolete form; they did not go beyond the reductiveness of Minimalism in a way that could be labeled; and they did not accept Donald Judd’s dim view of painting:

The main thing wrong with painting is that it is a rectangular plane placed flat against the wall. A rectangle is a shape itself; it is obviously the whole shape; it determines and limits the arrangement of whatever is on or inside of it.

Think About It: 9 Masterpieces of Conceptual Art You Need to Know

As explained in Phaidon’s The Art Museum, the world’s most comprehensive exhibition of fine art to be collected and presented in book format (each page is its own gallery room!), Conceptual Art “is not meant to be looked at aesthetically, but to be thought about intellectually.” In the following excerpt, we present 9 distinct approaches to this mind-boggling movement to see how different artists force our chin into our hands, and have us either scratching our heads, exclaiming “eureka!” or (most probably) pretending to get it in like, a really profound way.

.Following the precedent set by Marcel Duchamp, Conceptual artists “dematerialize” art in order to emphasize the importance of the ideas and concepts behind it. They are not interested in craft and form, but in the definition of art in general. The importance of Duchamp cannot be underestimated, particularly for young American artists who were looking for an alternative to the dominance of New York’s Abstract Expressionism in the years following the Second World War. Duchamp’s ready-mades—found objects that he exhibited as art—defied all traditional notions of art: they were not beautiful, they did not express anything personal about the artist, they were not original or unique objects, they had not been crafted by the artist. These objects became art simply because Duchamp chose to call them art, and he had the authority to do so because the art world considered him an artist. For Conceptual artists, Duchamp proved that art is not defined by the qualities of particular objects, but by the discourse surrounding them as works of art—discourse generated by artists, critics, and art historians, and by museums, galleries, and art publications.

Georg Baselitz Celebrates His 80th Birthday With a Berlin Gallery Show Packed With Museum Masterpieces

Why It’s Worth a Look: Marking the artist’s 80th birthday, this exhibition brings together significant works loaned from institutions and private collections, spanning the breadth of Baselitz’s long career. One of Germany’s most significant and celebrated artists, Baselitz is a part of a generation of artists that reinvented German painting in an era that was struggling to come to terms with the repercussions of World War II. Baselitz (and his contemporaries) opened a floodgate of creativity that was repressed by the Third Reich’s state censorship apparatus; unleashing a wave of radical artwork that wrestled with the guilt of a nation and shouldered the responsibility of redirecting its artistic legacy. Baselitz’s candor, propensity for risk, and technical rigor influenced generations of German painters.

Jasper Johns Still Doesn’t Want to Explain His Art

LOS ANGELES — Not long ago, Jasper Johns, who is now 87 and widely regarded as America’s foremost living artist, was reminiscing about his childhood in small-town South Carolina. One day when he was in the second grade, a classmate named Lottie Lou Oswald misbehaved and was summoned to the front of the room. As the teacher reached for a wooden ruler and prepared to paddle her, Lottie Lou grabbed the ruler from the teacher’s hand and broke it in half. Her classmates were stunned.

“It was absolutely wonderful,” Mr. Johns told me, appearing to relish the memory of the girl’s defiance. A ruler, an instrument of the measured life, had become an accessory to rebellion.  I thought of the anecdote the other day in Los Angeles, at the Broad museum’s beautiful retrospective, “Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth.” Coincidentally or not, several of the paintings in the show happen to have rulers affixed to their surfaces. It would be foolish, of course, to view Mr. Johns’s story about the brazen schoolgirl and the broken ruler as the source for those paintings. But is it fair to describe the anecdote as a haunting, an experience that lodged deeply in his brain while a thousand others were promptly forgotten?

Why Frieze Los Angeles Would Be Dead on Arrival (and Other Insights)

This week, our columnist draws on his LA gallery experience to chart the pitfalls of Frieze’s potential westward expansion.


On Thursday, Charlotte Burns and Allan Schwartzman reported in Art Agency, Partners’s “In Other Words” newsletter that “the Frieze Art Fair is looking to launch a Los Angeles event in January 2019.” A Frieze rep responded to further inquiries with this coy statement: “We are always exploring new ideas and discussing ways to respond to galleries’ needs but we can’t speak to any specific plans at this point.”  Translation: Book it.

Except, with all due respect to Frieze, you probably shouldn’t book a trip to LA quite yet. Because experience says that not many other people in the industry are likely to, either.  

The upshot is this: Los Angeles is a great place to make art. It can be a great place to see art, especially at museums and smaller nonprofits off the beaten path. (Shouts to The Underground MuseumArt + Practice, and LAXART.)  But a legit art scene and a self-sustaining art market are two separate things. Los Angeles checks one of those two boxes. It doesn’t yet check the other.

That’s why so many art fairs have failed there already. And it’s why, if I were Frieze, I’d re-evaluate the wisdom of wagon-training west.


State of the Culture, IV: Why the ‘Art World’ as We Know It Is Ending

In Part I of this series on the State of the Culture, I looked at the changing environment for museums; Part II was dedicated to the changing rules for artists; Part III examined the new dynamics of art media. In Part IV, I try to sum things up.

Flaubert’s Dictionary of Received Ideas is a kind of parody of 19th-century cocktail-party clichés. There’s an entry for “Photography.”  It reads: “Will replace painting.”

“Technology is changing everything!” has been a cliché for as long as there has been technological change. On the other hand, cliché and parody are both different ways that society brings fearsome change down to manageable mental scale.

Photography didn’t replace painting. But it did, after all, dramatically transform what people valued in it. Almost everything we know or think about modern art comes from that fact.

There was an awful lot of routine and dutiful European painting, whose main justification was to offer evidence of things seen. That went by the wayside—and you got dramatic and adventurous new kinds of art in its place, as artists were freed up from their habitual justifications for making what they did.

The Artist Who Invented the Upside-Down Painting

The market is on the up for Georg Baselitz, one of the world’s greatest-living painters, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year

Expelled from art school aged 18, Georg Baselitz has gained a reputation as a provocateur, creating works that cause scandal and turn conventional approaches to painting, quite literally, on their head.

Baselitz’s 80th birthday in January prompted a flourish of celebratory exhibitions. In 2018, the artist will have a remarkable run of blockbuster solo shows, at institutions including the Fondation Beyeler and Kunstmuseum in Basel, Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderner the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian Institution, both Washington.

Shock of the Nude

Turning bodies into paint brushes, Carolee Schneemann’s performances, films and art still startle, as a retrospective at MoMA PS1 shows.

Some people in the art world say that #MeToo has gone too far. What modern misogynist will be yanked from museums next? Gauguin? Picasso? I say, sure, why not? Let’s set them aside for awhile, give them a rest, make room for what we never see, which means art by almost any woman you can name.

Carolee Schneemann is an artist I’d move right into the cleared-out spotlight, not just because she has star quality, which she does, or because she has majorly shaped art history, which she has. I’d put her there because, in a career of some 60 years, she’s been one of the most generous artists around: generous with her presence, her thinking, her formal and political risk-taking, and her embrace of embracing itself — across genres, genders and species.

You find evidence of all of this in “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” at MoMA PS1, the artist’s first comprehensive career retrospective. The show, which comes from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in Austria, has problems. It is, disorientingly, installed in reverse chronological order. This means you encounter not-always-strong recent work on the first floor, and the now-classic early pieces only later on the second.

Damien Hirst on his greatest career move – breaking into his neighbour’s home

He was living in a squat and stuck in a creative rut. Then one day, concerned for his neighbour’s safety, he broke into his house. What he found there triggered an artistic explosion.

In the early 1980s, I was living in a squat in White Hart Lane with a painter friend, trying to put enough work together to get into Goldsmiths college. I was trying to paint, but I’d get stuck – not because I couldn’t think of anything to paint, but because there was too much possibility. My studio was in the squat and as I worked I’d hear the old guy who lived next door listening to his TV or radio. I’d see him out on the street, too. He used to walk around in big coats pushing a shopping trolley. He’d go collecting things and bring all this crap back. I found out later he was called Mr Barnes.

Business, But Not As Usual

Tension in the Tectonic Plates Underlying the Market.  Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn’t know who to ask

The good news: the figures are big, demand is deep and there are more collectors buying art than ever. Meanwhile, there is real tension in the tectonic plates underlying the market. This is likely to cause significant disruption, not necessarily bad, later this year.

We interviewed many international dealers and other trade figures for this article, asking each how and where they were planning to focus their energies in 2018. Most feel that a huge shift is underway in terms of how we experience art and collect it; how tastes are determined and what will thrive.

Primary galleries—the heart of the art market—have functioned more or less in the same way since Leo Castelli opened in New York in 1957. Now, more than half a century later, we are in a moment of seismic movement. Some of these changes are about money; some about access; others about intellectual and emotional shifts on the part of the dealers, artists and others.

5 Disruptive Trends Art Galleries Need to Understand If They Want to Survive

At this year’s Talking Galleries symposium in Barcelona, the debates boiled down to a few core issues. Here they are:

1. The Scale and Pace of the Gallery Sector Have Become Cancerous for Many.
2. Different Tiers of Galleries Are Now Playing Different Games With Different Rules.
3. The Art Industry Must Break Out of Its Silos and Create “an Ecosystem of Exchange.”
4. Lack of Transparency Is Undermining Everyone, But Especially the More Modest Tiers of the Business.
5. Attracting New Audiences Will Be Crucial—But Doing So Will Require Uncomfortable Changes.