Category Archives: Contemporary Art

Conceptual Art since Conceptual Art, Part 1


Marcel Broodthaers, Untitled (Les Portes du Musée) [The Doors of the Museum], 1968–1969, paint on vacuum-formed plastic; Purchase: A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, Bequest of Roy O. Mitchell, Founder-Patrons Day Acquisition Fund, and Patrons Art Fund

Marcel Broodthaers, Untitled (Les Portes du Musée) [The Doors of the Museum], 1968–1969, paint on vacuum-formed plastic; Purchase: A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, Bequest of Roy O. Mitchell, Founder-Patrons Day Acquisition Fund, and Patrons Art Fund

My contribution to the 2013 Carnegie International catalogue examines how Carnegie Museum of Art built its permanent collection in large part by acquiring art shown in the Carnegie International. With this shorter text, I want to take a closer look at an instance when this unique relationship between a museum and an exhibition, which otherwise tends to serve both partners well, resulted in a rather glaring omission. The Conceptual art movement—which took place in the 1960s and 70s and has had major repercussions for art ever since—went entirely unregistered by both the museum and the International during its original appearance and evolution. Subsequently, the museum has made amends for this oversight and incorporated into the collection and the exhibition schedule both Conceptual art and contemporary art that strongly demonstrates its impact. By exploring the history of these efforts, I hope to shine some light on the important role that institutional and curatorial decisions have played in shaping the reception history of Conceptual art. Carnegie Museum of Art is both emblematic of American museums’ general failure to acknowledge Conceptual art during its initial emergence and, at the same time, somewhat unique in how it has since addressed the matter.

Installation view of Lawrence Weiner's Ever Widening Circles of Shattered Glass, 1984-1986, language + materials referred to; Carnegie Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William Boyd, Jr. Fund

Installation view of Lawrence Weiner’s Ever Widening Circles of Shattered Glass, 1984–1986, language + materials referred to © Lawrence Weiner/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Mr. and Mrs. William Boyd, Jr. Fund; With works by Craig Kauffman, Nam June Paik, and John McCracken in the foreground

Conceptual art first came to widespread attention as the art of an information age dominated by communications, technology, and data during the 1960s and 70s. Indeed, the term “information art” is one of the many labels that Conceptual art attracted before consensus was reached on its name. As a watershed moment in the history of 20th-century art, Conceptual art occasioned new ways to think about what a work of art is, what an artist does, and how audiences respond to art. Most of these new ways of thinking had something to do with the activity of thinking itself, which Conceptual art prioritized as a core concern. “Idea art” is another name that circulated around this art as it first emerged. By placing less emphasis on the way art looks and more emphasis on the thought processes that go into and come out of it, Conceptual art deskilled the production of art objects and opened art both to unprecedented kinds of participation from viewers and to new contexts for its appearance in public.

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Mel Bochner, Measurement: Plant (Palm), 1969, live plant and tape on wall; Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery Fund

In so doing, it also helped usher new mediums like video, performance, and installation into existence. Moreover, its artistic radicalism was in sync with radical political developments of the time, including the student movement of the 1960s, the New Left, and second-wave feminism. Outside of the United States, Conceptual art or something analogous to it arose more or less simultaneously around the world, and scholars now speak of a global conceptualism, which can be found not only in New York but further afield in Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Moscow, and beyond. Initially, the pioneering efforts of the dealer Seth Siegelaub, who showed the artists Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner at his New York gallery, attracted private collectors to Conceptual art. A few intrepid museums, most of them in New York, where the movement had its epicenter, were quick to follow. The Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum mounted exhibitions of Conceptual art in 1970. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis gave a retrospective exhibition to the Conceptual artist Mario Merz in 1972 (well before his 2008 inclusion in Life on Mars: 55th Carnegie International). However, most museums, Carnegie Museum of Art included, were not so forward thinking at the time and, for reasons as diverse as the institutions are numerous, neglected Conceptual art.

Mario Merz, Fibonacci Igloo, 1972, metal structure with stuffed fabric, iron wire and neon numbers © Mario Merz; On extended loan from the Jill and Peter Kraus Collection, New York

Mario Merz, Fibonacci Igloo, 1972, metal structure with stuffed fabric, iron wire, and neon numbers © Mario Merz; On extended loan from the Jill and Peter Kraus Collection, New York

Today, the museum possesses a strong and varied collection of Conceptual art, and artists working within the movement’s expansive legacy are frequent participants in the Carnegie International. For instance, the museum owns three of On Kawara’s date paintings, one each from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. These deceptively simple paintings are small monochromatic canvases save for Kawara’s inclusion of their date of creation on their surface. They stand as markers of time and of Kawara’s passage through it. The dates of these three—19 Jul. 68 (1968), Apr. 27, 1978 (1978), and Feb. 29, 1988 (1988)—correspond roughly to Conceptual art’s initial emergence, eventual dissipation, and first historical reassessment, but none entered the collection until 1991, when Kawara participated in the Carnegie International and won the Carnegie Prize. This retroactivity is indicative of how the museum has collected and exhibited Conceptual art. (There is, however, one noteworthy exception: Michelangelo Pistoletto and James Lee Byars, two artists frequently included in the ranks of Conceptual art, exhibited in the 1964 Carnegie International—before Conceptual art was identified as a movement.) The museum did not acquire work by a Conceptual artist until 1980 (a drawing by Sol LeWitt), and its first exhibition to prominently feature Conceptual artists was the 1985 Carnegie International. The first solo exhibition it dedicated to a Conceptual artist was held in 1989, when Marcel Broodthaers became the subject of a retrospective, and a work of his, Untitled (Les Portes du Musee) [The Doors of the Museum] (1968–1969), entered the collection in 1997.

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Part 2 of this essay takes a further look at Conceptual works from the museum’s history.
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Robert Bailey is assistant professor in the School of Art & Art History at the University of Oklahoma. He is writing a book about the Conceptual art collective Art & Language.

New Hire: Emily Rice


emilyWhat is your official title, and what are some of your general responsibilities?
Exhibition designer. My main responsibility is to work with our curatorial staff to design our exhibitions from concept through execution. I work through drawings, models, and renderings, which have either handmade physical versions or computer-aided digital versions. I work extensively with Hannah Silbert and Jeff Lovett in the exhibitions department to make sure that each exhibition fulfills the goals of the curatorial team and the museum while working within the project’s budget and schedule. I am also tasked with maintaining continuity in the museum’s style and appearance in terms of casework, exhibition layouts, furnishings, lighting, and a thousand other criteria which comprise an exhibition.

What were you doing before joining us at CMOA?
I was working for a company, TAKTL, which manufactures ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) building cladding panels. I was an architectural projects manager, which meant I handled relationships with architects and installers from the initial point of inquiry through to the purchase of the product, providing technical support, pricing, design assistance, etc., along the way. I also looked after the samples program and a small line of UHPC furniture. Before TAKTL, I was special projects assistant at CMOA for White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes, a 2012 exhibition curated by Raymund Ryan in the Heinz Architectural Center. I also worked for a few different architecture firms in Pittsburgh after receiving my B.Arch. from Carnegie Mellon University.

What’s your favorite exhibition that you saw this past year (at any museum/event)?
I had a great day walking through the Mike Kelley retrospective at the PS1 in Queens this fall (see above) which was impressive in its sheer size and variety of experience, let alone the actual installations. Another definite highlight was visiting the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, more so for the amazing architecture than anything else.

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Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Domestic), 2002, cast plaster on various armatures; Owned jointly by Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Henry L. Hillman Fund

If you could steal one artwork from our collection, what would it be?
Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Domestic). The piece, a very large negative casting of a staircase, is owned jointly by CMOA and the Albright-Knox Museum, where it is currently on view. Given its enormous size, I think it’s safe to say I won’t be carrying out that plan.

Five things you can’t live without?
Yoga, graph paper, sewing machine, a kitchen, coffee.

Describe Pittsburgh in five words or less.
Watch out for the ravines.

Favorite hobbies? Or any other projects you’d like to share?
I’m a founding board member at Assemble, a small non-profit community arts and technology space on Penn Avenue here in Pittsburgh, and I currently serve as secretary of the board. We’re heavily volunteer-run and we have a working board, so I spend a bit of my free time working to keep the organization running smoothly.

Pittsburgh, from a Bike


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“A city always contains more than any inhabitant can know, and a great city always makes the unknown and the possible spurs to the imagination.”—Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust, A History of Walking

“Nice!”—Randy Gilson

The best way to see Pittsburgh is by bike. And the absolute best way to see Pittsburgh’s public art is also by bike, in a decently sized (chatty) group and led by the curators of the 2013 Carnegie International (Thanks Tina and Daniel!). Luckily BikePGH, the ride organizer, picked a beautiful Saturday in November to ride 18 miles through the city’s parks, along its riverfronts, and through several neighborhoods starting in Oakland and ending in Millvale. The group, comprised of BikePGH members, met at the Carnegie Museum of Art, next to Phyllida Barlow’s TIP.

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Our first stop was on the Carnegie Mellon University to see Mel Bochner’s (CMU alum) and Michael Van Valkenburgh’s Kraus Campo garden. The conceptual piece nestled between the University’s fine arts and business buildings incorporates text, architecture, and landscape architecture into an interactive experience.

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Learn more about Pittsburgh public art and venues at Pittsburgh Art Places.
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Descending through Schenley Park, across the Hot Metal Bridge and traveling downstream along the South Side Trail, the group arrived at The Workers, the Industrial Arts Cooperative’s tribute to Pittsburgh’s industrial pedigree.

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Downtown Pittsburgh was the site of our next two stops. Scott Burton’s Chairs for Six sit in the plaza of the BNY Mellon Center. Across town in the Cultural District, Katz Plaza hosts a collaboration featuring Louise Bourgeois, Daniel Urban Kiley, and Michael Graves.

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A quick trip over the Andy Warhol Bridge led the group into the central North Side neighborhood to Randyland, where we were met by the gregarious Randy Gilson. Gilson regaled the group with his background and artistic philosophy—“I don’t know how to paint, but I paint! Nice!”

The ride’s final destination was St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Parish to view the Maxo Vanka murals. The murals extend far beyond the typical Roman Catholic iconography. A few years ago, I had read about the Vanka murals in David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries: “More unusual for a church are the political and antiwar aspects of the murals that echo the crucifixion—widows mourn over a soldier in a coffin containing a bleeding corpse, and crosses cover the hillside behind them. Another wall depicts corrupt justice: a figure in a gas mask holds scales on which the gold outweighs bread. Clearly World War I had a big effect on Maxo.”

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As I said earlier, there is no better way to see a city and its public art than biking, and Pittsburgh is taking great strides in becoming a world-class biking community. Currently there are over 20 miles of riverfront trails along the Monongahela River, Allegheny River, and mighty Ohio River. Over the past several years, the city has added over 70 miles of on-street facilities that connect cyclists to the many vibrant business districts scattered throughout the city. With the development of BikePGH’s Better Bikeways Vision and the city’s MOVEPGH (transportation plan), cyclists can expect bigger and better toys within the next few years.

bikegifWith that said, 2014 is expected to be a watershed year for the city’s biking community as Pittsburgh launches a bike share system and hosts Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2014, one of the pre-eminent active transportation conferences in the world. The bike share system will introduce 500 rentable bicycles onto Pittsburgh’s streets, providing cheap, convenient, and fun transportation for short trips. Pro Walk/Pro Bike will bring over 1,000 active transportation advocates, engineers, architects, planners, elected officials, and vendors to Downtown Pittsburgh in September 2014.  It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase Pittsburgh’s improvements and learn from the global leaders in urban transportation design. Learn more about the Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2014 conference.

Stephen Patchan, Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, City of Pittsburgh

Art of the Projector


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Rodney Graham, installation view of The Green Cinematograph (Programme I: Pipe smoker and overflowing sink), 2010, 16mm film; color, silent; custom film projector with looper, bench, 5:35 min.; Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, London © Carnegie Museum of Art

As a film and video archivist, I’m excited to see the amount of moving image work being exhibited at the Carnegie right now. It’s all over the place: projected on floors and projected on doors, shown on a screen or a TV monitor machine, to state it in rhyming couplet form. Thanks to the 2013 Carnegie International and the reinstallation of the Scaife galleries—and to the hard work of assistant curator Amanda Donnan and the rest of the contemporary art department—you can scarcely turn your head without seeing some manifestation of what we in the biz call time-based media. But beyond the artworks on display, I’ve been fascinated to see so many examples of the cinematic apparatus being revealed, if not highlighted, in the installation of those works. The most obvious case in point is Rodney Graham’s The Green Cinematograph (Programme I: Pipe smoker and overflowing sink) (2010), probably my favorite single piece in the International, a 16mm film that cuts between a shots of Graham smoking a pipe and a sink overflowing with soap bubbles. More specifically, it’s a 16mm film that passes through a stunning, custom-built projector with a massive looper made of transparent green Lucite, into which the film cascades, creating a swirling tableau that recalls the hypnotic liquid light shows projected behind psychedelic rock concerts in the 1960s and 70s, or the lava lamps that brought that psychedelia into our very homes. There’s also certainly a resonance between the flow of the spent film strip and the bubbles projected on screen, but if you end up watching the looper and ignoring the screen altogether, that’s cool too.

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Joachim Koester, installation view of Tarantism, 2007, 16mm film; black and white, silent; 6:31 min.; A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund © Carnegie Museum of Art

The whirring of the projector is a near-omnipresent sound in the contemporary galleries. In the Scaife film room, Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight* (1963) plays, the only soundtrack the opening and closing of the projector’s shutter. The 16mm film, actually made by pressing small bits of detritus between two strips of splicing tape, inevitably draws your attention from the projected image to the physical object and the mechanism of the projector. The same can be said of Tarantism (2007), by Joachim Koester, another silent, 16mm film, in which the spastic dancing of the performers clashes with the uniformity of the projector’s moving parts. As the film passes again and again through the looper, the apparatus takes on an ominous quality, forcing the dancers through a perpetual cycle of frenzied convulsions.

*Note: Between the writing and publication of this post, Mothlight was deinstalled, but the 16mm projector is still hard at work in the Scaife film room. The current film is Robert Nelson’s Oh Dem Watermelons (1965), a frenetic and positively Gallagher-like assault on the eponymous fruit.  A full schedule of experimental films can be found here.
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Mark Leckey, installation view of Made in ‘Eaven, 2004, 16mm film; color, silent; 3 min.; looped 20 min.; Courtesy of the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; and Cabinet Gallery, London © Carnegie Museum of Art

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Mark Leckey, installation view of Made in ‘Eaven, 2004, 16mm film; color, silent; 3 min.; looped 20 min.; Courtesy of the artist; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; and Cabinet Gallery, London © Carnegie Museum of Art

The fourth and final film projector/looper can be found among the gems in the Wertz Gallery of the Museum of National History. In fact, as you enter the room, the only thing you see is the projector, sitting on a tall pedestal and pointing outside the room, down an adjoining corridor. Coming into line with the projector, you glimpse the screen, on which plays Mark Leckey’s Made in ’Eaven (2004). The fact that the two elements of the piece, the projector and the screen, inhabit different spaces underscores the unsettling tension of the film, between the physical fact of the analog media, and the impossible picture it captures, a probing pan around Jeff Koons’s mirrored bunny that could only have been accomplished through digital manipulation. As an analog type of fella, I found myself backing away from the uncanny image, toward the comforting hum of the projector.

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If you’re interested in learning more about archiving and exhibiting moving image works in a museum, register for Carnegie Museum of Art’s symposium A Collection of Misfits: Time-Based Media and the Museum, taking place Nov. 21–23, 2013. The Misfits symposium will bring archivists, artists, curators, and conservators from institutions around the world to discuss case studies, pressing issues, and the future of the field. For more information, visit our website: www.cmoa.org/misfits.
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Telling-Vision

Tony Oursler, installation view of (Telling) Vision #3, 1994, video projector, VCR, video, tripod, light stand, cloth; Second Century Acquisition Fund and Oxford Development Fund © Carnegie Museum of Art

This focus on the apparatus isn’t restricted to film work, either. In Tony Oursler’s video installation (Telling) Vision #3 (1994), a video projector angled atop a tripod figures significantly, simultaneously giving a face and a voice to the brown-suited scarecrow (also propped up on a tripod) and gazing curiously up at the bizarre character. A closed-circuit security camera and monitor provide a live mirror for the Thinker to contemplate in Nam June Paik’s TV Rodin (1976-1978).

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Nam June Paik, installation view of TV Rodin, 1976–1978, plaster, video camera, tripod, monitor, pedestal; A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund © Carnegie Museum of Art

In all of these cases, the “audiovisual equipment” usually hidden in museum exhibition is brought to the fore, becoming vital elements of the work. It is a good rule of thumb when looking at moving image work to think about how the images are produced and transmitted; these processes are essential to the artists and should inform how we consume the work. The film and video on view at the Carnegie press the issue by laying bare the cinematic apparatus, and acknowledging it as an intrinsic component of the art object.

Calling All Educators!


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Carnegie Museum of Art’s annual Evening for Educators on November 12 is a chance for the museum to engage and celebrate with classroom teachers and educators from around Pittsburgh. This is one of my favorite times of year, it’s such a great opportunity to mingle and talk shop!

Each year I work with my team to plan a range of opportunities for educators to engage with the permanent collection and special exhibitions, as well as network, experiment with art materials, and relax.

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Exploring the 2013 Carnegie International during one of our professional development workshops for teachers

This year the focus is on the 2013 Carnegie International. This exhibition is exciting and unique to Pittsburgh, and it’s fun to remind everyone that even New Yorkers “[envy] the people of the Steel City, who get to have it at their doorstep for the next five months.” International co-curator Daniel Baumann will kick off the event, and we are providing dinner and drinks—sometimes the best ideas for projects and collaboration happen over food and wine.

We’ll also be offering interactive tours of the International exhibition, an opportunity for everyone to encounter contemporary art by 35 artists from 19 countries. This exhibition is full of powerful, challenging, and beautiful ideas that we’re sure will resonate with teachers; it’s art that can change the way we think about our world.

At 6:30 p.m., everyone will head to the Music Hall to hear Braddock-based artist collaborative Transformazium discuss their views on creative engagement and the Art Lending Collection developed for the International. These three women have brought the museum and art out into their community—and their community into the museum. We hope that this can inspire the same kinds of exchanges between schools and our museum.

We hope see many of you there! Register by calling 412.622.3288 or online.