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Artists’ Publications in the 1960s: Critical Readings
Southeastern College Art Conference
Joseph S. Koury Convention Center, 3121 High Point Road, Greensboro, NC
October 31, 2013

While the involvement of artists in the creation of books is as venerable as the invention of the medium itself, the 1960s saw a significant shift of its utilization. Books, catalogues, and magazines functioned as alternative modes of exhibition for works that no longer required the institution’s walls for their material presentation, nor its endorsement for their critical validation. In fact, their very format not only challenged the museums and galleries’ modes of operation based on the distribution of an authentic and highly valuable art object, but they also allowed artists to circumvent the authority of the institutional players, whether curators or critics. If some publications were carefully handcrafted, many were mechanically produced, allowing artists to further disrupt the art object’s resilient aura. Through case studies, this panel will consider the critical implications of publications functioning as alternative spaces of exhibition and their relations to the contemporaneous practice of institutional critique. In addition, the panel will foreground the medium’s affiliation with the Minimalists’ ontological explorations into the nature of the art object, and discuss its ambivalence with regards to the development of mass communication, which challenged its democratic, if not utopian, ambitions.

This session was chaired by Sandrine Canac of Stony Brook University.

Kate Green, University of Texas at Austin
“Vito Acconci and 0 to 9: Page and Action in the Late ‘60s”

In 1967 Vito Acconci, then a young downtown Manhattan poet, cofounded 0 to 9, the mimeographed magazine that he would coedit and contribute to until its sixth and last issue two years later. 0 to 9 was a do-it-yourself, antiestablishment affair that provided an outlet and context for experiments with the page, so it is telling that from the start the magazine’s mailing list included not just poets, but also artists. Though 0 to 9 would not feature significant contributions by the latter until its final issues, from the beginning Acconci wanted it to reach beyond the poetry world and toward those playing with language within the context of conceptually oriented visual art. This paper will track the trajectory of 0 to 9. It will show how contributions increasingly shifted weight off the page until the final issue, which contained only traces of real-time actions that had taken place in the streets. Ultimately, in this paper Kate Green suggests that by the end of 0 to 9, efforts by Acconci and his conceptually oriented peers were grounded in aspirations for dematerialization while also accounting for the difficulties of altering the object-driven art world without leaving a material trace.

Christopher Howard, College Art Association
“A Brief History of the Jean Freeman Gallery”

From September 1970 to March 1971, Jean Freeman Gallery in New York placed half- and full-page advertisements in four magazines—Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, and Arts—for seven solo and group exhibitions. The gritty subject matter and serial nature of the photographs promoting the work indicated that the gallery specialized in Earthworks and Conceptual art. As it turns out, neither Jean Freeman nor the address of the space, listed as 26 West 57th Street, actually existed. The advertisements were concocted by the artist Terry Fugate-Wilcox, though over the past forty years his project has largely been forgotten. Is this because it remains invisible as art to someone flipping through back issues of those magazines today? Or because the artist is considered too marginal, too far off the Seth Siegelaub–Lucy R. Lippard axis that dominates thinking on art from this period? Christopher Howard will contextualize Fugate-Wilcox’s project among better-known examples of contemporaneous magazine-based work by Dan Graham, Mel Bochner, Robert Smithson, and Stephen Kaltenbach. More generally, Howard will explore how photographic and textual documentation not only changed writing and publishing on art, but also how it altered the visual landscape of gallery advertisements.

Miriam Kienle, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
“Off the Presses: Ray Johnson and the Art of Magazine, 1965–1975”

In the late 1950s, Ray Johnson (1927–1995) initiated a new form of artistic practice called “mail art,” in which participants receive a letter or object in the post, add to or subtract from that item, and then mail it onward to another participant. Through this process Johnson and his collaborators established a network of artists called the “New York Correspondence School,” which they greatly expanded through their participation in art reviews and small-press periodicals during the 1960s. This paper therefore examines the ways that Johnson and his peers used the pages of small-run art magazines like Floating Bear, Culture Hero, Art-Rite, File, and Vile as alternative sites for the exhibition of their work. By instructing readers to tear out pages, add to them, and send them onward, Johnson employed magazines in a way that destabilized the hierarchy between original and reproduction. Furthermore, by adopting a parasitic relationship to more mainstream art presses and using fragments of art criticism as fodder for collages, Miriam Kienle argues that Johnson made his own critical reception part of the work in order to mark art’s contingency upon networks of critics and dealers.

Hallie Scott, Graduate Center, City University of New York
“Art in Magazines in the 1960s and 1970s”

In the 1960s curators and artists seeking to circulate art outside the insular, market-driven art world enthusiastically engaged the printed page as an alternative space of display. However, by the mid-1970s critics had begun to question the extent to which these “magazine exhibitions” successfully reached audiences beyond the art market and artists started to renegotiate their approach toward publications. Hallie Scott posits that the function of the magazine exhibitions shifted from alternative venues to vehicles for self-promotion and publicity. This shift is elucidated through a comparison of two publications: Seth Siegelaub’s segment in the July/August 1970 issue of Studio International and Paul McCarthy’s Criss Cross Double Cross (1976), a tabloid newspaper consisting of artists’ contributions. In contrast to the neutral works and editing of the former, the formatting and many of the submissions in Criss Cross Double Cross purposefully pantomime the form and content of mass media. In doing so McCarthy’s publication simultaneously embraces and destabilizes the conventions of mainstream publicity, promoting the participating artists in the process. In analyzing this shifting function of art periodicals, this paper will contribute to larger questions surrounding the changing position of the artist vis-à-vis dominant culture in the 1970s.