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Walker Art Center surveys radical shift in 20th century art, film, and performance
Mario Merz (Italian, 1925–2003), Igloo, 1971. Steel tubes, neon tubing, wire mesh, transformer, C-clamps. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2001© Mario Merz/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Walker Art Center presents Art Expanded, 1958–1978, drawn primarily from the Walker’s diverse collection of artworks, films, archival materials, and ephemera, on view from June 14, 2014 through March 8, 2015. Charting the so-called “expanded arts” of the 1960s and 1970s, the exhibition surveys a transformational phase in the history of 20th century art when artists around the world collectively began to challenge, critique, and upend traditional media and disciplines. This catalytic shift in attitude and practice, which remains vital for contemporary artists working today, led to a proliferation of new, hybrid art forms, such as happenings, event scores, intermedia performance, multiples, conceptual art, and participatory environments.

Some 300 works by over 100 pivotal artists, filmmakers, and choreographers are presented, including Yoko Ono, Jasper Johns, John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Nam June Paik, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, George Brecht, Yayoi Kusama, Yvonne Rainer, Dieter Roth, and Tony Conrad. Iconic pieces by these and many others artists in the Walker’s collection have come together with recent acquisitions, rarely seen works, and newly conserved sculptures. From room-based installations of objects and archival ephemera to an array of projected images and sound works, the exhibition has been organized into thematically groupings that occupy over 13,000 square feet in Galleries 1, 2, 3 and Perlman.

“No longer content to work within the parameters of conventional disciplines, artists of the period advanced radical ways of working in the spaces between traditional mediums, many of them ultimately embracing the creative potential of everyday life,” explained Walker curator Eric Crosby. “Art Expanded, 1958–1978 not only examines this critical point of departure, but also narrates a history of our present moment—so much of the work on view here has become the very DNA of contemporary artistic practice.”

Among the overlapping themes of the exhibition, Art Expanded, 1958–1978 considers the period’s many assaults on the traditional mediums of painting and sculpture. Exploring the theme of performance throughout, the exhibition includes a significant grouping of artist-conceived instruments, scores for both music and events, as well as photographic and moving-image documentation. Artists’ widespread use of technology surfaces as a dominant theme as well—from film, video, and other means of recording and playback to early experiments with computing and programmed displays of light and motion. Other parts of the exhibition considers the influx of information and systems in early conceptual art, as well as the evolving theme of participation as artists increasingly relied on the viewer for active input and even a hand in making.

The Walker’s renowned collection of Fluxus works—consisting of hundreds of event scores, editioned multiples, and packaged oddities—serve as a through line across the various themes of the exhibition. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, an international constellation of artists, writers, performers, and composers assembled in performance halls and alternative spaces in the United States and Europe to challenge conventions through their freewheeling embrace of art in everyday life. In 1989, at the time of its landmark acquisition of some 400 Fluxus objects, the Walker became an early champion of this important facet of the international avant-garde. Now, some 50 years after the emergence of Fluxus and 25 years since the Walker’s milestone acquisition, Art Expanded, 1958–1978 presents this pivotal work for reexamination and reinterpretation—this time within the broader context of the period’s innovations and its unruly spirit of artistic reinvention.

Exhibition highlights include:

• Key paintings by Jasper Johns, Yoko Ono, Piero Manzoni, Daniel Buren, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jack Whitten, Alan Shields, and many others.

• An expansive display of Fluxus multiples and ephemera, as well as a focused presentation of Fluxfilms by Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, Paul Sharits, and George Maciunas.

• A unique presentation of archival materials and never-before-seen photographs documenting Mushroom, a 1962 “happening” conceived by Allan Kaprow for the Lehmann Mushroom Caves in St. Paul, Minnesota.

• Belgian poet, filmmaker, and conceptualist Marcel Broodthaer’s iconic slide projection piece, Bateau Tableau (1973), in which the artist rigorously deconstructs a found nautical oil painting into successive close-up images.

• A dedicated screening space with films from the Walker’s own Ruben/Bentson Film/Video Study Collection, including works by Merce Cunningham, Carolee Schneemann, Yvonne Rainer, and other pivotal figures who bridged the visual and performing arts of the day.

• An immersive installation of newly conserved 1960s light and kinetic artworks associated with the Walker’s pioneering 1967 exhibition Light/Motion/Space.

• A projection space dedicated to the Walker’s recently acquired archive of films by queer performance artist and underground filmmaker Jack Smith.

Art Expanded, 1958–1978 is organized by the Walker Art Center and curated by Eric Crosby.

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