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Three exhibitions celebrate Wolf Vostell and the Fluxus movement
Wolf Vostell, Fliegende Zementwolke ueber Chicago (Flying Cement Cloud over Chicago), 1970.Cement on print mounted on chipboard. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago,2016.17. Art © The Wolf Vostell Estate.

CHICAGO, IL.- Three exhibitions at the University of Chicago revisit the creation of Wolf Vostell’s public sculpture Concrete Traffic—a 1957 Cadillac De Ville encased in concrete—and situate the newly restored work within the context of the international Fluxus movement and Vostell’s own practice. The exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, and Special Collections Research Center are presented concurrently along with other free public programs under the moniker Concrete Happenings.

“Fluxus was so many things in so many places. It was the first serious venture into performance art, ‘intermedia,’ audience participation, and art immersed in everyday life, all of which are now staples of contemporary art. And it was the first transatlantic art movement paving the way for our global art world today,” said Christine Mehring, Chair and Professor in the Department of Art History and the College, faculty director of Concrete Happenings, and lead curator of Vostell Concrete at the Smart Museum. “Vostell was right in the thick of it, staging happenings in urban environments in Cologne and Chicago; experimenting with television and concrete; designing and editing books that brought together artists from all over the world. Having these three exhibitions simultaneously explore different aspects of Fluxus and Vostell’s work is an extraordinary opportunity.”

Vostell Concrete 1969–1973
January 17–June 11, 2017 | Tuesday through Sunday, 10am–5pm; Thursday until 8pm
Smart Museum of Art, 5550 South Greenwood Avenue

Wolf Vostell used concrete as an actual material and artistic motif in a surprising number of ways in the late 1960s and early 70s. During this time, Vostell mobilized concrete’s ambivalent connotations of permanence and inflexibility, strength and violence, to engage with postwar urbanism, particularly German reconstruction and American urban renewal; with unrest and war, including the civil rights marches in Selma, the Paris student protests, the Vietnam and Cold wars; and with the international, if not yet global world, particularly as manifest in transatlantic travel, postcards, and the Munich Olympics. Vostell Concrete is animated by questions of why the materials of art making matter and what they signify. It features the artist’s little known, first uses of concrete and redresses a too-limiting understanding of Vostell as a mere performance artist or belated German Pop artist. Drawn from the Smart Museum and other local, national, and international collections, the approximately 45 works on view span a variety of media, from sculpture to film, performance, collage, watercolor, and printmaking.

Curators: Christine Mehring, Professor and Chair, Department of Art History, in collaboration with Diane Miliotes, Interim Curator of Modern Art and Design, Smart Museum of Art, and Caroline Lillian Schopp, Curatorial Research Associate and PhD Candidate in Art History.

Concrete Poetry, Concrete Book: Artists’ Books in German-speaking Space after 1945
January 17–March 17, 2017 | Monday through Friday, 9am–4:45pm; and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9am–5:45pm
Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, 1100 East 57th Street

In the same decades that artists affiliated with Fluxus explored action-based, performative strategies set on disrupting the conventions of both art and everyday life, the book emerged as a significant artistic preoccupation. Not only were books important for anthologizing ephemeral action-based art, but they became in their own right sites of artistic experimentation with cognitive, visual, and tactile experience. Drawing on the remarkable collection of rare artists’ books housed in the University of Chicago Library, Concrete Poetry, Concrete Book explores how artists in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland investigated the material and technical forms of the book. Referring to the way that language takes up space on the page, arrests the eyes, and insists on physical interaction, works of konkrete poesie (concrete poetry) tested the material display of language, focusing on the object-quality of letters and words. To accommodate this dual staging of textual production and reception, artists’ books took on unusual forms, as in Gerhard Rühm’s kinetic book bewegung (motion, 1964) and Hansjörg Mayer’s reinvention of the alphabet in the fold-out book typoaktionen (type-actions, 1967). At the same time that artists’ books often activate the process of reading, they also deemphasize textual cognition, foregrounding instead touch and materiality, as exemplified in die-cut multi-colored cellophane pages of Dieter Roth’s bilderbücher (picture-books, 1957) and in Wolf Vostell’s unreadable 20-pound Betonbuch (Concrete Book, 1971). In tandem with Concrete Happenings, interactive workshops will provide unique opportunities for hands-on engagement with artists’ books, and a series of public lectures will provide further perspective on the concrete questions they raise about language, materiality, performance, and collaboration.

Curator: Caroline Lillian Schopp, PhD candidate in the Department of Art History.

Fantastic Architecture: Vostell, Fluxus, and the Built Environment
January 22–March 17, 2017 | Monday through Friday, 11am–5pm
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 5701 South Woodlawn Avenue

Taking its title and inspiration from the seminal publication Fantastic Architecture (1969), edited by Wolf Vostell and Dick Higgins and published by Something Else Press, this exhibition presents various approaches to architecture, urban space, and the built environment within an expanded international community of Fluxus and related artists in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fantastic Architecture is presented in conjunction with the re-siting, following a major conservation treatment, of Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic (1970), a monumental event-sculpture in the University of Chicago’s Campus Art Collection. The exhibition contextualizes Concrete Traffic in relation to Vostell’s other related works from the period, including photomontage proposals for alterations to architectural and urban spaces and event scores for happenings intended for specific cities, as well as the work of his artistic peers and interlocutors. In Europe and the United States alike, the postwar period saw massive transformations of the urban landscape, the construction and expansion of freeway systems, and the rise of automobile culture, and artists of the time responded to these developments in a variety of ways. Like its eponymous exemplar, the exhibition embraces the porousness and intellectual foment of the experimental art world of the time, a context in which forms and concepts circulated among an international community of artists whose political and aesthetic projects did not always strictly align. Also included are works and projects by Fluxus impresario George Maciunas, Japanese collective Hi Red Center, happenings inventor Allan Kaprow, conceptual artist Douglas Huebler, and artist and poet Rosemary Mayer, and others.

Curator: Jacob Proctor, Curator, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.

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