Most art-historical accounts of the late 1960s and early ’70s say little about painting, or only discuss its relationship to Minimalism (citing Robert Ryman, Frank Stella, and Brice Marden, among others). Yet many artists during these same years were exploring radical new directions in abstract painting: pulling painting apart, moving it off the stretcher and onto the floor, creating new shapes and structures, using an entire room or the human body as a canvas.
Influenced by social change and the burning political issues of the day, artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Alan Shields, Lee Lozano, Richard Tuttle, and Mary Heilmann created works of great joy, passion, fury, and imagination, expanding conventional concepts of what “painting” could mean. Nearly half the abstract painters whose work is presented in High Times, Hard Times are women, many dismissed at the time by influential art critics, who saw them only as creating an eccentric expression that had some limited value and not as leaders in the renewal of a medium as important as painting. African-American artists such as Al Loving, Joe Overstreet, Howardena Pindell, and Jack Whitten, and artists from other countries who lived temporarily in New York (Kusama, Blinky Palermo, César Paternosto, Franz Erhard Walther), were similarly denied official recognition.
The exhibition begins with a moment of exuberance, when painting escaped the confines of Minimalism in the mid-’60s, and ends with it put back together in an expanded framework in the mid-’70s, when painters such as Elizabeth Murray and Joan Snyder incorporated discoveries about structure, technique, and physicality into painting proper. High Times, Hard Times encompasses a period of great transformation—including experiments with surface and support, installation, and performance—and embodies its spirit of freedom and possibility.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 176-page illustrated catalogue co-published with D.A.P., New York. It features an introduction by David Reed, an artist working in New York; principal essays by guest curator Katy Siegel (professor of art history at Hunter College), and other essays by Anna Chave, Dawoud Bey, Robert Pincus-Witten, and Marcia Tucker; and statements by 17 of the artists in the exhibition.
Carolee Schneemann, Body Collage, 1967 (video still)
Greensboro, North Carolina
August 6 - October 15, 2006
November 21, 2006 - January 21, 2007
Academy Museum, New York, New York
February 15 - April 22, 2007
Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico
May 25 - September 9, 2007
Neue Galerie Graz
December 14, 2007 - February 24, 2008
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
March 28 - June 1, 2008