Friday, October 19, 2012


    An exhibition devoted to the emergence of Conceptual art is a risky undertaking at a time when museums are catering to the public with blockbusters. The Brooklyn Museum addresses the beginnings of Conceptual art from 1966 to 1972 with Materializing “Six Years,” which borrows its title and inspiration from Lucy R. Lippard’s book Six Years, published in 1973. In an attempt to present Conceptual art in a consumable format, Materializing “Six Years” uses the photographs, catalogues, video, audio, letters and other ephemera to represent the highly varied goals of this movement.

The content of Materializing “Six Years” can best be described as “art information” rather than “art object” or “art” work as you might expect in the art museum context. John Latham’s work Art and Culture (1966) includes a book, letters, photostats, and labeled vials filled with powders and liquids contained in a leather box. Together these materials document how Latham chewed and spat into vials the seminal text of the same name as his title by Clement Greenberg and was eventually fired from his academic position for the destruction of a library book. This playful and early example of Conceptual art was one of the works that was easy to engage with while Bernar Venet’s audio of three physicists giving simultaneous lectures at Judson Church in 1968 is impossible to decipher and loses meaning in the strictly audio format. As a collection of “art information” these materials function more like an archive of Conceptual art than an exhibition.

Running throughout Materializing “Six Years” are Lucy Lippard’s own art projects from this period. Because she is blurring the lines between curator, critic and artist, her vision of inclusivity and redefining the formal parameters of art recurs throughout the exhibition and lends it a focus or narrative among the many voices and causes presented. Her repeated city specific exhibitions, beginning with 557,087 (1969) in Seattle, which in turn led to Robert Barry Presents Three Shows and a Review by Lucy R. Lippard (1971) challenge viewers to easily explain Lippard’s role in emerging Conceptual art.

Materializing “Six Years” is an undeniably demanding exhibition. Strolling through the galleries will leave you clueless because each piece demands the visitor to approach, read and engage. This is necessary because the dematerialization of art along with the introduction of new formats that Lippard championed in Conceptual art continues today. Performative, site specific and ephemeral tendencies in art have not waned, and with increasing digitization art continues to move beyond traditional contexts.


  1. This was a challenging show to review, and I think you did a great job. Your last paragraph is helpful to anyone who will visit the exhibit and it accurately summarizes my own impressions. I think the descriptions of various pieces come across somewhat like a list rather than giving the reader a feeling of the work. I think it would be helpful to describe Venet's audio piece a little more. It feels like it was thrown in, and the list feel would go away with a little more explanation on that. The overall review is organized, insightful, and well written.

  2. You made very good use of the word count limit with your review very concise yet meaty at the same time. I agree with Natalie that I thought you handled the tricky nature of this particular exhibit well, your description of the show as "art information" giving readers a better idea of the material. I thought your introductory paragraph was successful in putting the unusual nature of exhibit into context.

    While you do pull focus toward Lucy Lippard and mention her importance to the Conceptual Art movement, I think touching on the kind of art she actually did and what her "vision" was will give your piece more depth.