On Conceptualism


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Brief overview of Conceptualism and its off-shoots.

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On Conceptualism

  1. 1. Conceptualism 1966-1972
  2. 2. Conceptualism• Conceptualism emerges in the mid-1960s out of the growing investigation into Western art and the political and economic institutions that support it.• Conceptualist art is an “art of ideas”.• Conceptualist artists question aesthetic legacy as well as their own aesthetic values.• For some, it is the apogee of late modernism.• Conceptualist art is an attack on the visual formalism of the 1950s and 1960s.• Conceptualism did not have a strategic methodology to determine the success of its anti-formalist position. – because of this it became very difficult to come to terms with what was significant in a Conceptualist work.
  3. 3. ConceptualismConceptualist artists question:• artistic intention and its role in ascribing meaning to the art object.• visual nature of art and its communicative process.• labor involved in the creative process.• the institutional framing of art. – how the public comes in contact with art and how that helps to create meaning.• art production as manifestation of commodity fetishism.• the role of the art market . – the hierarchical structure that controls who becomes an artist, who is successful (who gets shows, price at auction).• function of public sphere in producing a market of spectators.• conventional traditions and rules that determine the value of a particular medium.
  4. 4. Conceptualism• At the root of Conceptualist art is questioning: – The idea or concept versus the final product or object. – Multiplicity (one versus many). – To accept what is told or given or to question authority. – Create, re-create, or appropriate.
  5. 5. “A work need only to be interesting…” -Donald Judd, 1965 • Judd’s quote captures the legacy of Minimalism- to create works that refuted strict Greenbergian formalism and inspired intense awareness. • The outdoor sculptures of many Minimalists and the interest in process lead to the demise of Minimalism.Donald Judd, Untitled (Stack), 1967. Lacquer on galvanized iron, Twelve units, each 9” x 40” x 31“, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  6. 6. • Duchampian Dada and its Conceptualist foundation serves as influence to Conceptual artists of the 1960s and 1970s. • Duchamp’s challenge of art conventions paved the way for artists practicing after him.Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913. Assisted readymade bicyclewheel, diameter 25.5”, mounted on a stool, 23.7”high. Original lost. Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA.
  7. 7. The 1960s• The assassination of America’s most promising young leaders and the Vietnam War divided the nation.
  8. 8. The 1960sArtists are always affected by the world around them.Conceptualist artists worked their historical moment into theirwork:• The 1960s were a period of great change and conflict. – Demonstrations by students, labor workers, civil rights advocates, and women against economic, military, and socially oppressive policies swept Europe and the United States.• 1968 was an especially tumultuous year: – Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy both assassinated. – Student protests sweep Europe and the United States.
  9. 9. 19681968 Student uprisings• The student uprisings in Paris in 1968 set the tone for the revolution that would follow throughout the world, most especially in the United States.• These uprisings gave birth to the student uprisings in America that defined a generation.• Kent State is most known. May 1968 French poster showing De Gaulle covering the mouth of a young student and the phrase “Be Young and Shut Up”.
  10. 10. • In the U.S. the most notorious of these riots was Kent State University in Ohio.• On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed student protestors and by-standers, killing 4 and wounding 9 others.• This lead to even more protests nation wide as students organized sit-ins occupying school buildings.• May 14/15 two additional students were shot in Mississippi. John Filo, Kent State Massacre, May 4,• To speak out against this act, 4 million 1970. In the photograph, Mary Ann students at 450 schools took part in the Vecchio, kneels over the dead body of student strikes of 1970. Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.
  11. 11. Sol LeWitt (1928-2007)• LeWitt created both Minimalist and Conceptualist art.• LeWitt’s work and writings including “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” and “Sentences on Conceptual Art” declare the idea or concept most important. – He wrote, “In Conceptual Art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of th work…all planning and decision[s] are made beforehand and the execution in a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.” Sol LeWitt, Sculpture Series “A,” 1967. Installation view, Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles
  12. 12. ConceptualismImportant Exhibitions• 1969:“January 1–31: O Objects, O Painters, O Sculptors,” hosted by New York dealer Seth Siegelaub featured only the work of Conceptualist artists.• 1970: Museum of Modern Art hosts “Information” exhibition.
  13. 13. ConceptualismCritics• Lucy Lippard and Jack Burnham were the first two critics to write about Conceptualism with an investigative seriousness. – Together they pen “The Dematerialization of Art” (1968). – Burnham is the first to analyze Conceptualist art in terms of structuralist paradigm • His work is heavily based on Claude Lévi-Strauss – Using Lévi-Strauss, he places strong emphasis on the cultural coding of art. » Art is is a culturally defined concept, and its conditions are obtainable only through the language it uses.
  14. 14. ConceptualismArt and Language Group• Founded by English artists, Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Harold Hurrel and Michael Baldwin. – American artist Joseph Kosuth also became a member. – Created art journal, Art-Language published from 1969-1985.• For many artists language was the closest manifestation of pure thought, language was the easiest process by which to communicate an idea.• The Art and Language group was anti- Greenbergian and sought to challenge his brand of modernism.
  15. 15. ConceptualismJoseph Kosuth (b.1945)• Around 1966, Conceptualist art emerged on the scene almost unpronounced in its form.• Images like Kosuth’s Art as Idea as Idea and others like it- images of dictionary definitions presented as art were early indicators of the direction Minimalist art was leading artists. Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967. Photostat, mounted on board, Photograph: 48 x 48 inches. Guggenheim Museum, NY.
  16. 16. ConceptualismJoseph Kosuth (b.1945)• Before joining the Art and Language group, Kosuth had been creating work that challenged Greenbergian modernism.• He was an artist, writer, and theorist.• In 1970, he co-curated the important Conceptualist “Information” exhibition at NY’s Museum of Modern Art. Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs, 1965. Wooden folding chair,• His One and Three Chairs and Art as photographic copy of a chair, and Idea as Idea are some of the earliest photographic enlargement of dictionary examples of a Conceptualist artists definition of a chair; chair 32⅜”x 14⅞” x 20⅞”; photo panel 36” x 24⅛”; text panel using language to explore 24⅛” x 24 ½”. Museum of Modern Art, representation. NY.
  17. 17. ConceptualismJoseph Kosuth (b.1945)• Kosuth defined Conceptualism as a critical practice• Kosuth was primarily about the issue of internal critique, in the sense of an investigation into the principles of modernism, not thru a specific medium but through a methodological analysis of art itself.• One and Three Chairs uses three varieties of form to express representation. Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs,• Kosuth and other Conceptualists are 1965. Wooden folding chair, heavily informed by Plato’s “Theory of photographic copy of a chair, and Forms” which argues that the purest photographic enlargement of dictionary form of something is in the idea of it, definition of a chair; chair 32⅜”x 14⅞” x all other representations of that idea 20⅞”; photo panel 36” x 24⅛”; text panel are bastardized versions. 24⅛” x 24 ½”. Museum of Modern Art, NY.
  18. 18. Conceptualism “Without language, there is no art.” -Lawrence Weiner, 1967Lawrence Weiner, Statements, 1968. A small 64 page paperback with texts describing projects to be or not to be completed.
  19. 19. ConceptualismLawrence Weiner (b. 1942)• Weiner’s work relied on the statement. – He published these in books and sometimes newspapers.• He insisted his statements, which often read like instructions, need not be realized.• The nature of his work allowed the piece to be owned by everybody- Weiner remarked that once one of his works was in the viewer’s mind, s/he owned it and it could not be taken away. – This is a direct attack on the art market that many artists felt made art into a commodity. Lawrence Weiner , Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2005.
  20. 20. ConceptualismRobert Barry (b. 1936)• Early works are visually minimal -- a few words printed in a catalog or typed on a All the things I know page with, in some cases, documentary But of which I am not photographs -- but mischievously paradoxical. At the moment thinking-• Of his works he said, “It does exist if you 1:36 PM, June 1969 have any ideas about it, and that part is yours. The rest you can only imagine.’ Robert Barry, All the things I know… June 1969.
  21. 21. ConceptualismJohn Baldessari (b. 1931)• Fellow Conceptualist, Baldessari also uses language to explore the nature of representation.• Baldessari turns his attention to representation’s place in art history and how the history of representation has shaped the canon. John Baldessari, Art History from Ingres and Other Parables, 1972. Photograph and types text, 8 ½” x 10 7/8”.
  22. 22. ConceptualismJohn Baldessari (b. 1931)• Like Barry and Kosuth, Baldessari used language to challenge the institutions of art. ‘Everything is purged from• Works like these rely on the painting but art’. language, on the text as it is printed and the idea as it is communicated to the viewer. – By focusing on the idea, there is no tangible object that can be fetishized or exploited for profit. John Baldessari, c.1968.
  23. 23. John Baldessari (b. 1931)• Baldessari’s What is Painting can be interpreted as a direct attack against Greenberg’s formalism. – Greenberg defined modernist painting for over two decades and used his own definition to crown Abstract Expressionism and later Post-Painterly Abstraction as paramount. – Here, Baldessari reopens the question “What is painting?” in Conceptualist attempt to reduce the hold Greenberg’s definition of modernist painting had on the more contemporary art world. John Baldessari, What is Painting, 1968. Acrylic on canvas.
  24. 24. • The investigation into representation and use of language to do so is not new. – Marcel Duchamp investigated the nature of the sign system with his Fountain from 1917 and René Magritte with his Perfidy of Images (1928-29). René Magritte, The Treachery (or Perfidy) of Images, 1928-29. Oil on canvas, 23 ¼” x 31 ½”. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA.
  25. 25. ConceptualismOn Kawara (b. 1933)• Much like his contemporaries, On Kawara used language as the best means to communicate the idea of the artwork.• His Today Series makes the passing of time the subject of the artwork itself. – This echoes Duchamp’s Artist’s Breath and Manzoni’s Artist’s Shit. – Not only are the products the artist produced art but how s/he passes time is also art. On Kawara, The Today Series of Date Paintings, begun January 1,1966. Installation view.
  26. 26. ConceptualismHanne Darboven (1941-2009)• Like On Kawara, Darboven makes the passing of time into creative act .• Her , Ein Jahrhundert records the passing of time and experiences of the artist. – 365 binders are filled by the artist in calligraphic writing using language (numbers and letters). – Her work is informed by the calendar.• Like On Kawara’s piece, the Hanne Darboven, Ein Jahrhundert (One Century), seriality of each work recalls 1971-1975. 365 binders that all together Minimalist aesthetic. encompass all the days of the century.
  27. 27. ConceptualismHans Haacke (c. 1936)• The controversial artist Haacke took direct aim at art institutions and their sometimes unscrupulous relations with the government and powerful people. – On several occasions, this led to the artist’s shows being canceled. Hans Haacke, Museum of Modern Art Poll, 1970.
  28. 28. Question:• Would the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixons Indochina policy be a reason for you not to vote for him in November ?Answer:• If yes please cast your ballot into the left box if no into the right box.• Ballots were dropped into either of two plexi-glass ballot boxes [visitors chose "yes" twice as often as "no"].• New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller was a member of the board of trustees of MOMA and planning a run for the U.S. Presidency at the time. Hans Haacke, MoMA Poll, 1970.
  29. 29. Conceptualism Hans Haacke (c. 1936) • His 1971 work, Shapolsky et al. took aim at slum landlords and the real estate system. • Haacke published Harry Shapolskys questionable behavior as well as the Guggenheim Museum’s relationship to the landlord (several board members did business with him) shortly before the museum was to host one of the artist’s exhibitions. – The show was canceled. Hans Haacke, (details of) Shapolsky et al., Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971. 142photographs, 2 maps, 6 charts. Whitney Museum of American Art.
  30. 30. ConceptualismDaniel Buren (b. 1938)• Buren capitalized on the Conceptualist idea that a work can be repeated and still elicit an aesthetic response. Daniel Buren, White and Red Painting, 1971. Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.
  31. 31. ConceptualismDaniel Buren (b. 1938)• He designed a system of stripes then post them in various locations.• His work was accessible to an open public and challenged the gallery and museum system.• The initial concept never changes, just the form and context-shape of canvas, location of exhibition (from city Daniel Buren, Unauthorized Posting, 1969. streets to museums). Glued papers, dimensions unpublished. Location unknown.
  32. 32. Neo-Conceptualism 1980s
  33. 33. Neo-Conceptualism• Conceptualism began to decline in the mid-1970s but resurfaced again in the 1980s.• 1980s Conceptualism, or Neo-Conceptualism, repeated imagistic appearances of the work from the 60s, as a ploy for another level of content-this time slightly more involved with the political and social concerns than earlier years.• Neo-Conceptualist artists released their work directly into the art market understanding it would become a commodity.
  34. 34. Neo-Conceptualism• Neo-Conceptualists differ from their predecessors in that their work seems to “indulge in the reification of mass culture.”• Neo-Conceptualist artists include Haim Steinbach, Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, and Barbara Krueger.• Neo-Conceptualists produce work with a cynical and suspend meaning.
  35. 35. Neo-ConceptualismLouise Lawler (b. 1947)• Lawler’s Pollock and Tureen continues the investigation of the institution in similar manner to Haacke.• Her work investigates how institutions like galleries and museums assert dominance and authority to the audience through the juxtaposition of objects and exhibition design.• Her work reveals dominant cultural narratives about race, gender, social and economic Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, inequality, as well as the hierarchy Arranged by Mt. and Mrs. Burton of media to the audience. Tremaine, Connecticut, 1984. Silver dye bleach print; 28” x 39.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
  36. 36. Neo-ConceptualismLouise Lawler (b. 1947)• Pollock and Tureen investigates the debate between high and low art, craft, and values of masculine and feminine. Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mt. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut, 1984. Silver dye bleach print; 28” x 39.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
  37. 37. Neo-ConceptualismFred Wilson (b. 1954)• Like Lawler, Wilson uses the museum’s own collection to create a new, often disturbing narrative of the pieces on hand.• His groundbreaking show, “Mining the Museum” positions divergent objects of the same material next to one another to reveal how the collection of objects is an act of cultural dominance. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992. Installation detail “Metalwork,” from Contemporary Museum, Baltimore.
  38. 38. Neo-ConceptualismFred Wilson (b. 1954)• This image demonstrates finely crafted silver pitchers and goblets next to slave shackles used in the transportation of people during the slave trade. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992. Installation detail “Metalwork,” from Contemporary Museum, Baltimore.
  39. 39. • Another of Wilson’s rooms from Mining the Museum looks at woodwork and features beautiful sitting chairs juxtaposed with a whipping post used to punish slaves. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992.Installation detail “Cabinet-making, 1820- 1960” from Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. Maryland Historical Society.
  40. 40. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992. Installation detail “Modes of Transport” from Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. Maryland Historical Society.
  41. 41. Neo-Conceptualism• His Modes of Transport room features child carriages used to push infants and toddlers.• Placing a Ku Klux Klan hood inside one cart reminds us that childcare responsibilities very often fell to the lighter-skinned female slaves that worked in the home. – These women would essentially be raising the children that might one day own them, especially if the child were male.Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992. Installation detail “Modes of Transport” from Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. Maryland Historical Society.
  42. 42. The Situationist International • The SI was an international group of revolutionary artists, critics, activists, and art world members with Marxist ideas who sought change. • The SI orchestrated many Happening- like events that interrupted the normal flow of everyday life. • Some scholars argue the SI had a role in the student uprisings of Paris in 1968, but that has been debunked by others. Situationists coming out from the British Sailors Society during the 4th Conference of the Situationist International. The situationists assembled in London were: Guy Debord,Jacqueline de Jong, Jorn Kotánvi, Jörgen Nash, Prem, Sturm, Maurice Wyckaert, and H.P. Zimmer.
  43. 43. Fluxus• Contemporary to Happenings was Fluxus.• Fluxus was a loosely bound group of international interdisciplinary artists (writers, composers, actors, visual artists, and performers) who began to exhibit together around 1962.• There is no distinct Fluxus style.• There was a shared concern over the artist as a commodity.• For this reason, Fluxus found alternative exhibition spaces. – Many of their exhibitions took place in the apartments of its members, most often that of Yoko Ono.• Fluxus art was political, however it was not obvious about its declarations.
  44. 44. Fluxus• Fluxus took its name from the belief that art was in a constant state of “flux”.• Fluxus believed the personal was artistic and that art should be accessible to all people.• Its roots lie in the work of composer John Cage and artists Marcel Duchamp and Allan Kaprow.• The first Fluxus event was organized by Maciunas 1961 at the AG Gallery in New York, the first Fluxus festivals took place in Europe in 1962. – As a movement, it was espcially popular in Germany an Japan. The Fluxus Manifesto written by George Maciunas in 1963.
  45. 45. “I see life as the playground of our minds.” —Yoko OnoYoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965. As performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC on March 21, 1965.
  46. 46. FluxusYoko Ono (b. 1933)• Like the SI, Fluxus had political leanings to the left.• Fluxus artists created work in attempts to merge the personal and political paving the way for feminist artists.• Much of Fluxus art had a performative aspect. Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965. As performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC on March 21, 1965.
  47. 47. FluxusYoko Ono (b. 1933)• In the 1960s, Ono’s work was characterized by her one word instructions like Breath Piece and Laugh Piece.• The best known is Cut Piece.• In this performance, the artist sat on stage, dressed in black next to scissors with the instructions-cut.• Audience members one by one cut her clothes away until the performance had to be stopped. – Ono tests our boundaries, tests how far we will go, how far we will let others go. – It reveals the deviant side of human nature. – She makes herself vulnerable to her audience. Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965. As performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC on March 21, 1965.
  48. 48. FluxusJoseph Beuys (1921-1986)• Beuys had links to both Fluxus and Happenings.• He was a multi-media artist who created sculpture, video, and performance pieces.• His pieces usually integrated fat and felt in some way.• His teachings are his greatest legacy.• Beuys exploited Performance art in effort to bridge the gap between art and life. Joseph Beuys, How To Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965. Performance piece at the Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf.
  49. 49. FluxusJoseph Beuys (1921-1986)• As an instructor, Beuys insisted his classes be open to any wanting to sit in. – For this (and other reasons) he was fired.• His piece, How To Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare features the artist covered in honey and gold holding a deaf hare mumbling. – The work challenged the audience to allow for the aesthetic experience in face of the abject. Joseph Beuys, How To Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965. Performance piece at the Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf.
  50. 50. Early Video, Performance, and Body Art
  51. 51. Video ArtNam June Paik (1932-2006)• Artist Nam June Paik was a leader in exploring the potential of video art.• Paik saw the sculptural possibilities in electronic wires and TV antennas.• Paik worked collaboratively with Moorman, a cellist, who agreed to wear small TV screens as she performed. – Because she was totally naked, minus the TV screen bra Paik made for her, she was arrested. Nam June Paik, with Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991), TV Bra for Living Sculpture, 1969. Television sets and
  52. 52. Performance Art“I’m not interested in adding to thecollection of things that are art, but[in] investigating the possibility ofwhat art may be.” -Bruce Nauman Bruce Nauman, Self-Portrait as a Fountain, 1966-1970. Color photograph, 19 ¾” x 23 ¾.” Edition of eight.
  53. 53. R. Mutt (Marcel Duchamp), Fountain, 1917/1964.Readymade: porcelain urinal. 9.3”x 7.1” cm, height 23.6”• Nauman took inspiration from Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. Bruce Nauman, Self-Portrait as a Fountain, 1966- 1970. Color photograph, 19 ¾” x 23 ¾.” Edition of eight.
  54. 54. Performance ArtBruce Nauman (b. 1941)• Nauman’s work is about making art from what is available-himself and whatever materials are around him.• He made the decision early on to investigate what art may be. – This has him often recreating or modernizing works of modern art, like Duchamp’s Fountain. Bruce Nauman, Self-Portrait as a Fountain, 1966-1970. Color photograph, 19 ¾” x 23 ¾.” Edition of eight.
  55. 55. Body Art• Exploration of the body’s potential as an art object had significant symbolic meaning for women in the 1960s and 1970s.• Female artists used the body to make political statements about the art economy and social policies.• Artists Carolee Schneemann (b.1939) and Hannah Wilke (1940-1993) made some of the most significant contributions in early body art.
  56. 56. Body ArtCarolee Schneemann (b. 1939)• New Paltz artist and former faculty, Schneemann first began performing with the Judson Memorial Dance Group in the mid- 1960s.• She became known for her often erotic, ritualistic performance pieces that take the body as medium.• Meat Joy, one of her best known works, has been described as an orgiastic lust for life. – Unlike a Happening, Meat Joy was choreographed. Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy, first performed – It utilized various types of meat 1964 as part of the First Festival of Free throughout the performance. Expression at the American Center in Paris, and later at Judson Memorial Church in NYC
  57. 57. Body Art/Early Feminist ArtCarolee Schneemann (b. 1939)• The artist has said the work was about liberation from aesthetics, from the conventions maintained by artists who worked in a similar vein like Klein and his Anthropometries. Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy, first performed 1964 as part of the First Festival of Free Expression at the American Center in Paris, and later at Judson Memorial Church in NYC
  58. 58. Carolee Schneemann, Interior Scroll, 1975.Ilfachrome print. © Carolee Schneemann. Photograph by Anthony McCall
  59. 59. Body Art/Early Feminist ArtCarolee Schneemann (b. 1939)• Schneemann is best known for Interior Scroll, a piece that has the artist standing on top of a table, pull a long scroll of paper from her vagina, and then read what it says.• Because the work was a performance piece, it is known to us only through photographs, it was not recorded.• The scroll speaks of a female artist’s confrontation with a male filmmaker.• Her work defies convention and gives the female body agency; it is also an Carolee Schneemann, Interior Scroll, early celebration of the female body as 1975. Ilfachrome print. © Carolee producer of meaning. Schneemann. Photograph by Anthony McCall.
  60. 60. Body Art/Early Feminist ArtHannah Wilke (1940-1993)• Like Schneemann, Wilke used her body as medium to interrupt the dominant paradigm of Woman.• In her S.O.S. series Wilke strike alluring poses reminiscent of Playboy centerfolds to turn the gaze back on itself. – She had been criticized by many, including many feminist artists and scholars, for not presenting more of a challenge and for her use of visually explicit images some felt did not subjugate the gaze. Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. Starification Object Series, 1974-1982. Mixed media, 40 ½” x 58”. Los Angeles
  61. 61. Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. Starification Object Series, 1974-1982. Mixed media, 40 ½” x 58”. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. • To realize her work, the artist had visitors to her shows chew on gum then give it back to her. • She then attached the gum, complete with chew marks, to her body photographed herself in “sexy” poses. • The gum serves as small Minimalist sculpture reminiscent of scars or scarification the artist says represents an awareness of the Holocaust. • The poses satirize American beauty and femininity. Close-up of the gum used in Hannah Wilke, S.O.S.Starification Object Series, 1974-1982. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.