Lives: exhibition and catalogue organized by Jeffrey Deitch
The Fine Arts Building, 105 Hudson St., NYC
November 29 - December 20, 1975
The Fine Arts Building grabbed the attention of the New York art world in the fall of 1975 with three vanguard group exhibitions organized by young curators committed to working with the most venturesome talents. The first of the shows, "Not Photography," was curated by Edit DeAk, a co-founder of the alternative magazine Artrite and an assistant at Artists Space during its first years on Wooster Street. Susan Penzner, who ran a gallery out of her uptown apartment, sold advertisement for Artforum, and was a hostess at the popular art hangout One Fifth Avenue, was the curator of "Self-Portraits." The third show, "Lives," was the most ambitious and the only one with a catalogue. It was the first independent curatorial venture of Jeffrey Deitch, a 23-year old gallery assistant at the John Weber Gallery, who in later years became a major player in the art world.
As an artist with works in "Not Photography" and "Lives," I attended all of the openings that now blur together in memory. They were exciting occasions enlivened by provocative art, “conceptual” works dealing with messy personal and political issues that often centered on their artist-creators. Many of these pieces were blatantly sexual and manipulative. "Self-Portraits" included James Collins' predatory photographs of him staring at attractive women whom he was able to pick up with the promise that they would be included in a work of art. Most talked about at the "Lives" opening was Hannah Wilke's vengeful sound piece "Intercourse With…," featuring embarrassing, personal messages left on her phone answering machine by her ex-lover Claes Oldenburg. Compared to these works, the "Paparazzi Self-Portraits" I showed in "Not Photography" and the portrait of art dealer Ivan Karp included in "Lives," were cautious and restrained.
The "Lives" catalogue included a short analytic essay by Deitch, followed by a page by each artist in the exhibition. It records a period of transition when the most daring artists were producing works that could broadly be termed conceptual, but who were beginning to break away from the genre's formalist and didactic tendencies in favor of personal expression and a fuller investigation of the role of art in the bigger world. The "Lives" catalogue presents the 1970s art world that I knew and it is the context that shaped my own work. The ramifications of this moment were many and diverse. Much of the art featured on this website -- the works in the Punk Art catalogue and the ABC No Rio book – can be traced back to the "Lives" artists, and demonstrates how their post-conceptual art evolved into the variations of interactive art predominant over the next decades.