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Page 1: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity
Page 2: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

conceptual art and the politics of publicity

Page 3: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England

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a l e x a n d e r a l b e r r o

conceptual art and the politics of publicity

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© 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or

mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval)

without permission in writing from the publisher.

The illustrations in this book are reprinted courtesy of the Siegelaub Collection & Archives, Teaneck,

New Jersey, and Amsterdam.

This book was set in Caecilia Light and Trade Gothic by Graphic Composition, Inc., Athens, Georgia,

and was printed and bound in the United States of America.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Alberro, Alexander.

Conceptual art and the politics of publicity / Alexander Alberro.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-262-01196-4 (hc. : alk. paper)

1. Conceptual art—United States. 2. Art—Marketing. I. Title.

N6512.5.C64 A43 2003



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To Arielle and Nora

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The Contradictions of Conceptual Art

Chapter One 6

Art, Advertising, Sign Value

Chapter Two 26

Art as Idea


Primary and Secondary Information

Chapter Three 60

Locations, Variables, and Durations

Chapter Four 84

The Linguistic Turn

Chapter Five 102


PART I I I 123

Artists’ Rights and Product Management

Chapter Six 130

The Xerox Degree of Art

Chapter Seven 152

The Siegelaub Idea




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I.1 Duane Michaels, Seth Siegelaub, 1969 3

1.1 Installation view, Laura Knott Gallery, Bradford Junior College,

4 February–2 March 1968: Carl Andre, Untitled (144 Pieces of Zinc), 1968;

Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1967; Robert Barry, Untitled, 1967 17

1.2 Robert Barry, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, and Carl Andre 19

at the Windham College symposium, 30 April 1968

1.3 Carl Andre, Joint, 1968, as installed at Windham College, 30 April–31 May 1968 21

2.1 Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967 31

2.2 Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1968, as installed at Gallery 669,

Los Angeles, October 1968 33

2.3 Sol LeWitt, Serial Project No. 1 (Set A), 1966 36

2.4 Sol LeWitt, Serial Project No. 1 (Set B), 1966 37

2.5 Sol LeWitt, Serial Project No. 1 (Set C), 1966 37


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2.6 Joseph Kosuth in Newsweek, 29 July 1968; photograph by Lawrence Fried 43

2.7 Lawrence Weiner, Two Minutes of Spray Paint Directly upon the Floor

from a Standard Aerosol Can, 1968 46

2.8 Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967 48

2.9 Joseph Kosuth, Second Investigation, I. Existence (Art as Idea as Idea),

1968, as installed in the exhibition “January 5–31, 1969” 50

II.1 Publicity photograph by Seth Siegelaub featuring the four participating artists

in “January 5–31, 1969”: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth,

and Lawrence Weiner 58

3.1 Douglas Huebler, Truro Series 3-66, 1966 61

3.2 Douglas Huebler, Rochester Trip, 1968 67

3.3 Cover of Douglas Huebler: November 1968, 1968 76

3.4 Douglas Huebler, Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 1968 78

3.5 Douglas Huebler, Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 1968 78

3.6 Douglas Huebler, Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 1968 79

3.7 Douglas Huebler, Variable Piece #1, 1968 81

4.1 Lawrence Weiner, installation of Propeller paintings at Seth Siegelaub Fine Arts,

10 November–5 December 1964 85

4.2 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1966 87

4.3 Lawrence Weiner, Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf, as installed at Windham College,

30 April–31 May 1968 90

4.4 Lawrence Weiner, Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf, as installed at Windham College,

30 April–31 May 1968 91

4.5 Lawrence Weiner, Six Ten Penny Common Steel Nails. Nails to Be Driven into

Floor at Indicated Terminal Points, 1968 94

4.6 Lawrence Weiner, A 36 � x 36 � Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of Plaster

or Wallboard from a Wall, 1968, as installed in the exhibition “January 5–31, 1969” 99

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5.1 Robert Barry, installation of paintings at Westerly Gallery, New York, 1964 104

5.2 Robert Barry, Untitled, 1967–1968 108

5.3 Robert Barry, Untitled, 1967 110

5.4 Robert Barry, Untitled, as installed at Windham College, 30 April–31 May 1968 112

5.5 Robert Barry, 88 mc Carrier Wave (FM), 1968; and 1600 kc Carrier Wave (AM),

1968, as installed in “January 5–31, 1969” 116

5.6 Robert Barry, Inert Gas Series: Helium, 1969 119

III.1 Vassilakis Takis removing Tele-Sculpture, 1965, from the exhibition “The Machine

as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age,” Museum of Modern Art,

New York, 3 January 1969 126

6.1 Advertisement in Artforum announcing the exhibition “Douglas Huebler:

November 1968,” 1968 132

6.2 Mel Bochner, Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily

Meant to Be Viewed as Art, as installed at the School of Visual Arts Gallery,

New York, 1966 134

6.3 Carl Andre, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book” 137

6.4 Carl Andre, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book” 138

6.5 Carl Andre, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book” 139

6.6 Sol LeWitt, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book” 141

6.7 Lawrence Weiner, A Rectangular Removal from a Xeroxed Graph Sheet in Proportion

to the Overall Dimensions of the Sheet, 1968, from “The Xerox Book” 143

6.8 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968 144

6.9 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968 145

6.10 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968 146

7.1 Cover of July, August, September 1969, 1969 158

7.2 Pages from Prospect 69, 1969 162

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7.3 Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale

Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971 165

7.4 Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale

Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971 166

7.5 Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale

Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971 167

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The research and writing phases of this project were facilitated by the generosity of the

Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, the University of Florida Scholarship

Enhancement Fund, the Graduate School at Northwestern University, and the National

Endowment for the Humanities.

My thanks go first of all to Michael Leja for his perspicacious advice when this

project began. He, as well as Whitney Davis, Hollis Clayson, and Nancy J. Troy, were partic-

ularly generous in giving me support and intellectual guidance when it was most needed.

I am also grateful to Eric de Bruyn, Margit Grieb, Serge Guilbaut, Anne Rorimer, Martha

Rosler, and Blake Stimson. Their responses to certain sections of the manuscript were

invaluable. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh in particular deserves special credit for his encourage-

ment and wise counsel throughout the research phase of this project.

Thanks are also due to Robert Barry, Daniel Buren, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke,

Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Christine Kozlov, Ursula Meyer, Patricia Norvell, Brian

O’Doherty, Theresa Schwartz, and especially Seth Siegelaub and Lucy R. Lippard, for mak-

ing their archives available. Siegelaub, in particular, facilitated this project in many ways,

while taking special care to allow my own interpretations to emerge. All of the illustrations

in this book come from the Siegelaub Collection & Archives. For granting me interviews and

otherwise corresponding, I thank Vito Acconci, Carl Andre, Terry Atkinson, Jo Baer, Robert

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Barry, Iain Baxter, Mel Bochner, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Leo Castelli, Paula Cooper,

Eduardo Costa, Hanne Darboven, Raymond Dirks, Dan Flavin, Dan Graham, Manny Greer,

Hans Haacke, Charles Harrison, Jon Hendricks, Douglas Huebler, Donald Judd, Mary Kelly,

Joseph Kosuth, Christine Kozlov, Sol LeWitt, Lucy Lippard, Robert Morris, Barbara Novak,

Brian O'Doherty, Adrian Piper, Theresa Schwartz, Seth Siegelaub, Robert Topol, Jeff Wall,

John Weber, and Lawrence Weiner. Additionally, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Roger

Conover, who was never reticent about offering criticisms, advice, and editorial suggestions,

and to Matthew Abbate and the entire MIT Press staff for their expert and indefatigable

assistance throughout the preparation of this book. As for my friends Ron Clark, Caroline

Constant, Robert Haywood, James Meyer, and Lora Rempel, who read and reread drafts of

this text and made pertinent comments, I hope they already know of my deep apprecia-

tion. Above all, thanks go to Nora M. Alter, who has helped with the organization, precision,

and clarity of this text, and whose intellectual influence, incalculably diffusive, is on every


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PART I the contradictions of conceptual art

The economic aspect of conceptual art is perhaps the most interesting. From the moment when

ownership of the work did not give its owner the great advantage of control of the work acquired,

this art was implicated in turning back on the question of the value of its private appropriation.

How can a collector possess an idea?

—Seth Siegelaub, 19731

The figure of the artist transformed dramatically during the 1960s. The fit-for-Hollywood fic-

tion of the tragic individual heroically converting raw matter into high art had already been

challenged during its ascendancy in the 1950s, and manifestly revised on a variety of levels

by the beginning of the following decade. But as the 1960s progressed, a new generation of

artists went considerably beyond undermining concepts of personal expression in art, in fa-

vor of a persistent experimentation with novel methods and materials coupled with an un-

precedented careerism. In the process, they increasingly resembled personnel in other

specialized professions in which success came to those who managed and publicized their

work most strategically.

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That the ethos of the younger artists, many with advanced degrees and middle-

class aspirations, seemed to parallel developments in the world of business and the emer-

gent managerial class was recognized more and more. As Allan Kaprow declared in a 1964

essay, “If artists were in hell in 1946, now they are in business.” Leading increasingly expedi-

ent social lives, Kaprow continues, “artists today cannot leave their entire careers to chance,

because they will find that others, attending to their own careers, will close them out.”2 The

critic Barbara Rose expressed a similar sentiment the following year when she complained

that “among art students, one perceives a ‘make it’ mentality,” and in 1967 Alan Solomon

noted that “it has become ever more difficult to tell the artists from the collectors.”3 But it is

the corporate sponsor’s statement introducing the 1969 conceptual art exhibition “When At-

titudes Become Form” that best sums up the new overlap between business and the arts. The

president of Philip Morris Europe declared:

We at Philip Morris feel it is appropriate that we participate in bringing these works to the attention of

the public for there is a key element in this “new art” which has its counterpart in the business world.

That element is innovation—without which it would be impossible for progress to be made in any seg-

ment of society. Just as the artist endeavors to improve his interpretation and conceptions through in-

novation, the commercial entity strives to improve its end product or service through experimentation

with new methods and materials. Our constant search for a new and better way in which to perform

and produce is akin to the questionings of the artists whose works are represented here.4

Many in the multinational corporate world of the 1960s likewise imagined ambitious art not

as an enemy to be undermined or a threat to consumer culture, but as a symbolic ally. They

welcomed the new art because they perceived in it a counterpart to their own pursuit of new

products and markets.

This shift was not an isolated event. Rather it was paralleled by the new kind of so-

ciety that emerged in parts of the globe most affected by the force fields of multinational cap-

italism. Variously described as postindustrial, information, and consumer society, it was

marked, among other things, by novel modes of communication and distribution of infor-

mation, new types of consumption, an ever-more-rapid rhythm of fashion and style changes,

and the proliferation of advertising and the media to an unprecedented degree. Providing

services and manipulating information became the heart of this new economic paradigm,

which Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have appropriately termed informatization.5


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The emergence of conceptual art is closely related to this new moment of advanced

capitalism. Indeed, conceptualism’s unusual formal features and mode of circulation in many

ways utilize and enact the deeper logic of informatization. This is nowhere more clearly evident

than in the innovative exhibition and distribution practices masterminded by the conceptual

art dealer and entrepreneur Seth Siegelaub (fig. I.1), referred to in the late 1960s as “the Kahn-

weiler of the latter part of the twentieth century.”6 Prior to his abrupt departure from the art

world in 1971, Siegelaub organized a large number of pivotal and highly in fluential conceptual

art exhibitions. In the process he played a central role in the transformation of art exhibition

and production practices in the late 1960s.7 An investigation of the emergence of conceptual

art through the lens of Siegelaub’s involvement with this art movement provides not only an

understanding of the shifting public persona of the artist and the full-scale incorporation of art,

but also a glimpse of the relationship that was established between the new economies of aes-

thetic value and the politicized cultural critique that erupted in the late 1960s.

the con


s of concep

tual art


I.1Duane Michaels, Seth Siegelaub, 1969

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Such a lens, however, while sharpening the focus, also necessarily limits the scope of

what initially constituted conceptual art in several significant regards. The first is geographical:

although one of the basic aims of conceptualism was precisely to decenter the “artworld,” this

study will have a New York bias, as this was not only the location from which Siegelaub prima-

rily operated in the 1960s but also “the center for artistic promotion, reviews, books, galleries,

et cetera.”8 The second concerns the issue of gender: all of the artists associated with Siegelaub

were male, which unfortunately gives the impression that female artists were not involved in

the early history of conceptualism. This is inaccurate: the significance of, among others, Rose-

marie Castoro, Hanne Darboven, Christine Kozlov, Lee Lozano, Adrian Piper, and Yvonne Rainer

in the early history of conceptual art should not be underestimated.9 But as Siegelaub did not

give them priority, the resulting picture appears to be somewhat of a “boys’ club.” The third limit

is related to the first: those treated in this study are all U.S. artists. Again, this should not di-

minish the relevant and important work of European, Latin American, Australian, Canadian, or

Asian conceptual artists in the late 1960s.10 Finally: temporally its scope will be limited to the

period when Siegelaub was actively involved in the art world, between 1964 and 1971. I shall

therefore discuss neither the important work of post-conceptual artists of the 1970s such as

Conrad Atkinson, Victor Burgin, Mary Kelly, John Knight, Barbara Kruger, and Martha Rosler, nor

the work of the many neo-conceptual artists of the 1980s and 1990s.

Standard accounts have tended to claim that conceptual art strove to negate the

commodity status of art but failed. Lucy Lippard, the foremost critic and defender of con-

ceptual art in the moment of its emergence, heralded this view as early as 1972, when she

lamented that the movement had rapidly capitulated to market forces and achieved com-

mercial success.11 Yet the idea that the political economy of conceptual art sought to elimi-

nate the commodity status of the art object, while highly provocative, is mythical. To be sure,

artists and dealers had to grapple with the problem of how a collector would be able to pur-

chase and possess a work during the early history of conceptualism, but there was never a

moment when they did not seek to market the art. As Siegelaub indicated in the early 1970s,

questions of how to transfer ownership and satisfy the collector’s desire to own an authen-

tic art object (even if there was no longer an art object in the conventional sense) soon be-

came passé, as ways were developed to transfer the “signature” of the artist, or “a certificate

of ownership” for the work, to the art patron.12

Along with establishing Siegelaub’s crucial role in the commercial packaging of

conceptual art, this book explores the relationship between the highly innovative exhibition


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and distribution practices he developed in the late 1960s and the ongoing aesthetic dialogue

in the work of the artists associated with him during this period. The contradictory nature of

Siegelaub’s role has to be addressed in all its complexity. This account will consider his suc-

cess in organizing and promoting a group of young artists concerned more with overturning

the status quo in the art world and reaching a mass public than with questions of aesthet-

ics. This “explosion,” as Daniel Buren termed it in retrospect, facilitated by the radical trans-

formation of the aesthetic object, greatly benefited artists who sought to oppose the

established hierarchies and economies of value regulating the art world.13 Yet, at the very

moment that Siegelaub’s ingenious exhibition and distribution practices made art widely

available and generated modes of artistic consumption heretofore unknown, a much more

problematic aspect of his practice emerged. This feature was singled out by Siegelaub’s

longest associate in the art world, Lawrence Weiner, as early as 1971:

WS: Would you say something about Seth Siegelaub’s role . . . ?

LW: Well, he put the work together, and he instigated a complete narration that has become viable

within the culture, and accepted as an entity. He packaged disparate artists who had the same gen-

eral feeling towards the way of art. . . . He was the advertising agency, there was no art role in-

volved in that.

WS: But it can’t be denied that Seth had an awareness of something that was happening in the cul-

ture in advance of almost everyone else.

LW: Absolutely. Seth did a very good job. His packaging and his selling were done in a superb man-

ner. He also had very good material to work with. He did have the best dishwashing liquid


Reading the emergence of conceptual art through the perspective of Siegelaub’s

practices of exhibition and distribution thus provides a glimpse into the inherently contra-

dictory nature of this art movement—in which the egalitarian pursuit of publicness and the

emancipation from traditional forms of artistic value were as definitive as the fusion of the

artwork with advertising and display. The oscillation between these two developments is

the problem at hand, one that defines conceptual art as much as it does the cultural possi-

bilities of the present.

the con


s of concep

tual art


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As one of my favorite poets, Ezra Pound, once said, the beef stew cooking on the stove doesn’t

need any advertising. It has advertising. It has its aroma. You can smell the beef stew on the

stove. But the beef stew in the can has to be advertised. Somebody has to sell it to you. It can’t

sell itself.

—Carl Andre, 19681

We specialize in the development and organization of public relations programs involving the fine

arts. The art program is the medium through which you tell your story to the community. . . .

[It is] designed to give you maximum return on your public relations dollar.

—Seth Siegelaub and Jack Wendler, 19672

When Seth Siegelaub opened his gallery in New York in June 1964 he was only twenty-three

years old. The circumstances were favorable, as the 1960s were boom years in economic

terms and the future promised endless growth. This euphoria carried over into all areas of

chapter one

art, advertising, sign value

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speculation, including the art business. Art was being purchased at record rates, and a new

type of patronage was emerging that differed dramatically from that of the elite circles that

had previously dominated the art market in the United States.3 “In a short span of time,”

wrote one observer in 1966,

serious avant-garde collecting changed from a private depreciated “act” of commitment to untested

ideas into a conspicuous public activity that drew more and more eager recruits from the new

age of affluence. Advocacy and support of experimental art has now gained such a hold on the

American imagination that the normal lag between artistic invention and its public acceptance is


“Experimental” art had various attractions for the “eager recruits.” For one thing, it

now had investment value—a phenomenon that had long evaded the contemporary art mar-

ket. Whereas buyers of art as an investment in the first postwar years generally patronized

more traditional work, during the early 1960s speculation permeated every facet of the art

market, including contemporary art.5 Astute collectors and investors discovered that contem-

porary art, which could be purchased at bargain prices because of its newfangledness, had

enormous investment potential. Furthermore, the patronage of innovative art gave collecting

the same sense of adventure and risk-taking that existed in the world of business. The cumu-

lative effect of these trends, coupled with changes in tax laws, contributed to a booming mar-

ket for contemporary art that in turn inflated the exchange value of art and attracted an even

greater number of interested patrons. Financial journals made investment recommendations

for art, singling out the potential of the work of a number of artists and artistic movements,

and newspapers covered museum and gallery exhibitions more thoroughly in their social col-

umns. In 1963, a Life magazine article boldly announced that “more buyers than ever sail into

a broadening [art] market.” The article included reproductions of work by a number of young

artists, along with a price range for each.6 Two years later, a feature in Newsweek, “Vanity Fair:

The New York Art Scene,” focused on how the art world as an institution had become the cen-

ter of attention and the artist a supplier of commodities in an exchange of fashionable goods.7

But there was more to the growing market for ambitious new art during the early

1960s. As important as monetary value was the prestige this type of patronage could bring

the collector in the new phase of image-centered capitalism. As the contemporary art scene

became a subject of interest in the popular press, the media increasingly gave the purchasers

the con


s of concep

tual art

art, advertisin

g, sign valu


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of experimental art some of the same attention they gave the artists.8 Articles often featured

tag lines such as “These pictures are like IBM stock, don’t forget that, and this is the time to

buy,” alongside photographs of hip-looking collectors in front of their accumulations of con-

temporary art.9 The new collectors clearly enjoyed the limelight, and when quoted, in true

American fashion, were anything but culturally pretentious. As one explained to the jour-

nalist of a 1965 Life magazine article: “I don’t even look at the pictures. I just know they’re

there—and that I have the best and biggest collection in the world.”10

Thus for the young, upwardly mobile art enthusiasts, many with college back-

grounds and some knowledge of art history, untried contemporary art was at once a poten-

tial investment, a means by which to differentiate themselves from their past, and a way of

distinguishing themselves from their more established, and for the most part aesthetically

conservative, peers. Experimental art was hip, and, because of its inherently tenuous char-

acter, the contemporary art world provided a space for the ambitious newly rich to locate

themselves on the way up the social ladder. Francis O’Connor comments on this phenome-

non in “Notes on Patronage: The 1960s,” written as the great wartime prosperity collapsed

and the art market ran out of steam in the recession of the early 1970s: “This new audience

was made up of young, mobile, affluent, highly trained technocrats, eager to enjoy the com-

forts of their class—one of which was art. Art magically combined characteristics irresistible

to these nouveau[x] riche[s]: it was prestigious to own and conspicuous to display, and vied

with the stock market in investment potential.”11

Unlike the connoisseurs of the past, many of whom had made of art collecting a dil-

ettantish avocation, the new collectors typically remained active in their workaday world,

with art a part of that world rather than a relief or escape from its values or pressures. Sup-

porting this outlook was the increased presence of “art” in corporate offices and buildings. In

practice this subtle shift, whereby art now proliferated in the workplace as well as in muse-

ums and private collections, meant a decreased emphasis on the opinions of established art

critics and scholars and an increased and more evident reliance on art galleries and dealers,

whose advice often emphasized the exchange value of works of art alongside their aesthetic

value. The impact of the new market patterns that this new group of collectors put into ef-

fect, together with the ecstatic coverage of the art scene in the mass media, combined to ef-

fect a near total reversal of the traditional processes by which artists were recognized.

Whereas erudite art critics previously played a significant role in establishing reputations, in

the 1960s new collectors of vanguard art began to purchase the work of artists prior to criti-


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cal “legitimation,” increasing the artists’ recognition and fiscal opportunities. Here is how the

critic Harold Rosenberg put it at the time:

The texture of collaboration between dealers, collectors and exhibitors has become increasingly

dense to the point at which the artist is confronted by a solid wall of opinion and fashion forecasts

constructed, essentially, out of the data of the art market. . . . The presence of this potent profes-

sional establishment has radically affected the relation, once largely regulated by the taste of pa-

trons, of the artist to society and to his own product.12

As Rosenberg suggests, in this fundamental reconception of patronage the entre-

preneurial, innovative, and often historically naive art dealer replaced the highly specialized

art critic as the central conduit between artists and their audience. The critic, who had had

a continuing importance throughout the era of the New York School, was no longer the pri-

mary arbiter of artistic success. Despite the move away from elitism, what emerged was an

increased collusion among dealers, collectors, curators, and artists, where value was fixed

by “trendiness” and, ultimately, by “marketability.” The potential “power” of the collection in

determining an artwork’s value was also on the rise. As Siegelaub notes in a 1969 interview,

collectors often approached artists with “some line of horseshit about a very important col-

lection, they say, ‘Sell it to me very cheaply because you’ll be in my collection.’”13 Value, in this

new scheme, was determined by a “collection” and, by direct extension, by an ambitious col-

lector with little or no knowledge about art. Siegelaub declares in conversation with Charles

Harrison in 1969 that people are aware of art through printed media and conversation, or

through publicity and rumor—two venues that Siegelaub was to exploit during the mid-

1960s.14 “By 1965,” one observer put it a decade later,

it was almost immaterial who had written an article on an artist, where the article appeared, or how

complimentary it was. Since more and more collectors of vanguard art lived outside the art world,

they did not always read such abstruse journals as Artforum, at least not word for word. A photo-

graph used to illustrate an article on an artist often proved more effective in marketing his work than

the article itself. For the same reason, an article in Time, Life, or the New York Times was more

useful to a dealer than an article in one of the art journals. Ironically, articles which criticized an

artist’s work began to have the same effect as articles which praised it: both brought the artist to

the public’s often casual attention.15

the con


s of concep

tual art

art, advertisin

g, sign valu


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This last comment resonates almost explicitly with the findings of Harrison and Cynthia

White’s 1965 study of the French art world.16 Interestingly, the writer’s point was not that pos-

itive criticism was now indistinguishable from negative, but that all such distinctions were

irrelevant in the burgeoning art marketplace of the 1960s. The passage directs attention to

the shift during this decade from serious intellectual critique and analysis to the crucial im-

portance of publicity. Within this atmosphere a new type of dealer emerged, one who had to

appeal to collectors but maintain a distance from them at the same time.


Located at 16 West 56th Street in New York, Siegelaub’s gallery—Seth Siegelaub Contempo-

rary Art—dealt not only in fine art but also in Oriental rugs, which were sometimes incor-

porated into shows.17 This coupling provided the dealer an appropriate setting to project the

image of the art collector as a highly cultured individual surrounded by refined objects. Ad-

ditionally, the combination of new art and old, “timeless” rugs inevitably suggested that this

particular “new” would also withstand time and become “priceless.” Siegelaub’s aggressive

promotion of his gallery is evident in the structure of his first exhibition (14 September–10

October 1964). He arranged paintings and sculptures by a number of artists throughout the

gallery space and placed couches and chairs on an exotic carpet in the center of the room.

The gallery visitor was encouraged to lounge in the seats and experience the show as an

overall environment.18

The vanguard aspects of Siegelaub’s exhibition strategy were even clearer in the

gallery’s second show, scheduled in late December 1964, which featured a carnivalesque

“conscious[ness] expanding experience” by the artist Arni Hendin. This four-day “happening”

also encouraged audience participation through an unpredictable series of encounters.

“During the 22 thru 25 December,” wrote Siegelaub to the collectors Robert and Ethel Scull

on 18 November,

Arni Hendin will be creating an experience at my gallery called “an examination of Social Reac-

tion”—a simulated day in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Important People. As the name suggests there will

be an entire day constructed in the gallery: walls will be made, as will rooms, a subway car, office,

department store, party and private apartment. Mr. and Mrs. Important People will begin their day

in their simulated house and continue through their day to the simulated party. The other people in


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the gallery will watch the I.P. go through their day and play parts in their day as servants, artists,

party-givers, friends, office help, etc. I expect coverage from two art magazines and one paper (so

far), and I plan to tie in with other media as we pick up steam.19

What is remarkable about the “experience” that Siegelaub describes is that it engages in a

sharp social critique of the potential collectors, or “I.P.,” exposing the banality of their routine

lives, while at the same time appealing to the very sources that legitimate such lives—the

mass media—to validate the exhibition. But what I want to single out in particular here is

that right from the beginning of his career Siegelaub places importance on cultivating, shap-

ing, and ensuring press coverage and publicity.20 Over the next several years, he will become

as attentive to the organization of image, artistic (and corporate) identity, and publicity

strategies as to the actual production of art exhibitions. His credo will be that, if marketed

correctly, almost any artwork, no matter how unconventional, could be sold.21

Siegelaub initially sought an identity for his gallery as a site of what were then var-

iously referred to as “action,” “happenings,” and “environments.” Fashioned into sensory ob-

stacle courses, these interiors might include not only the traditional media of painting and

sculpture but also, as Allan Kaprow (with whom the term “happenings” was primarily asso-

ciated at the time) suggested, “objects of every sort . . . , paint, chairs, food, electric and neon

lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, [and] a thousand other things.”22 Kaprow’s

polemic against the immaculate, gallery-bound object, published in what was then the New

York School journal, Art News, was taken up in the years immediately following its publica-

tion by a whole range of artists who sought to reposition artistic practice within everyday life,

breaking down all traditional divisions not only between artistic genres and media, but also

between the actor and spectator, the stage and public space, aesthetic and secular objects.23

And Siegelaub was a participant in this trend, in his capacity as exhibition organizer and

art dealer.

As things turned out, however, the Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art gallery only

operated from 23 June 1964 to the end of April 1966. The increase in the number of collectors

in the 1960s was paralleled by increases in both the number of artists operating in the art

world and the number of galleries. According to one source, in New York City alone there

were nearly one thousand galleries during this period.24 With the proliferation of galleries

outpacing the rise in patronage, competition became more intense and Siegelaub could not

sell enough work to cover the gallery’s overhead.

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But things were by no means over for him. Although he would never again become

affiliated with a particular gallery space, he organized a large number of pivotal and highly

influential exhibitions over the next six years. In the process he played an even more impor-

tant role in the enormous transformation in art exhibition and production practices that

took place during the late 1960s.


When Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art closed in the spring of 1966, Siegelaub shifted

strategies. He took a two-room apartment at Madison Avenue and 82nd Street and began

dealing privately out of his suite. Conducting business in this way meant sparing the ex-

penses of maintaining a gallery. The practice of direct-mail advertising continued, though,

as did the strong promotion of an identified and select group of forward-looking artists—al-

though now a much smaller group.25

Siegelaub installed paintings and sculptures throughout his apartment and main-

tained an invitation-only policy. Through his past dealings he had cultivated various art en-

thusiasts and young businessman-collectors who found the association with artists and

others in this “salon-type” art world as appealing as collecting objects. Another site of busi-

ness for Siegelaub during this period was the Manhattan nightclub Max’s Kansas City on Park

Avenue South at 17th Street, where artists, critics, collectors, and visiting Hollywood celebri-

ties would mingle over drinks and food. Social capital, that network of contacts so important

to a successful career, could be gained there, night after night. Thus Siegelaub’s days would

be spent in his Madison Avenue apartment, tirelessly drafting promotional letters and tele-

phoning prospective patrons, and his evenings socializing and networking at Max’s Kansas

City and other accessible sites of art world activity. Every Sunday afternoon, Siegelaub would

host a soirée, or salon, at his apartment, to which he would invite a select group of collectors,

critics, and museum curators to mingle with the artists he represented. This tactful organi-

zation of an exclusive “inner circle” was the way Siegelaub now did business and showcased

his artists’ work.

But Siegelaub had more than a good eye and adept managerial skills; he also had

an extraordinary knack for promotion and publicity. For a succinct illustration of his entre-

preneurial strategy we have only to look at the agenda and promotion of Image. Art Programs

for Industry, Inc., a service company he incorporated with the wealthy collector and busi-


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nessman Jack Wendler early in 1967. Image presented itself to the corporate world as “a pub-

lic relations specialist.” “We specialize in the development and organization of public rela-

tions programs involving the fine arts,” stated an Image promotional pamphlet targeted at

prospective corporate clients. “The art program is the medium through which you tell your

story to the community. . . . [It is] designed to give you maximum return on your public rela-

tions dollar.”26 No doubt Siegelaub and Wendler were right: art is capable of bestowing per-

sonality dimensions even on corporations. Also clear, though, is that by highlighting the

personal dimension—“your story”—Image establishes a differentiating system. And as a

range of distinguishing marks is keyed to one of personality traits, art comes to play the same

role as did formerly a field of distinct values.27

The infusion of corporate funds was a major element in the expansion of the art

market during the mid-1960s.28 Corporate ideology in that decade was a dynamic force, as the

business world undertook dramatic transformations both of the way it operated and the way

it imagined itself. In significant ways, corporate collectors made clear their preference for

contemporary art over more established work. Many in corporate practice, especially in pub-

lic relations departments, imagined new, innovative art as a symbolic ally in the pursuit of en-

trepreneurship, a partner in their own struggles to revitalize business and the consumer order

generally.29 Furthermore, contemporary trends and innovations in art offered the corporate

patron a progressive image in the business sphere and a public sign of commitment to fresh

ideas. A 1967 text that was clearly directed to corporate executives and shareholders stated:

There are . . . immediate and direct advantages for the corporate collector. . . . Management execu-

tives have come to recognize the many practical benefits in public relations terms—among them,

building goodwill and establishing a reputation for progressiveness. This reputation is vital to the

modern business institution. It influences consumer acceptance of its products; helps attract dy-

namic young talents to the executive roster; satisfies stockholder interest in its ability to compete;

and contributes significantly to heightened respect from all segments of society.30

Thus the corporate patron could share the creed of laissez-faire economists such as Milton

Friedman, who maintained that a corporation’s only responsibility was to produce profits,

and still justify support of the arts as “enlightened self-interest.”31

Siegelaub was evidently determined to mine this new and potentially enormous

source of corporate patronage. In a way that paralleled and fed off the deliberations of the

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1965 Rockefeller Panel Report, and the growing pressure on business and industry to assume

a greater responsibility for the support, growth, and vitality of the country’s artistic life, his

strategy relied on dramatically emphasizing, and bluntly outlining, the legitimation of eco-

nomic and social power that art patronage could bring a corporation, regardless of the criti-

cal political character of the work.32 A case in point is a brochure he drafted in 1967 to

promote Image to prospective corporate clients. This tract, organized around a series of

rhetorical questions posed to the solicited corporation, complete with answers, specifies the

value of an artwork. “Fine Art? Why should we get involved with art?” The answer closely

echoes the calls for corporate patronage of the arts coming from quarters of business and

industry: “Because Fine Art is good business. The contemporary corporation has much to

gain from the identification with the positive virtues the Arts possess.” The advantages are


Specifically, an identification with the Arts will do the following: a. Improve the image of your com-

pany by making your public more aware of what you are doing in the community. b. Assist in de-

veloping a more fully rounded personality for your corporation by adding a Cultural dimension.

c. Provide a bold, unique and exciting element in the presentation of your products and services.

d. Promote greater public acceptance of your corporation and its products and services by making

yourself more attractive and visible in the marketplace.

Another question reads: “Is this the right time to get involved in an art program?” Most


As you are aware, the modern corporation is in the process of increasing its involvement in Amer-

ica’s Cultural life. Within a few years much of the excitement associated with the Arts will have

been exploited, and thus drained of its present Public Relations value. Now is the time to become in-

volved in the Arts and capitalize on the huge reservoir of interest, excitement and good-will.

It is hardly necessary to add that the suggestion that an association with art could

ultimately assist the corporate patron in “moving goods in the marketplace” is at the heart

of the message of this brochure.33 But Siegelaub’s strategy was more particularly to propose

that increased sales would follow from the type of image, prestige, and legitimacy that a cor-

porate patron would gain through collecting art. To paraphrase Pierre Bourdieu, by strategi-


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cally accumulating “cultural capital,” corporations (with high amounts of economic capital

but relatively low amounts of cultural capital) could realign the relationship not merely of

the volume but also of the structure of the capital possessed. In turn, the socially con-

structed prestige value generated for the corporation through the growth of cultural capital

could do double duty. On the one hand, it could allow the corporation to attain a certain

distinction through signifying its benevolence, legitimacy, and pursuit of ideals beyond the

ordinary, instrumentalized world of business. On the other hand, in a relatively short

amount of time this same cultural capital could be “reconverted” into greater economic cap-

ital.34 Here we might recall Jean Baudrillard’s argument in “Sign Function and Class Logic”

that sign values are produced by a “sumptuary” operation connected to expenditure and so-

cial prestige:

Thus objects, their syntax, and their rhetoric refer to social objectives and to a social logic. They

speak to us not so much of the user and of technical practices, as of social pretension and resigna-

tion, of social mobility and inertia, of acculturation and enculturation, of stratification and of social

classification. Through objects, each individual and each group searches out her/his place in an or-

der, all the while trying to jostle this order according to a personal trajectory.35

According to Baudrillard, in contemporary capitalist societies both the object form (use

value) and the commodity form (exchange value) are transfigured into sign value, trans-

formed into a sign pointing to the distinctness, vitality, and benevolence of the patron. With

the emergence of sign value comes a new interest in the psychological and characterologi-

cal traits of the agents—in this case artists—between the merchants and their consumers.

This leads to the development of new forms of perception, both physical and social—new

kinds of seeing, new types of behavior—and the creation of conditions in which altogether

different kinds of art forms are not only possible but desirable, and encouraged by their

new publics.

Seen from this perspective, the structural model on which Siegelaub based his pro-

motion of art is remarkably similar to the operation of advertising—an industry that was on

the cutting edge of shifts in corporate practice in the 1960s. As Thomas Frank has shown,

seeking a single trait by which to characterize the accelerated obsolescence and enhanced

consumer friendliness to change that were the goals of business, the advertising industry in

the middle of the decade settled on “hipness.”36 As with advertising, the issue of novelty and

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currency was crucially important to Siegelaub’s message. Recall that the Image brochure

warned that “within a few years much of the excitement associated with the Arts will have

been exploited, and thus drained of its present Public Relations value. Now is the time to be-

come involved in the Arts and capitalize on the huge reservoir of interest, excitement and


Siegelaub’s relocation of operations from 56th Street to Madison Avenue also sig-

naled a shift in emphasis. No longer the operator of an art gallery, his function was now

closer to that of an advertising executive. His point of view was increasingly calibrated to the

bottom-line interests of the corporation. As the Image brochure announced to the prospec-

tive corporate patron: “Image represents your interests. We do this by seeing the world of art

from your point-of-view.” Here, then, we have the development in art whereby entrepreneurs

such as Siegelaub and Wendler realize the disenchanting and ever-expedient tendencies of

capital. Their publicity program represents a pivotal stage in the development of an instru-

mentalizing tendency that will lead through twists and turns in subsequent years to achieve

the “total” organization and control of even the most innovative and politically progressive

elements of the 1960s art world. The ramifications of this turn will be vast. But this is not to

conflate the meanings and motives of individual action with the logic of the systemic. Siege-

laub and Wendler were conscious of their project, which was a completely rational one. Ulti-

mately, the publicity of art seemed far easier to manipulate than direct sales to art patrons

or segues into the established art world of museums. As for the systemic consequences, we

are of course free to suppose that they could not foresee them or, if they did, that they did

not care.

“ Y O U D O N ’ T N E E D A G A L L E R Y T O S H O W I D E A S ” 3 7

Savvy about publicity, Siegelaub was keenly aware of the importance of staging group exhi-

bitions as events and points of discussion. The identification of artists with a group and with

a specific dealer would enable the public to place them. Thus in early 1968 he organized two

shows featuring the work of three artists affiliated with him, Carl Andre, Robert Barry, and

Lawrence Weiner. The two exhibitions were not only highly publicized but also supple-

mented with well-documented public symposia featuring the artists. The first show opened

in February at the Laura Knott Gallery of Bradford Junior College in Bradford, Massachusetts,

and the second in April at Windham College, a small liberal arts institution in Putney, Ver-


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Installation view, Laura Knott Gallery, Bradford Junior College, 4 February–2 March 1968:

1.1 Carl Andre, Untitled (144 Pieces of Zinc), 1968; Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1967; Robert

Barry, Untitled, 1967

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mont.38 Not coincidentally, both venues were removed from New York City, then indisputably

the epicenter of the art world.

In contrast to the completely controlled, almost ideal interior space of the Laura

Knott Gallery exhibition (fig. 1.1), Windham College did not have a gallery, and Siegelaub sug-

gested that the artists produce temporary, outdoor, site-specific sculptural installations on

the college campus. The installations, made entirely with materials indigenous to the area,

would only function within the specific campus sites, and for the duration of the exhibition.

As Siegelaub envisioned it, this show would break, or displace, the traditional institutional

framework of a work of art. In an unpublished essay entitled “The Enclosure” that he wrote

immediately following the Windham College show, Siegelaub stated:

The contention that the framing convention of a work of art was implicit was accepted a priori by

the majority of painting and sculpture of the late 50s and early 60s. Painting became involved in the

role of the art as object ignoring, in this acceptance of logical art history progression, the implica-

tion of the object and its relation to its physical context (walls, floors, ceilings, and the room itself ).

Sculpture revealing its intrinsic objecthood, not burdened by the problems of illusionism, seemed

to accept its delimiting or placement as implicit or become architectural (environmental) hence


Thus Siegelaub traces the development from a type of late modernist art that un-

problematically accepts the traditional framing conventions, to works that take into consid-

eration the room in which they are placed and works (necessarily sculptural) that integrate

with the broader environment and become architectural. In an obvious sense, this notion is

related to the development from painting to sculpture or “three dimensional objects” that

Donald Judd articulated in his 1965 manifesto “Specific Objects,” and to Robert Morris’s con-

temporary account of minimalist sculpture as contingent with its environment in his 1966

“Notes on Sculpture.”40 But Siegelaub’s observations also relate the sculptural installations

exhibited at Windham College to the emerging phenomenon of land art, begun in the previ-

ous year with the projects of Michael Heizer, Walter de Maria, and Dennis Oppenheim,

among others.

By mid-1968, the Windham College show was identified as a linchpin in the slow

but steady move away from institutions that developed into an integral element in the re-

flection and production of postminimal sculpture of the late 1960s. An art critic signing his


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1.2 Robert Barry, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, and Carl Andre at the Windham College

symposium, 30 April 1968

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name Arthur R. Rose categorically asserted this aspect of the exhibition in an unpublished

essay written in the spring of 1968 entitled “Three since Windham.” “In a season of many

earth shows,” Rose writes, the “Windham [College] show is important because it was the first

outdoor show.”41

Siegelaub organized a symposium with the three artists to coincide with the open-

ing of the Windham College show. Rather than moderating the symposium himself, as he

had done in Bradford a few months earlier, Siegelaub hired Dan Graham (fig. 1.2).42 An aspir-

ing artist and cultural critic, Graham had briefly operated the John Daniels Gallery in New

York City between 1964 and 1965, during which time he befriended Andre and Weiner; they,

in turn, introduced Graham to Siegelaub as early as 1966. Influenced by pop’s fascination

with the disposable mass culture of commercial magazines and rock music, Graham was

crucial in articulating and defining the course of the new site- and context-specific work that

subsequently came to be called “conceptual art.”

In his introductory comments, Graham noted the ephemeral nature of the exhibi-

tion installations, and emphasized that the artworks did not operate as definitive objects

with inherent qualities but, after fulfilling their purpose during the exhibition, would be re-

cycled and disappear. He also summoned the notion of “place.” “The show is done for a spe-

cific place,” Graham announced, “and involves placing as a verb as well as a noun.”43

Importantly, this conceptualization of the artistic process in a linguistic metaphor would be

repeated with increased frequency during the late 1960s and 1970s; it would characterize not

only the work of the artists Siegelaub represented in these years, but also his own publicity


Graham’s observations about the artwork’s relation to place were primarily focused

on Andre’s work, though they may be just as appropriately applied to that of the other artists

at the symposium.44 Andre’s sculpture Joint did not have a cohesiveness capable of tran-

scending the local or temporal specificity of its initial site of display (fig. 1.3). The work was

made of a row of one hundred and eighty-three nearly identical modules (approximately

4 x 4 x 6 feet) of uncovered common baled hay set up one next to the other. The modules of

hay were arranged in serial formation in a horizontal line, with the parallel narrow sides

flush but distinct. The bales were similar, but differed slightly due to the procedures by

which hay is compacted. Andre’s arrangement of these rough-hewn modules emphasized

both their uniqueness and their similarity to others in the line. Thus apart from their linear

arrangement, length, and placement, the materials dictated the form of the work.45


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1.3Carl Andre, Joint, 1968, as installed at Windham College, 30 April–31 May 1968

Page 39: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

It is also important to recognize that in Andre’s Joint, each unit of hay, like each unit

of zinc in the sculptural grid of metal plates he exhibited at the Laura Knott Gallery, re-

mained in its raw state: “I don’t want to disguise the material employed at all,” he stated at

the symposium, “I don’t want to make something else out of it. I want wood as wood and steel

as steel, aluminum as aluminum, a bale of hay as a bale of hay.”46 Like others, Andre believed

that his refusal to transform the material elements of the work problematized the role of the

artist as it was conventionally understood: that of a catalyst in the transformation of raw

matter into artistic form. In an insightful account of current artistic developments published

the month following the Windham College exhibit, Graham noted this aspect of Andre’s art


Andre translates material base into base measure of values, literally inverting normative value

terms for material ones. Bricks, bales of hay, slabs of slate, aluminum or zinc are worth exactly what

their market value (defined by scarcity of supply and demand) brings. Their sale as art adds com-

mission price to gallery and artist (also determined by market laws). The commodity is produce, not

produced by the artist’s handiwork. It possesses actual, physically definable qualities as opposed to

abstract, imagined or critically defined qualities. Instead of projecting past artists’ or the artist’s

past experiences for the viewer’s emotional investment, Andre’s sculpture is placed in a present sit-

uation of confrontation open to the viewer’s here and now experience. No permanently worthwhile

experience is implied, the “value” of an Andre (or Flavin or Warhol or Christo) being temporally con-

tingent on its present context.47

There are several notions implied in this passage that deserve to be highlighted. For

one thing, it characterizes Andre’s role not as an artist but as an art worker. Just as the ex-

change value of his works remains linked to the market value of the materials of which they

are made, the remuneration of the artist’s labor is in the form of a sale also determined by

laws of supply and demand. Seen in this light, the role of the artist is brought down to earth,

desacralized, and the ascribing of worth to art objects is attributed to forces separate from

the artist. Artworks are now conceived of as possessing their own proper value, which is sep-

arate from what the artist charges “as commission” for his own labor. Secondly and relatedly,

Graham considers the commodity status of a work of art and interprets Andre’s sculpture as

resistant to commodification. This is the first public discussion of this sort in the New York

art world of the late 1960s, though the theme will proliferate in the following years. Then


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there is the homology Graham draws between Andre’s works and pop art, articulating the

“value” of one of Andre’s works as similar to that of the work of Flavin, Warhol, or Christo—

all of whom Graham considered to be pop artists at the time. Certainly, the structural repe-

tition of the store-bought, ready-made, modular units parallels the emphasis on serial

objects and conditions in Flavin’s or Warhol’s work. And, as in the mid-1960s work of these

two artists, Andre’s abandonment of manual production in favor of a modular structure with

its own transparent system of units negates processes of authentication, rendering impos-

sible any attempt to identify or verify the work’s producer. Furthermore, employing an ele-

ment from the general environment of rural Vermont—a bale of hay—as the primary

material, Andre’s Joint echoes pop art’s erasure of the boundaries between common experi-

ence and high art. In the process, Andre brought one of the most repressed forms of every-

day experience at Windham College, the surrounding fields on which the community

depends economically, dead center into the cultural reflection.48

Yet, as Graham implies, Andre’s work goes beyond the operation of pop and mini-

mal models in several ways.49 On the one hand, the environment in which the work is to be

exhibited determines the choice of material; on the other hand, the work’s surfaces are con-

tinually altered by their own history, by the events that occur to them, up to the point of oblit-

eration. Since Joint was exposed to the natural elements, the weathering process would in

time erode the modules of hay and the work would gradually disintegrate, literally fusing

with the place. This aspect of Andre’s work, its impermanence, relates to its subversion of the

marketplace for art. “The hay, of course, as people walk on it, is going to break down and

gradually disappear,” Andre noted at the Windham College symposium. “But since I’m not

making a piece of sculpture for sale, . . . it never enters the property state.”50 This comment

elides not only the fact that this work is an anomaly in the context of Andre’s production (the

vast majority of which is for sale), but also that it breaks with the practice by which Andre’s

other works were sold. For Andre and Flavin had pioneered a new form of guaranteeing au-

thorship of works of art by providing the patrons certificates of authenticity along with the

material objects. The certificate, signed by the artist, delineates in legalistic language (often

complemented by a schematic drawing on standard graph paper) the various components of

the work.51 Given the general accessibility of the materials and Andre’s deskilling of the pro-

cedures of production, it is primarily the certificate that authenticates his work.52

What Andre’s work of the 1960s signals—like that of Barry and Weiner—is the grad-

ual dismantling of the integrated self-contained pictorial object or sculptural structure

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made for gallery display, in favor of interactive spectatorial spaces, complicated participa-

tory modes, and an increasing awareness of the specific interplay between the artwork and

the architectural and ultimately institutional setting or framework. One of the most compli-

cated results of such transformations is the way they problematize the concept of public

space. Once spectatorial participation as theorized by these and other artists is integrated

into the conceptual structure of the work, the question of the proper site for artistic experi-

ence inevitably becomes more pressing. As the architectural setting is recognized in terms

of the institutional and discursive limitations that it imposes upon sculptural or painterly ex-

perience, the next logical step will inevitably be considered: abandoning the institution of

the gallery or museum with all of its restrictions in favor of a supposedly uninhibited, unre-

stricted, open, external space where none of these limitations apply. This development in the

direction of a gradual expansion of the sites and locations for artistic exhibition and distri-

bution became an integral aspect of the reflection upon and the production of ambitious art

during the late 1960s. However, it was Siegelaub, rather than the artists, who most thor-

oughly explored the specific operation of the institutional and contextual parameters that

cordon off the work of art.

Siegelaub’s engagement with those boundaries, for reasons that differed from

those of the artists, is consistent with the new practices of marketing that he was trying to

develop. This transformation was as far-reaching in its own way as the changes in art pro-

duction then taking place, and it shared with the new art a common hostility toward hierar-

chy, established conventions, and inherent wisdom. Significantly, creativity and perpetual

innovation had by the mid-1960s also become the ethos of ambitious business practice, as

well as of its stalwart promoter, advertising. The ideologues of Madison Avenue now pro-

claimed, contrary to the standard practices of the previous decade, that the “chic-adman”

must internalize an automatic mistrust for received ideas.53 Here, as in so many aspects of

1960s culture, advertising practices spilled over unproblematically into the actual content of

art and art promotion. This willingness to defy convention was not only customary for

artists; it became increasingly prevalent among—and in many ways absolutely necessary

to—dealers as well. For Siegelaub, this meant an embrace not only of creativity but also of

the unexpected. In the following years this became more than a strategy for him; it became

a philosophy, a way of thinking, and it was a concept he chose to utilize in promoting the

artists he represented.


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Young artists of today need no longer say, “I am a painter,” or “a poet” or a “dancer.” They are

simply “artists.”

—Allan Kaprow, 19671

Being an artist today now means to question the nature of art. If one is questioning the nature

of painting, one cannot be questioning the nature of art; if an artist accepts painting (or sculp-

ture) he is accepting the tradition that goes with it.

—Joseph Kosuth, 19692

Arthur R. Rose, the critic Siegelaub persuaded to write a review of the Windham College

show, was actually the pseudonym of a young artist from Ohio, Joseph Kosuth. Extraordi-

narily alert to the art scene, Kosuth was a skillful advocate of his own work who acutely un-

derstood the value of public relations and self-promotion. Accordingly, he was often found

at the “right” places, promoting his career and cultivating “social capital,” defined by Bour-

chapter two

art as idea

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dieu as “a capital of social connections . . . that is often necessary in winning and keeping the

confidence of high society, and with it a clientele,” and that may be drawn on to make an

artistic career.3 Arriving in New York City at the age of twenty in 1965, Kosuth enrolled in the

School of Visual Arts and in the following years proceeded to organize a lecture series, open

a gallery, curate shows, launch a student newspaper, and function as a staff writer for Arts

Magazine.4 By 1968 he was on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts, and had garnered the

attention not only of leading art critics and collectors but of mass circulation magazines

such as Time and Newsweek.5 Always networking, he had seemingly endless energy, embody-

ing the type of the new artist advanced by Newsweek in the middle of 1968: “Today’s young

artist is a professional rather than a ‘Bohemian’.”6

Kosuth cultivated his public image as much as he did his art. He had picked up

some of Andy Warhol’s showmanship. Dressed in gangsterlike, double-breasted suits from

the 1930s, sporting dyed blonde or black hair depending on the season, and relaying incred-

ible stories about his past, Kosuth had developed a whole set of extraordinary mannerisms.

But his links to the pop artists were more than stylistic posturing. He fostered various so-

cial connections to the scene around Warhol, which often coalesced in the back room of

the Max’s Kansas City nightclub. Furthermore, Roy Lichtenstein had purchased some of his

work, while Warhol and Claes Oldenburg had been supportive critically and, occasionally,


Like the pop artists, and Warhol in particular, Kosuth evidently understood the

value of organizing the mass media’s attention in his favor. In 1966–1967 he coordinated a

well-publicized lecture series at the School of Visual Arts, for which he invited artists such

as Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Smithson, Sol LeWitt, and Dan Graham,

whom Kosuth had met at parties or local hangouts, to publicly present their ideas and work.

Similarly, in early 1968 he launched and became chief editor of Straight, an arts newsletter

published by the School of Visual Arts.8 At this time Kosuth also opened an art gallery in New

York’s East Village, the Lannis Gallery, together with the young artist Christine Kozlov, whom

he had met at the School, and Lannis Spencer.9 For an upstart gallery with no budget to speak

of, the Lannis garnered a surprising amount of media attention, a phenomenon clearly at-

tributable to Kosuth’s masterful organizational and promotional abilities.10 Almost without

exception, evenings would find Kosuth at Max’s Kansas City socializing, talking up his vari-

ous projects and gallery. “Art is no longer a trade to be patiently mastered,” announced

Newsweek in a overview of the “way, way out” new art, “it is a matter of doing what no one has

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done before.”11 Kosuth—the twenty-two-year-old artist, critic, instructor, and gallery opera-

tor—was indeed doing what no one had ever done before. And he made sure to let everyone

he met know it.

Whereas Kosuth cultivated a very gregarious and dynamic self-image, his art was

remarkably muted. In the spring of 1967, he and Kozlov fixed upon the idea of opening the

Lannis Gallery with a series of “Non-Anthropomorphic” exhibitions, featuring primarily

their own work and that of two of their fellow students at the School of Visual Arts. “I pass by

the new Lannis Gallery daily,” wrote the critic Gordon Brown in a review of the first “Non-

Anthropomorphic” exhibition,

and have often noticed its aloofness, even when seen from the outside. The large street-level win-

dow is completely covered with steel plates whereas the average village gallery would use it for rau-

cous romantic display. . . . The objects displayed are so “other” that there is no need to put up a

“Don’t touch” sign. No one would dream of contaminating the purity of this art by leaving behind

his personal finger-print.12

As is implicit in Brown’s comments, the “purity” of these works lay in their matter-of-

factness. For his part Kosuth linked the austere “purity” of his new, post-painterly work to his

understanding of the ethos of the nouveau roman as theorized by Alain Robbe-Grillet: “The

last thing I personally want to do is art as philosophy. . . . The old cliché by now of Robbe-

Grillet’s that ‘the world is no longer meaningful nor absurd, it simply is,’ is pretty much where

it’s at.”13

This insistence on prosaicness, on a thing simply being, is consistent with the re-

treat into an antihumanist world of nonmetaphorical operations that characterized the work

of the artists showing in the first “Non-Anthropomorphic” exhibition—an idea Kosuth and

Kozlov articulated in their small catalogue supplementing the show: “The four artists

included in this exhibition have one desire (if none other) in common: to exclude a projec-

tion of either themselves or the image, attributes, or qualities of man into their works of

art.”14 Given this view, it is not surprising that the works on display were extraordinarily her-

metic, “concerned . . . with their own intrinsic logic,” as Kozlov put it in the exhibition cata-

logue.15 Produced by artists who denied the possibility of art objects possessing any

metaphorical function, the works manifested a complete lack of interest in the notion that

art could communicate expression or transcendental experience. Furthermore, they re-


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jected outright the primacy of individual subjectivity as the locus of art production. A case

in point is the art practice of Kozlov. At the time, she was engrossed in the production of a

painting that entailed the daily application of a layer of flat white acrylic paint across the

entire surface of the canvas. This operating method, which persisted for several months,

allowed Kozlov to continue to work in the medium of painting without having to make

aesthetic decisions. Rather than the artist employing an expressive ritual to produce the

artwork, the object was purely and self-reflexively about the systematic process of its


Kosuth, like Kozlov, had also been a fairly eclectic painter, producing easel-size

canvases (approximately 5 x 5 feet) described by one observer at the School of Visual Arts in

the mid-1960s as “distantly related to the de Stijl philosophy.”17 In late 1967, however, he

abandoned the specific medium of painting altogether in favor of the generic category of Art.

As he declared a short time later,

The word art is general and the word painting is specific. Painting is a kind of art. If you make

paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of art. One is then accepting the

nature of art to be the European tradition of a painting-sculpture dichotomy. But in recent years

the best new work has been neither painting nor sculpture, and increasing numbers of young art-

ists make art that is neither one. When words lose their meaning they are meaningless. We have

our own time and our own reality and it need not be justified by being hooked into European art


In its renunciation of the labor of the “painter” and the “sculptor,” Kosuth’s statement res-

onates strongly with Kaprow’s earlier observation that serves as the first epigraph to this

chapter. Even more striking is the extent to which this passage also draws on the reasoning

of Donald Judd. For along with almost a direct quote from the latter’s “Specific Objects,” 1965,

the passage echoes Judd’s U.S. parochialism and antagonism to “the European tradition.”19 Af-

ter all, Kosuth’s argument that “we have our own time and our own reality” is clearly a tri-

umphant summoning of contemporary America.

According to Kosuth, by the late 1960s it had become necessary to work in media

other than the inherently tainted, corrupted ones of the old masters. An early example of his

new post-painterly work is the black and white photographic blowup of a dictionary entry for

the word “water” that Kosuth exhibited in the opening show of the Museum of Normal Art,

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formerly known as the Lannis Gallery, in November 1967 (fig. 2.1).20 The austere, matter-of-

fact photostat, with black ground and white lettering, was part of a series in dialogue with

several pictorial paradigms then current in New York. On the one hand, Kosuth’s large (4 x 4

feet) photostats were systematic transfigurations of Reinhardt’s five-foot black square, dis-

placing the iconographic residue (i.e., the gridded cruciform) and in its place introducing

something alien to the late modernist tradition of painting, namely the specific operation of

language. At the same time, Kosuth’s use of a definition from a dictionary in white lettering

antithetically completes the white-black austerity of On Kawara’s “date paintings,” featuring

the dates stenciled in white paint onto black monochrome canvases. Retaining the terms of

Kawara’s pictures—the directness, the color scheme, the incorporation of writing into the

field of painting—Kosuth takes them to a further extreme where the stenciled dates give way

to formalized linguistic information. Of course, the employment of dictionary definitions,

which are only formal definitions of words and their functions, implies that the content of

this information is utterly irrelevant.21

But along with the rather peculiar dialogue with the paintings of Reinhardt and

Kawara, there are also evident relations between Kosuth’s photostats of standard dictionary

definitions, what he later called his First Investigations, and the work of both Marcel Duchamp

and the U.S. pop artists. For one thing, in the rigorous restriction of pictorial decision-making

to the preexisting dictionary entry, blown up and inserted into the context of art, the First

Investigations connect in their own way with the Duchampian legacy of the readymade. More-

over, the First Investigations were not paintings but photostats, and thus more akin to con-

temporary advertising images than to the tradition of high art. From this vantage point the

photostats continue a reading of pop art that sees such works as internalizing within their

field the mass culture that they represent.22 As with pop, Kosuth’s early photostats question

the status of the aesthetic object by scrambling the codes and erasing the boundaries con-

ventionally drawn between high art, with its emphasis on singularity and nonutilitarian

objects, and mass culture.

But of all the pop artists, it was Warhol who resonated most profoundly in Kosuth’s

artistic project. In the late 1960s, the young artist took up many of the characteristics of

Warhol’s practice that had been found shocking and scandalous earlier in the decade—e.g.,

the employment of mechanical production and seriality, the application of the concept of

anonymity in aesthetic execution, the fusion of mass and high cultural realms. Just as

Warhol, and in a parallel development most of the minimalists, would vaunt a factory aes-


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2.1 Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967

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thetic—eschewing personal contact with the work of art altogether in favor of employing

studio assistants or industrial manufacturers, who would run off the silkscreens or follow

exacting specifications concerning materials, colors, scale, and surfaces in which the art ob-

ject would be produced—Kosuth often emphasized the anonymity of execution and the me-

chanical production of his photostatic works.23

A particularly revealing instance of Kosuth’s dialogue with Warhol was the former’s

first one-person exhibition, which opened at Eugenia Butler’s Gallery 669 in Los Angeles in

October 1968 (fig. 2.2). Recalling Warhol’s mid-1962 installation at the Ferus Gallery in Los

Angeles of a series of thirty-two painted representations of Campbell’s Soup cans (where the

paintings were distinguished only by the particular flavor of soup), all of the photostats

Kosuth exhibited presented dictionary definitions of the same word, “nothing,” though the

source of the definition, the actual dictionary used, differed for each. Given his fascination

with Warhol’s art practice, it comes as little surprise that in 1968 Kosuth used the format of

his First Investigations to offer a sort of tribute to Warhol. Rather than a dictionary definition,

the copy in one central column across the negative photostat read: “In the future everyone

will be famous for 15 minutes.” It was characteristics such as these that prompted Village

Voice art critic John Perreault to joke that “if Ad Reinhardt married Andy Warhol” the result

would be Joseph Kosuth.24 This “marriage” is a complete contradiction, of course, since no-

body would have been more unacceptable to Reinhardt, who insisted on a total separation of

aesthetic objects from the contaminating effects of mass culture. Kosuth, one might say, di-

alectically integrated Reinhardt’s austere black monochrome paintings and Warhol’s explic-

itly commercial images, two artistic models that were polar opposites.

Yet Kosuth cannily concealed the pop art dimensions of his work. As the 1960s pro-

gressed, pop was increasingly seen as heedlessly ironic and frivolous. The way it blurred the

line between aesthetic and commodity objects, combined with its enormous success in the

marketplace, also made it suspect. Pop’s facility and mass appeal contrasted sharply with

the strategic obscureness and opaqueness of advanced art. But perhaps the most important

reason for a young, ambitious artist not to associate with pop art in the late 1960s was its lost

currency—as Newsweek reported in 1968, “that scene [pop art] wore itself out.”25

There are significant differences, however, between the work of Kosuth and that of

the pop artists. Unlike the way pop used appropriated imagery, Kosuth made the dictionary

definition in the manner of an architectural blueprint—a schema rather than an actual

thing. Moreover, Kosuth did not place the photo motif on canvas like the pop artists. Rather


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2.2 Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1968, as installed at Gallery 669,

Los Angeles, October 1968

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he removed the work a step further from the tradition and authority of painting in the di-

rection of mechanical reproduction.

In this respect, Kosuth’s work clearly draws upon that counterformation to pop art

that was also a parallel formation in the mid-1960s: minimalism. An affinity with minimal

art was considered meritorious by many in the mid to late 1960s art world. Minimal art, with

its preference for prosaic, everyday materials and its emphasis on anonymity, repetition, and

equality of parts, was thought to possess a sense of rigor and seriousness of purpose, as well

as an inherent noncommerciality, that gave it an edge of social criticism.26

Judd in particular was important to Kosuth for a number of reasons. He provided a

model of the artist as writer-philosopher, producing work that proposed theories and tested

hypotheses. In many ways, Judd continued the legacy of advanced art criticism previously lo-

cated in the writings of late modernist critics such as Clement Greenberg, a genealogy that

Kosuth connected with in his own way.27 Judd also gave license to another way of thinking

about advanced art. Contrary to pop art’s theoretical models of design and of the readymade,

he advocated a type of art that was abstract, rigorous, and ostensibly free of meaning. Ac-

cording to Kosuth, however, Judd did not follow through with what he started. In spite of his

critique of precious painting and sculpture, Judd continued to use materials inherently

loaded with meaning. In addition, although Judd proposed that the discovery of a form that

was neither geometric nor organic would be a genuine breakthrough, he did not carry this

dictum to its logical conclusion: the complete elimination of formal issues and materials,

and an increased focus on context. This, Kosuth later argued, was what separated Judd’s the-

ory of art from that articulated by Marcel Duchamp earlier in the century.28

Equally important for Kosuth was the work of Andre and Flavin. Indeed, one of the

groundbreaking developments in 1960s art practice was the separation effected by these

artists of the artistic proposition (in the form of drawings or specific instructions about what

materials to use for an artwork and how to assemble them) from the aesthetic experience of

the viewer. Kosuth saw that one of the implications of minimalist installations was the idea

that a work could remain in its state as a proposition, document, or set of instructions to be

(re)made when the need arose. Commenting on obvious associations between his work and

that of his precursors, Kosuth emphasized the separation of abstract proposition from phys-

ical materialization in the work of Flavin and Andre:


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There are aspects to work which preceded mine—people like Andre and Flavin—which have a bear-

ing on the kinds of discussion about art which I’ve tried to help generate. . . . Issues of function hav-

ing to do with meaning being contingent on use are particularly relevant to someone like Flavin. The

value of his work is the power of his art as an idea—I don’t think one can seriously argue that it is

due to craft, composition, or the aura of the traces of his hand. Anybody can have a “Flavin” by go-

ing into a hardware store, but you needed Flavin’s initial “proposal” for it to be art.29

But according to Kosuth neither Andre nor Flavin, nor for that matter anyone associated with

minimalism, carried to its logical conclusion the minimalist implication that the primary

material of an artist’s work is ideational and distinct from the materials of which the work is


This last point bears elaborating since it directly relates to the respective practices

of Kosuth and Siegelaub, and can best be understood by comparing Kosuth’s claims about

his own work with the theoretical underpinnings of Sol LeWitt’s work of roughly the same

period. LeWitt’s main corpus in the mid to late 1960s consisted of repeated series of equal in-

dividual units contained within an overall grid (figs. 2.3–2.5). As opposed to Judd’s one-after-

the-other repetitions, or the structures of serial imagery common to Warhol’s mid-1960s

silkscreens, the serial method adopted by LeWitt involves a matrix principle of relationships

established in advance before the permutation is set. All of the operations within the com-

position are then mechanically subjected to that principle.30 The viewer’s access to any single

element of the work depends upon grasping the complex sequences and permutations of its

other parts; the experience resembles handling a language more than surrendering to im-

mediate, phenomenal sensations. As early as 1967 LeWitt referred to this kind of art, in

which a governing set of decisions are made and then the variable combinations are carried

out “blindly,” as “conceptual art”:

In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. . . . In other forms of

art the concept may be changed in the process of execution. . . . When an artist uses a conceptual

form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution

is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.31

If Kosuth’s point of departure was “the separation of the art from its form of presentation,”

the key issue for LeWitt was to try to find a way in which one could make art that was not

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2.3 Sol LeWitt, Serial Project No. 1 (Set A), 1966

2.4 Sol LeWitt, Serial Project No. 1 (Set B), 1966

2.5 Sol LeWitt, Serial Project No. 1 (Set C), 1966

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subjective.32 Accordingly, LeWitt contrived a method of production that, insofar as it con-

sisted of systematically following a “predetermined premise to its conclusion,” a literal point-

ing toward what is just ahead in the scheme (and what has just been made), decentered the

agent.33 One of the central implications of this mechanical, nonrational method of produc-

tion was that idealist commitments and subjective trace no longer had a function in the art

world. LeWitt tracked all “the intervening steps” in the conception and realization of the art-

work, an interconnected element in a string of signifiers one after the other, but never tried

to decode the signifiers by relating them to signifieds. His method of artistic production thus

negated the “I,” the centered intentional agency that is the source and guarantee of artistic

meaning, by adopting an external program—“a predetermined concept,” or “idea”—which at

once acts as a coordinating agency for the realization of the work and “eliminates the arbi-

trary, capricious, and the subjective as much as possible.”34

This new regime of absolute literality and materiality resulted in highly reflexive

artworks. Void of inherent mystery, sense, or subject matter to be deciphered or interpreted,

these works had as their content their own self-relational, a priori logic, and their formal

organization systematically developed in a predetermined order over a specific amount of

time. “Serial compositions,” wrote LeWitt in 1966, “are multipart pieces with regulated

changes. The differences between the parts are the subject of the composition.”35 In this way,

LeWitt’s literalness surpassed even that of meticulously prosaic minimalists like Judd, by

dropping minimalism’s stress on the final product and replacing it with an emphasis on the

process of the artwork’s production, on what, following Roland Barthes, we could call the

“textual” process.36 The implication was that the procedure of making—not just the process

of realization, but also the process of conception itself (precisely because conception takes

place over time)—is the most literal and material aspect of an artwork. To view the work was

to respond to the activity of the text, to systematically track its construction over time.

Most simply put, LeWitt’s aesthetic theory proposed a nonrationalist mode of pro-

duction. The work followed a mechanical, impersonal, quasi-mathematical serial sequence

that, once established, evacuated the notion of unique artistic subjectivity. Thus the artist

was no longer privileged, paternal, the organizational source and master of the work. The

process of production was, in a word, “irrational”:

This kind of art that I’m doing, I don’t think of it as being rational at all. Rather, I think of it as be-

ing more irrational. The kind of formalist art where the artist decides and makes decisions all the


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way down the line, that’s a very rational way of thinking about art. But I don’t think mine is at

all. . . . What I’m doing is much more complex. And it’s much more irrational.37

With the negation of artistic expression it no longer made sense for the viewer to attempt to

decipher traces of subjectivity in the act of artistic creation, nor to pretend to penetrate the

work, moving from surface to depth.38

Kosuth’s starting point was also an a priori idea. But according to him the great lim-

itation of the structural procedural operations of the work of LeWitt and his minimalist con-

temporaries was that by insisting that their work be built they allowed it to be framed by the

legacy of sculpture and painting. As he described it in a 1968 letter to the critic Lucy Lippard:

“Anybody who looks at Judd’s, Sol LeWitt’s, Smithson’s, Andre’s, Morris’s, Flavin’s work and

doesn’t realize that the quality of their thinking is what was once considered a painter’s

misses an interesting aspect of their work.”39 In opposition to this, Kosuth maintained that

his work was broadly concerned with the general “concept” of Art—with “what the work is


The relevance of the actual material production of the work was simply to com-

municate the underlying, essentially abstract idea. In this spirit he proposed what was basi-

cally a new ontological task for the modernist artist: to produce artworks that function as

absolutely stable and contextless tautological structures. As Kosuth tersely explained to the

art critic John Chandler in a 1968 discussion, “The art is the idea; the idea is the art.”41 The

physical materials or objects that come along with the idea are no more the art “than a truck

which carries a work of art from a studio to a gallery is a work of art.”42 In other words, the

photographic blowups of dictionary definitions that he had made and exhibited were sup-

plements, secondary “art information” as he referred to them, rather than works of art in

their own right.43 “I have always stated,” Kosuth insisted at the time, “that my ideas were not

meant to be considered esthetic objects in themselves but rather refer to an invisible ‘beauty’

or esthetic which is the idea. The beauty is intended to exist in the idea not in the photostat.”44

Paradoxically, given the denigration of the art object, from very early on Kosuth’s “ideas” were

sold. For despite pronouncements that his art was not made for a gallery, and that the phys-

ical components that communicated the art were secondary and purely residual, the fact

that his photostats could easily be hung flat on the wall in a way that closely resembled tra-

ditional paintings made them a comfortable fit in any gallery or traditional exhibition space.

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For the art market, the implications of an art in which the execution of the work

was devalued to the point where it was discrete from the work’s artistic value were vast. In

an obvious sense, the rights of ownership of a type of art that exists primarily in the form of

an idea, where “it doesn’t really matter what physical shape it’s in,” were very difficult to en-

force.45 Yet already by 1968 there was a buoyancy of demand for Kosuth’s photostats. In a sur-

vey of the new art in the summer of 1968, the art correspondent for Time magazine addressed

this paradox, specifically singling out the work of Kosuth:

Today, more and more artists are devoting themselves to art that exists primarily in the mind’s eye.

Called “conceptual art,” it usually exists in the form of a scale model, a preliminary sketch or a writ-

ten description, suitable for framing. Any of these items, the artists explain, are but a hint, a

shadow, a shade, a clue to the real thing. . . . Currently on display at Manhattan’s Dwan Gallery are

forty-one works consisting mostly of words or scale drawings. Among them is one titled Art as Idea

as Idea, which is simply a photographic blowup of the dictionary definition of real. It is the end prod-

uct of Joseph Kosuth’s struggle with the artistic problem of defining what “the real thing is.” Says

Kosuth gravely: “I think the importance of all art is the ideas.”46

Even given the elusiveness of the work, the anonymous correspondent adds, “Conceptual art

has become a favorite with avant-garde collectors. Kosuth’s photographic version of real has

already been bought by Businessman-Collector John Powers.”47 In this instance, the sym-

biotic relationship between artist and patron developed to a point where it was no longer

clear who was doing the advertising for whom, since each was equally enhancing the other’s


The art market continued to boom in the late 1960s. As Newsweek announced, “Eco-

nomic prospects for young artists have never been better.”48 No longer, it seemed, would fis-

cal restrictions hinder the work of an artist. For now artworks with inexpensive common

materials were sought by collectors, and soon works with no physical materials at all would

also be.49 Even artistic investigations that by their very nature were neither studio-produced

nor meant to be seen in a gallery or museum became commercially viable.

For dealers such as Siegelaub, the central problem was lodged in the need to inform

the prospective patron about the new work. In effect, this meant a need to present informa-

tion not just about the existence of the work, and its availability, but also about the artist. For

Siegelaub realized the increased importance of the artist’s public image as the art became


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increasingly ephemeral in nature and barely identifiable in visual terms. He saw that the im-

age of the artist (and its direct descendant, name recognition) had come to assume more and

more importance, to the extent that it replaced the primacy of the artwork itself.

The importance of publicity was also a dictum of Kosuth, who had begun his career

with the view that meaning in art, rather than a primary, essentially self-contained thing, ev-

ident to the viewer with taste, was essentially textual, the production of a variety of sources

of information. But Kosuth pushed this idea further, recognizing that it was this type of in-

formation—i.e., the media reputation, name recognition, public persona—that framed the

work of art. The new medium that Kosuth advanced in the context of 1960s art—the photo-

stat—quickly came to serve as his trademark, similar to the way lighting fixtures became as-

sociated with Flavin and firebricks with Andre. The medium comes to resemble a corporate

logo, easily identifiable and recognizable. And in turn the meaning of the work comes to be

overdetermined by information that, though about the work, is secondary to it. Such informa-

tion serves, in effect, as the work’s structural support. “Advance information . . . about an

artist’s concepts,” Kosuth wrote in 1969, “is necessary to the appreciation and understanding

of contemporary art.”50 Note, however, that “advance information” is also the language and

practice of advertising. For, as Jean Baudrillard observed in The System of Objects, even if the

demonstration of a product convinces no one, it does serve to “rationalize its purchase.” Al-

though the consumer might not “believe” in the product, he or she comes to believe in the pub-

licity about it.51 Hence, advance information, like publicity, supplants information that in the

art world had previously been conferred through criticism.

As is well known, during the mid-1960s various artists responded to the phenome-

non of critics setting the vocabulary of discussion and interpreting artworks in their own

way, “for their ends” as Kosuth put it, by refusing this division of labor and writing their own

art criticism for contemporary journals.52 For example, Judd, Morris, Smithson, and others

took it as their responsibility to publicly define the critical terms that informed their work.

But Kosuth would go one step further, not only writing about his own work under his own

name but taking on a pseudonym (Arthur R. Rose) and writing about the work of other like-

minded artists, thereby establishing a group or movement, like pop, which a public could

latch onto. Though Kosuth may have theoretically opposed the convenient lumping together

of disparate works and artists, he realized its practical importance in terms of publicity. In a

telling exchange, he explained that the attempt to “influence” was a crucial “artistic activity”

since it reinforced the importance and coherence of artworks and artists.53 More than merely

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verbally interpreting his work, then, Kosuth strategically treated the entire range of his artis-

tic practice, what he termed his “total signifying activity,” as contributing to the operation

and meaning of his work.54 The immediate effect was the collapse of any hard and fast dis-

tinction between art and its publicity.

The similarities between Kosuth’s new artistic strategy and modern advertising

were extraordinary. Just as a newly released variety of dishwashing liquid required a brand

name complete with an advertising campaign presenting not just information about the

product (since it is more or less the same as others) but a series of intertextual connotations

to generate additional value and desirability, so a new art for Kosuth also required a public-

ity campaign. Along with promoting the product, the campaign included rich overtones

about the career, creativity, future—in short, the image—of the artist. When Newsweek

asked Kosuth for a picture that would be seen by millions, he dressed in a white double-

breasted suit, white shirt, white tie, and dark sunglasses, and posed in front of an unusually

large blowup of a photostat with a dictionary definition of the word “idea” (fig. 2.6). It is in this

regard, too, that Kosuth’s editorial statement in the first issue of Straight that “advertisement

contains the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper” (ostensibly a quote from Thomas Jef-

ferson) should primarily be seen. Yet a clear distinction must be drawn between advertising’s

status as a discourse on the object and as an object in its own right. As Baudrillard phrased

it, “Advertising in its entirety constitutes a useless and unnecessary universe. It is pure con-

notation. It contributes nothing to production or to the direct practical application of things,

yet it plays an integral part in the system of objects, not merely because it relates to con-

sumption but also because it itself becomes an object to be consumed.”55


Given Kosuth’s notion of presentation, his awareness of the powerful roles of both advance

information and public persona, together with his belief in the supreme value of aesthetic

innovation, it is not surprising that he was attracted to Siegelaub. As we have seen, the lat-

ter was not only vitally committed to the new and emergent but also a diligent publicist,

spending hours, days, writing press releases, proposals, and the like and mailing them out to

a wide array of prospective patrons, arts organizations, and newspapers. Siegelaub’s agenda

of discovering, grouping, and advancing a small group of ambitious artists as an art move-

ment evidently appealed to Kosuth, who recognized that promoted individualistically his


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2.6 Joseph Kosuth in Newsweek, 29 July 1968; photograph by Lawrence Fried

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work might be reduced to an eccentric sidelight. Indeed, the most important galleries of the

mid to late 1960s (including Leo Castelli, Andre Emmerich, Sidney Janis, and the Green

Gallery) had begun to curate shows in which they related art primarily in morphological

terms, and encouraged the establishment of art movements by promoting artists whose

work resembled that of those in their stable. There were also dangers to be avoided. In 1968

the dealer Richard Bellamy, former director of the Green Gallery and a trustee of Kosuth’s

Museum of Normal Art, warned artists about the hazards of a hasty introduction to the art

world.56 “It can be debilitating for a young artist to enter the race too quickly,” Bellamy cau-

tioned. “Many who make exciting debuts just aren’t heard of two or three years later.”57 More-

over, given the currency of the debate about the relationship between psychotropic drugs

and creativity, Kosuth may have feared that the unconventional aspects of his work and

ideas might be read, like much other contemporary art in the late 1960s, as the result of a

“drug-inspired vision.” “Familiar with contemporary literature, film, philosophy and science,”

wrote Newsweek’s Howard Junker in the summer of 1968, “the young artists are extremely

articulate—many earn M.A.’s as a credential for teaching. And like many of their peers,

they are also into marijuana and LSD. . . . The life style and perceptual distortions of drugs

are simply taken for granted, the way abstract expressionists took drinking for granted.”58

If his work was taken as the galvanizing force of a movement, however, Kosuth realized it

would have to be taken seriously. In this regard he evidently saw as much potential in Sie-

gelaub’s practice as in the work of the artists affiliated with him who were edging toward

idea-based art.

Their first collaboration in the articulation of an artistic movement was the review

“Three since Windham,” of the show at Windham College, which included an update of the

artists’ activities.59 Kosuth focused on the fact that the works were exhibited outdoors at

Windham College, but argued that their significance lay in the art theory that informed

them; this was what was both novel about the works and their source of legitimacy. He went

on to interpret the work of the three artists in the Windham College exhibition as primarily

concerned with the conceptual aspects of art. “Andre’s work, like the best art that has been

done in our century, is about ideas. . . . Certainly one does not need Carl Andre to be able to

experience metal flooring, lined bricks, stacked hay. Its value exists as an art idea.”60 This, ac-

cording to Kosuth, was what separated artists such as Andre from others. “Non-artists,” he

proclaimed, “insist on something along with the art in art, because they are not that excited

by the idea of art. They need retinal titillation along with the art to keep them interested. But


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the artist has that same obsessed interest in art that the physicist has in physics, and the

philosophers in philosophy.”61

It was Weiner’s new work in particular that Kosuth championed, the core of which

he located in the prescriptive structure of the linguistic model that governed its production—

a linguistic model at the base of Kosuth’s own artistic operation. “One of Weiner’s spray

spots,” Kosuth argued in reference to the artist’s recent works, such as Two Minutes of Spray

Paint Directly upon the Floor from a Standard Aerosol Can (fig. 2.7),

relates to the concept of the process of spraying. That relationship makes it removed once more, with

the artist understanding the general results of spraying and accepting it as art before it is even vi-

sualized. It is knowing generally what spray spots look like and accepting it as a probability but not

a necessity in the art. This is a total rejection of form as being “formally meaningful”—i.e., rela-

tional. Which means that it is meaningless specifically (painting) but meaningful generally

(art). . . . Pollock’s weakness is that his work became contextual. Weiner’s work is about process as

concept, rather than process to end in an art object. Perhaps Weiner has “formalized” Pollock’s “art-

making” by removing it from its expressionist orientation. Weiner’s interest in the process as con-

cept relates to his interest in making an art that would by-pass composition and still be visual and

“formal”. The visual information received when looking at Weiner’s work is solely the residue of an

activity. No “esthetic” choices. It’s a “conceptual” art that offers visual experience.62

The importance of Kosuth’s need to write about the work of the artists he would

soon become most identified with cannot be overestimated; at the time, criteria of judgment

capable of adequately addressing this new type of work as art had yet to be formulated. But

it is also important to note the contradictions in Kosuth’s concept of art. If on the one hand

he ontologically posited the central importance of an artwork’s idea, on the other he ac-

knowledged that for something to attain the status of art it had to be identified as such by in-

formation secondary to its primary element. At this stage Kosuth was still interpreting the

work of others, but before long he would actively interpret his own art under the guise of

Arthur R. Rose.

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2.7 Lawrence Weiner, Two Minutes of Spray Paint Directly upon the Floor from a

Standard Aerosol Can, 1968

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Kosuth’s opportunity to wear two hats—of artist and critic—occurred when Siegelaub asked

him to participate along with Barry, Weiner, Douglas Huebler, and Ian Wilson in the now

famous “January 5–31, 1969” exhibition.63 One of Kosuth’s earliest pieces in this show was a

board-mounted photostat (4 x 4 feet) from the 1967 Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) series commis-

sioned by Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein (fig. 2.8). The text of a dictionary entry for the word

“painting” was placed in white type across the center of the black, square board. Significantly,

the illustration of this piece in the show’s all-important catalogue took the form of a photo-

graph featuring a square photostat mounted onto a stretcherlike support and hung, paint-

inglike, flat on a wall. The strip of shade that runs vertically immediately to the left of the

catalogue image emphasizes the work’s objectness and portability. Accordingly, the work has

to be seen as a slightly supercilious if not highly ironic comment on painting, insofar as a

photostat by its very nature problematizes and negates characteristics inherent to painting,

including the signature and the uniqueness of the object.

In both the catalogue statement and the self-interview with Arthur R. Rose that

supplemented the exhibition, Kosuth stated that his new work, to which he subsequently re-

ferred as the Second Investigation, had progressed beyond the earlier Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)

series. No longer would he present abstractions of particular “materials” such as water, air,

or painting; rather his work now consisted of “abstractions of abstractions,” in which he ap-

propriated the eight classes that comprise the Synopsis of Categories at the front of Roget’s

Thesaurus. Kosuth contended that he employed Roget’s schematic topology in order to re-

move further the aesthetic experience from the work of art. He defended his anti-aesthetic

strategy with the argument that only practices of negation could continue to make art rele-

vant for the “intelligent and sensitive”:

I began to realize, as well, that the intelligent and sensitive people in my environment had experi-

ences with nonart portions of their visual world that were of such quality and consistency that the

demarcation of similar experiences as art would make no appreciable difference; that perhaps

mankind was beginning to outgrow the need for art on that level; that he was beginning to deal with

his world aesthetically.64

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2.8 Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967

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Kosuth concludes that the survival and continuation of art in an era when the visual and the

aesthetic have become supreme, when “the entire human environment [has become] a work

of art,” as Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore wrote in 1967, depends on the ability of ad-

vanced artists to negate those realms.65

In the self-interview, Kosuth announced that he no longer presented his work in ob-

ject form, that is, in the form of mounted photostats. Instead, in a way that was clearly

prompted by Lee Lozano’s and Dan Graham’s works for magazine pages, Kosuth’s Second In-

vestigation took the form of enigmatic, anonymous advertisements in newspapers and peri-

odicals.66 The principle, as Lozano put it, was to “buy space in the publication of your choice,

Artforum you say, for the time duration of your choice. Use the space of each issue as a box

for the idea or ideas of your choice.” Lozano emphasizes that “piggybacking” on the art maga-

zine provided the advantage of a “guaranteed, fast, wide distribution” of one’s ideas.67

During the run of the “January 5–31, 1969” show, Kosuth purchased advertising

space in an array of newspapers in which he published Roget’s categories laid out in the for-

mat of advertising tracts. In the temporary gallery space, he pinned to the wall, side by side,

tearsheets from these publications featuring parts of the categories “Existence” and “Time”

(fig. 2.9). Above each tearsheet, also pinned to the wall, was the particular publication’s


Kosuth’s Second Investigation set in motion a range of unprecedented effects within

the context of artistic production. The serial production and distribution of the work negated

the uniqueness and preciousness that conventionally determined a work’s exchange value.

Moreover, the very nature of the harnessed medium of distribution—widely circulating

newspapers and magazines—at once supplied the work with the potential to reach an un-

precedentedly large audience while problematizing its use value. Thus Kosuth could simul-

taneously argue that the work was utterly serious in nature and boast about “the fact that

people can wrap dishes with my work.”69

The paradoxical tenor of these strikingly different claims found a degree of resolu-

tion in Kosuth’s insistence that his work’s visual appearance could be separated from its in-

formation content. From 1968 on, he repeated again and again that the artistic dimension of

his work inhered not in the fragmented form of presentation but rather in the totality of the

idea. “It is impossible to see my work,” he explained in the spring of 1969 to David Shirey, who

was compiling information for a feature article in Art in America on the new phenomenon of

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2.9 Joseph Kosuth, Second Investigation, I. Existence (Art as Idea as Idea), 1968, as installed

in the exhibition “January 5–31, 1969”

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“Impossible Art”: “What is seen is the presentation of the information. The art exists only as

an invisible, ethereal idea.”70

There is an unmistakable connection between Kosuth’s Second Investigation and the

late 1960s artistic practice of LeWitt. Indeed, on numerous occasions in 1968 and 1969 Ko-

suth articulated the operation of his new work in terms that clearly evoked the legacy of Le-

Witt’s conceptual art, articulated in the mid-1960s and published in the summer of 1967 as

“Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.” Kosuth’s comments in yet another self-interview of 1969 are

a case in point:

With my dictionary definition works it became evident to me that the form of presentation (photo-

stats) were [sic] often being considered “paintings” even though I continually attempted to make it

clear that the photostats and the art was [sic] the idea. After that series I began to use obvious me-

dia (newspapers, magazines, billboards, bus and train advertising, television) as the form of pres-

entation. I felt this made it clear that the art is conceptual and not experiential. I use the synopsis

of categories (developed by Roget in reference work) to enable me in my capacity as an artist to keep

my choices on a general level. The synopsis of categories series, which I refer to as “investigation 2”,

was conceptually completed last year when I began the presentation phase of the work. All my work

exists when it is conceived because the execution is irrelevant to the art.71

The negation of the experiential in favor of the conceptual dimension, the deemphasis of ob-

jects and championing of ideas, the reliance not on the dictates of aesthetic reasoning but

on a priori schemes—all of these characteristics resonate with what LeWitt described in

“Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.”

But the primary dialogue that Kosuth’s new work established was with the artist’s

own First Investigation. In a 1971 essay, written as the introduction to what was now the Sixth

Investigation, he described the development of the Second Investigation in dialectical terms,

unfolding out of contradictions inherent in his earlier work.72 Kosuth’s stated problem with

the First Investigation (i.e., the first Art as Idea as Idea series) was that it was too static and that

its narrative and temporal dimensions were too limited. Its framework, metaphorically

speaking, was too narrow. By contrast, the Second Investigation “neutralized” that iconic qual-

ity and greatly expanded the parameters of art. By its very nature, the work came together in

various different public sites over an undetermined sequence of time. Hence by late 1968 Ko-

suth had arrived at a method of artistic production and distribution that in its very expan-

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siveness made the work virtually impossible to grasp in any form other than ideational. Each

appropriated category, or subcategory, from Roget’s Thesaurus that Kosuth presented in a dis-

tinct advertising venue thus functioned as a fragment of a work that in its entirety comprised

all eight classes of categories.

Like the work in the Windham College show, Kosuth’s Second Investigation was not

instantaneous, not present to the viewer immediately, but mediated in the literal sense. Fur-

thermore, the Second Investigation underscored the temporal dimension of production and

the sequence of events required for the artwork to emerge as an entity. Each fragment rep-

resented a distinct part of the ensemble that was perpetually incomplete except as a total

idea. But perhaps the most significant negation effected by this fragmentary art was the way

it shattered the smooth finish, broke up the complete and unified work, and, by extension,

dismantled the mythical wholeness of the fetishized aesthetic object.

With the Second Investigation Kosuth left it to others to select the typeface, the par-

ticular mass-cultural venues to be utilized, and the precise site in those venues where the

anonymous advertisements would be placed. What started to surface then, like the return

of the repressed, was the question of the labor of production—a question commonly held in

check by the fetishized artwork. This is a further development of the decentering of the pro-

cedure of artistic production begun by the minimalists’ practice of entrusting skilled spe-

cialists to manufacture their work according to exacting specifications. Kosuth’s project

raises additional questions concerning the status of the work of art, such as whether it has a

traditional, institutionally or discursively defined space or is contextually defined. In this

sense Kosuth’s Second Investigation goes beyond the artistic operation entailed by the mini-

malist work of Judd, Flavin, or Andre, which (with a few notable exceptions such as Andre’s

Joint) was always installed in traditionally defined exhibition spaces: the white-box commer-

cial gallery or pristine museum. By contrast, insofar as Kosuth’s anonymous, serially pro-

duced and distributed works dismantled notions of artistic subjectivity, authority,

uniqueness, and the neat traditional autonomous realm of high culture, they were closer to

the artistic practice of Lozano and Graham. And, as I suggested, there are quite evident re-

lations between Kosuth’s assault on traditional categories and conventions and some of

Warhol’s artistic strategies in the 1960s.

Kosuth’s modus operandi was thus highly compatible with that of Siegelaub. In-

deed the importance of their collaboration cannot be underestimated. Both were keenly

aware of how to manipulate and control publicity, and how to use the mass media and com-


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munications technologies to disseminate art. Both sought to bring together like-minded

artists in order to produce a more or less coherent movement that could be easily identified

by the media and, more importantly, by patrons. Hence Kosuth’s project extended beyond the

relatively hermetic, traditional modes of art production toward a practice that included the

promotion of artworks—an ambitious project, and one that could not have been achieved

without the partnership of Siegelaub, whom Kosuth clearly recognized as a maverick: “Of

course, then there’s the importance of a dealer like . . . well, I shouldn’t say dealer because

he’s not . . . um, an entrepreneur like Seth Siegelaub.”73

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PART II primary and secondary information

The word “art” is becoming less of a noun and more of a verb.

—Robert Barry, 19691

Before, meaning ten years ago, you could have said art was about information. Except informa-

tion before had to do with color, line, composition, and all that bullshit, in which case the art

and the presentation of the art were identical. But here you have a situation where the presen-

tation of the art and the art are not the same thing.

—Seth Siegelaub, 19692

The development of an art that degraded traditional materials, surfaces, and self-contained

forms in favor of media not previously associated with art, and of an unprecedented trans-

parency of operative structures in the process of signification, had a profound impact on

Siegelaub’s conception of his role as a dealer. As he observed in a 1969 interview with the

English critic Charles Harrison, “Gradually there developed an ‘art’ which didn’t need to be

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hung. An art wherein the problem of presentation paralleled one of the problems previously

involved in the making and exhibition of a painting: that is, to make someone else aware that an

artist had done anything at all.”3

Yet this coupling of art’s mythical, intrinsic presence with the operation of signifi-

cation inherent in publicity—a conflation that would become central to Siegelaub’s opera-

tion as a dealer as well as to what would come to be termed “conceptual art”—was not as

straightforward as his comments to Harrison implied. A particularly striking example of

Siegelaub’s attempt to grapple with this “problem of presentation” was the sudden shift in

his commercial practice in 1968. “Before,” he remarked in early 1969, “when someone painted

a painting, what had been done and what you saw were the same thing. . . . It was all there

in front of you.”4 Echoing Kosuth, Siegelaub argued that a situation had recently developed

in which the material presentation of the work and the intrinsic elements of the art were


You see, one of the issues that has interested me about this art is the separation between the art it-

self and its presentation. This discrepancy, or this difference, is a relatively recent undertaking, or a

relatively recent issue. See, if before you had a painting, even, say, Bob Barry’s earlier pieces, what

you saw, the art, and how you saw it, were the same thing. With a painting on the wall, the art and

the presentation of it is the same. But now you have a case where . . . the art is not the same thing

as how you’re given the information.5

According to Siegelaub, it was now possible to split the artwork into what he re-

ferred to as “primary information” (“the essence of the piece,” its ideational part) and “sec-

ondary information” (the material information by which one becomes aware of the piece, the

raw matter, the fabricated part, the form of presentation).6 This idealist conception of mean-

ing as an a priori construct existing before its embodiment in form raised the issue of sub-

stitution and exchange in a social and economic sphere. For Siegelaub the separation of art

ideas that are abstract by their very nature from the raw matter on which primary informa-

tion relies for presentation meant that linguistic and graphic information presented in the

catalogue or other forms of printed media played a potentially unprecedented role in artis-

tic communication.

But Siegelaub was clearly aware that making the new work accessible to a large

public (an even larger public than for previous forms of art) was only half of the problem,


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since the abstruse and esoteric character of the art rendered it incomprehensible to all but

a small closed circle. He evidently decided that if these new works were to operate success-

fully in public space they would have to be presented within systems of communication and

representation accessible to their presumed public. In order to address this problem (and

here it is worth recalling that his merchandising operation already favored publicity), he tact-

fully increased the use of supplementary “outside information.” This took several forms: ex-

pository articles that identified the artists as a group with a specific dealer to enable the

public to place them, laudatory reviews, interviews, and public discussions by the artists ar-

ticulating the epistemological basis for this work.

For Siegelaub, certain attributes of exhibition catalogues made them particularly

attractive vehicles for disseminating art. As “‘containers’ of information” that were “unre-

sponsive to the environment,” catalogues offered neutral sites in which to exhibit work.7 On

numerous occasions he reiterated his concern to make the art he was promoting “known to

the multitudes”; he was well aware that catalogues could reach a much larger public than

more conventional material supports for art.8 Rather than simply a few aesthetes and purist

art cognoscenti, the potential audience for catalogues was both enormous and diverse, since

the printed matter circulated in a myriad of different contexts and countries.

By the fall of 1968, all of the elements in this strategy were beginning to come to-

gether: in an illustrated article in Arts Magazine, Gordon Brown discussed the work of Barry,

Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner; Arthur R. Rose’s essay, “Three since Windham,” was slated to

appear in the same magazine; and plans were made for the artists’ self-interviews to be

distributed in various magazines. Siegelaub’s systematic blitz of “outside information” pub-

licizing his artists and elucidating their work was ready to be launched (fig. II.1). To comple-

ment his ambitious promotional program, he orchestrated and circulated a series of

exhibitions in which the catalogue played an unprecedented role. The first of these featured

the recent work of Douglas Huebler.


ary and


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II.1 Publicity photograph by Seth Siegelaub featuring the four participating artists in “January

5–31, 1969”: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner

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My work is concerned with determining the form of art when the role played by visual experience

is mitigated or eliminated. In a number of works, I have done so by first bringing “appearance”

into the foreground of the piece and then suspending the visual experience of it by having it

actually function as a document that exists to serve as a structural part of a conceptual system.

—Douglas Huebler, 19701

In late 1965, the artist and art instructor Douglas Huebler invited critic Dore Ashton, then

collaborating with Siegelaub on a large show the gallery owner had initiated earlier that year,

the “25” exhibition, to address contemporary art issues at Bradford Junior College in Bradford,

Massachusetts.2 Huebler held a reception following the lecture at his house, and he took the

opportunity to show Ashton the modular constructions in wood covered with thin sheets of

Formica that comprised his recent artistic activity. The sculptures assembled open units of

six-inch-square oblong blocks joined one to the other to make endless changes of position

and patterns of angles (fig. 3.1). Some of the pieces were more symmetrical than others, and

chapter three

locations, variables, and durations

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3.1 Douglas Huebler, Truro Series 3-66, 1966

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since the structures had no favored orientation, they could be displayed in any position. Later

in the 1960s Huebler reflected on these works:

The things I made were out of plywood. They became essentially architectural, or architectonic in

structure. And they were meant to have a multipositioned aspect. That is, that they were made in

such a way like a cube, in the simplest way . . . a cube you could turn in any direction and it’s say-

ing the same kind of thing. And the forms that I made were more complex than a cube, but at the

same time were meant to be multifunctional in that way, so that they had no privileged, pictorial

aspect. . . . The work, having its visual aspects removed—its anecdotal aspects removed and so

forth—was meant to be an equivalent object in the world, rather than a special object in the world.3

The sculptures thus dissolved traditional internal hierarchical orders, negated traces of

meaning (i.e., “anecdotal aspects”), and assaulted the conventional hierarchy of objects. For

Huebler, furthermore, the veneer of white and gray Formica diminished the objects’ textural

quality, as well as the artist’s hand, and operated as “a skin that relieves the object of its


The effectiveness of the broad range of negations that informed this body of sculp-

ture is difficult to assert precisely. From Huebler’s point of view, the negations shifted the fo-

cus away from the sensibility of the artist and the idiosyncratic particularities of the object

in favor of the phenomenological perception of the viewer. According to him, the temporal

and bodily experience of moving through an architectural container led the viewer to an ex-

treme self-awareness of his or her performative and phenomenological involvement with

the aesthetic object. As he subsequently explained, rather than presume that sense in art is

generated by autonomous sets of terms, his sculptures emphasized the degree to which fac-

tors of spectatorial interaction and spatial contextuality explicitly contributed to the mean-

ing and vision of artistic objects: “I wanted the sculpture to serve as a kind of springboard for

the percipient to recognize himself or herself in the space with the thing (minimal sculpture)

as an existential moment.”5

Ashton was not particularly interested in Huebler’s recent activity in sculpture, but

she suggested he contact both the curator Kynaston McShine, who was then putting together

a large exhibition of contemporary sculpture for the Jewish Museum in New York, and the

young, up-and-coming dealer Seth Siegelaub. Huebler immediately communicated with

McShine, who expressed interest in considering the artist’s recent sculptural work for his up-


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coming show “Primary Structures.” Soon thereafter, while in New York to meet McShine,

Huebler stopped by Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art.6

Huebler did not introduce himself to Siegelaub when he first visited the gallery.

Instead on 17 February 1966 he mailed the dealer a dossier with slides of his work. “Dear

Mr. Siegelaub,” he wrote in his letter of introduction, “In a recent conversation with Dore Ash-

ton she suggested to me that I contact you in regard to the possibility of your gallery show-

ing my work. I will take the liberty of enclosing some examples of recent constructions and

will look forward to hearing from you.”7 Siegelaub, busy with the “25” show, delayed in re-

sponding to Huebler’s letter, and on 7 March 1966 the latter wrote him once again, this time

in a dramatically different tone: “Dear Mr. Siegelaub: Several weeks ago I sent you some

slides and photos and as I infer that they do not interest you would you be kind enough to re-

turn them.”8 Siegelaub hastily mailed the slides back to the artist and made arrangements to

drive up to Boston to meet him. In Boston, they almost immediately agreed that Huebler

would produce thirty new works to be exhibited at Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art in Sep-

tember of that year.9

The sculptures Huebler produced for this ill-fated exhibition were along the same

lines as his Formica pieces—material objects that could be grasped phenomenologically. But

in the next one and a half years Huebler’s work changed dramatically, and in early 1968 he

abandoned object sculpture altogether. Reflecting on this shift barely a year later, Huebler

described the move away from sculptural objects in terms of a logical development of

his work. The sculptures were “small enough in scale that they functioned in a room,” he


but once they began to get larger in scale, . . . I began to think about putting these works outside so

that they would have an ongoing aspect in actual nature, rather than working with the environment

in an interior situation where they worked with the wall and the ceiling. . . . [In early 1968] I did a

piece that I meant to go outside, and I took it outside, and I did another piece deliberately for an out-

door sculpture show that was more of a mock-up. And in both cases, I was absolutely destroyed to

see how puny they looked outside. Enormous inside, too big for a room, . . . [but] when I put the work

outside . . . Wham! You know, there was the rest of the world, and trees were more interesting than

the sculpture, and the sky was—and so forth. Unless—and this was the thing that really hit me—

unless you framed the environment in which the sculpture existed outside.10


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For Huebler this idea posed a major problem, since institutional and discursive

conventions capable of “framing the environment” within artistic production had yet to be

established. Siegelaub had addressed this same problem of framing conventions in an essay

that he wrote immediately following the Windham College show:

Confronted with the outdoors, one is immediately impressed by its vast diversity. Sun, earth, woods,

grass, sky, all combine to make an idealized space impossible. The relationship between exterior

space and the artist has more unanswered conventions. This is because artists have not, until re-

cently, addressed themselves to the nature of exterior space. The framing conventions have not yet

been articulated. For instance, an interior sculpture is framed by the room that it is located in, what

would be a comparable exterior environment? Can (or should) exterior sculpture “hold” its space?

By scale? Time? Size indoors is obviously relational, but what is a relational size outdoors? Where

is the “place” for exterior sculpture? Where does it end? Where does it begin? At this point (in time)

it seems that interior space is more neutral than exterior space. Quite possibly because it has been

less well defined.11

Both Huebler and Siegelaub had arrived at reflections on the institutional framework of art

similar to those Tony Smith had voiced in a notorious interview of December 1966, where he

described a car ride he had recently taken on the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike to Samuel

Wagstaff, Jr.:

It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all

except the dark pavement moving through the landscape of the flats, rimmed by hills in the distance,

but punctuated by stacks, towers, fumes, and colored lights. This drive was a revealing experience.

The road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn’t be called a work of art. On the

other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At first, I didn’t know what it was, but

its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. It seemed that there had

been a reality there that had not had any expression in art. The experience on the road was some-

thing mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear that that’s the

end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that. There is no way you can frame it, you just

have to experience it.12


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While all three speakers invoke the problem of establishing framing conditions for

the vast outdoors, the tone in which they address this problem differs. For Smith, it is im-

possible to resolve the contradiction between the ineffable (and sublime) experience of the

modern industrial landscape and the delimited conventions of painting and artistic tradi-

tions in general. Two years later, Siegelaub and Huebler are more optimistic about establish-

ing framing conventions capable of demarcating and presenting aspects of the vast outdoors

within an artistic context.

In the intervening period from 1966 to 1968, a growing number of artists had begun

to work in sculptural media expanded to unprecedented proportions, and this development

contributed to the more confident tone of the later articulations. By 1968 sculptors such as

Michael Heizer, Walter de Maria, Richard Long, and Dennis Oppenheim were employing huge

areas of the countryside as a medium for art-making.13 That year Heizer began executing

monumental sculpture, or “land art” as it came to be called; de Maria constructed Mile Long

Drawing, consisting of two parallel chalk lines, twelve feet across and one mile long, in the

Mohave Desert of California; the British artist Long was nominating hikes and walks through

remote landscapes as his work; and Oppenheim horizontally stretched enormous lengths of

snow fence to trample patterns onto a wheat field in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, during the

growing season to make Surface Indentation.14

A number of artists also proposed imposing monuments to be placed in the urban

environment in such a way that they could compete with and even surpass architecture. A

case in point is the Bulgarian artist Christo, whose monumental projects were then coming

to be more widely known.15 Perhaps the most outrageous incidents in this vein were Otto

Piene’s proposal to construct public monuments the size of skyscrapers and LeWitt’s scheme

to encase the Empire State Building in concrete, which, in their sheer excess and absurdity,

commented explicitly on the contemporary impossibility of monumental sculpture.16 For

Huebler, such monumental projects were too assertive, too much like “the gesturing in Ab-

stract Expressionism, for instance, or any number of romantic postures where you’re going

to get attention by hook or by crook.”17 As he noted on several occasions in the later 1960s,

the advent of land art led him to recognize that the traditional elements and practices of

sculpture were no longer credible or valid. In turn, he soon abandoned the conventional cat-

egories of art, as much as the production of objects, increasingly relying instead on devices

of suggestion and absence.18


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Huebler’s first works in this vein employed mass-produced, ordinary topographical

road maps. With the aid of a felt marker, he would chart out a series of short automobile

round trips on road maps that in turn functioned as diagrammatic structures of trips to be

taken. The maps “saved” each trip as an entity—as a description of movement through time

and space. Charted in an “absolutely random” manner, with no prior knowledge of the

routes, the trips were noncompositional, nondesignated operations that negated authorial

control. Moreover, Huebler supplemented the maps with dry textual descriptions, employ-

ing the simple scientific or legal language featured on cartographs. The supplementary texts

were utterly void of poetic or philosophical resonance, their sole function being to define the

parameters of the pieces. In this sense, Huebler’s cartographic works articulated thoroughly

self-reflexive narratives that did not provide access to artistic subjectivity. The new works,

like Kosuth’s, were presented in the same detached, comment-free way that characterized

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s writings of the 1950s and 1960s, an association that Huebler himself

was at pains to make.19 Like Robbe-Grillet, Huebler constructed a system that deprived the

viewer of all illusionistic narrative dimensions, other than those requiring a close-up or di-

rect tracing of the construction of the artistic project itself. As an early critic of Huebler’s in-

formation-based work put it, “he does not interpret—he documents.”20

The map pieces followed quite logically from Huebler’s earlier interest in holistic,

generalized gestalt forms, whose total shapes and constituting principles could easily be rec-

ognized as a whole by the viewer without the need to move around the stationary form. In-

deed the structural integrity and simplicity of the road map (its relatively small scale,

condensation of multiple visual signs, gridded topographical structure) allowed the viewer

to grasp the concept of the space independently of time, a phenomenological intuition some-

what analogous to the viewer’s perception in a single glance of the shape of a three-

dimensional sculpture. Furthermore, the art, according to Huebler, was in “the trip itself”—a

trip that could be performed either literally, by the percipient getting in a car and following

the map, or cognitively within the exhibition space.21 As such, representation was pushed “to

the point of imagining a map so rigorous and referential that it becomes coterminous with

its object,” to invoke Fredric Jameson’s provocative description of the fate of the referent in

the structural concept of the sign during the 1960s.22

Simultaneous with the synchronic, holistic aspect of the road map is the more di-

achronic, sequential dimension also evoked in Huebler’s charted automobile trips. As the

viewer’s eye followed the path of the trip, the frozen space of the cartographic document


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3.2 Douglas Huebler, Rochester Trip, 1968

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thawed, becoming filmic and unfolding in a continuous present. The inert completeness of

the road map thus collided with the temporal nature of the journey in a manner that substi-

tuted “script” for presence, “textual structure” for event or fact, and the “process of making”

for any symbolic or transcendent meaning.23

Rochester Trip, 1968, is an early example of these road trip works (fig. 3.2). On a com-

mon road map of northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, Huebler charted

a round trip with a felt pen. At the bottom of the road map he wrote:

Rochester Trip. A round trip drive between Haverhill, Massachusetts and Rochester [New Hamp-

shire]. (This trip must begin in Haverhill and proceed, in either direction, returning in the other di-

rection.) The trip need not be taken, but if taken the above route must be taken. Whatever is seen

when the trip is taken joins with this map as the form of the work.

The penultimate sentence of this description is highly telling, insofar as it simultaneously

recalls the disempowering aspects of the decade-old “happenings” of Allan Kaprow and fore-

shadows one of the most participatory artistic operations of late 1960s art. In one sense the

verbal descriptions on Huebler’s map pieces echo the strict tone of works such as Kaprow’s

18 Happenings in Six Parts of 1959, which commanded participants to adhere obediently to the

script—“the beginning and end of each [part] will be signalled by a bell,” “you will remain in

your seats,” “there will be no applause after each set.” In another sense the cartographic

works point to the rupture that Weiner effected later in 1968, putting egalitarian forms of in-

teraction into practice by leaving decisions about whether or not the work was to be made to

the discretion of the beholder. It is in this context that the instructions Huebler wrote on one

of the new works on paper that he sent to Siegelaub late in the spring of 1968 ought primarily

to be seen. “As the so-called ‘earth sculptures’ are about ‘place’,” Huebler explained to the

dealer, “so are the maps. They’re arbitrary. May or may not be taken which is arbitrary, but if

taken the commitment should be to take them exactly as designed. Starting point optional.”24

Siegelaub was intrigued by the new direction of Huebler’s work, and the two began

to collaborate on an exhibition project. No sooner had they begun to organize the exhibition

when Huebler jumped from charting trips on maps to defining place by points or markers lo-

cated in huge areas of space. The starting point for these works continued to be the map. As

before, the artist would chart a route on a map, but now he systematically singled out cer-

tain spots along the route to be traveled to and photographed. The prosaic documentary pho-


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tographs were thus the result of a predetermined conceptual order; they were meant neither

to have an aesthetic value nor to represent an interesting place or staged scene. Rather their

role was to document the actual site Huebler had schematically located on a map. Further-

more, the accuracy of the match between the designated spot on the map and the site at

which the photograph was taken was of little import to his schema.25 The deadpan, docu-

mentary function of the photographs—their status as “secondary information”—superseded

their representational function. As secondary information, they supplemented the work in a

manner analogous to the way the terse linguistic descriptions, the maps, and the “marked”

locations functioned. Once again, Huebler was careful to assert that the documents were

void of intrinsic merit:

In the same sense that I don’t care about specific appearance I really don’t care about precise or ex-

haustive documentation. The documents prove nothing. They make the piece exist and I am inter-

ested in having that existence occur in as simple a way as possible. Where a thing is involves

everything else and I like that idea much more than how I “feel” about it or what it looks like.26

Huebler’s statement that it is solely the set of documents that “make the piece exist” points

to a clear split between the concept, or what Siegelaub would refer to as the “primary infor-

mation,” and the documentation, or “secondary information.” In this instance the primary in-

formation demands the secondary information to bring it into being. The concept has no

presence in and of itself; the work is now comprised solely of the idea of the relationship that

is signified by the documentation.


Huebler’s early map pieces and site “sculptures” establish a dialogue with Robert Smithson’s

post-1967 practice of integrating maps, photographs, descriptive passages, and earth sam-

ples into his work. The latter function as equal elements in a linguistic field that operates as

a “deep three-dimensional abstract map that points to a specific site on the surface of the

earth.”27 Indeed for one early piece, Site Sculpture Project. Windham College Pentagram, 1968,

Huebler displaced a residue of earth from an actual site to the location of the exhibition—to

the “non-site,” in Smithson’s terms. Along with the earth sample Huebler exhibited a map, a

linguistic description, and photographs of the original site.28


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In contrast to Smithson’s dialectical method of positing both site and non-site, mat-

ter and mind, earth and concept as equal components, samples of earth were extremely rare

in Huebler’s work. Rather, the maps, photographs, and written information functioned as

secondary material signaling the site that remained abstract. Huebler’s work thus rules out

the concept of a fully present art object proposed by erudite late modernist critics such as

Michael Fried in “Art and Objecthood.”29 Rather than emphasizing (as Kosuth in his own way

also did) the art object’s formal essence or categorical being, Huebler’s new work fragmented

the centered late modernist art object and focused instead on the information system in

which certain traces and spaces were privileged as structural features—as what Jacques Der-

rida would in another context call “archi-traces.”30 For Huebler this information system was

comprised of documents. Furthermore, although Smithson insisted that the elements of his

artworks be taken literally, his writings articulated their meaning. In this sense Smithson

first turned the artwork into a text, and then developed procedures for reading the work.31 He

constantly emphasized the figurative aspects of the materials employed, which necessarily

involved the viewer moving from the materials to the supposed meanings. Huebler also

transformed the artwork into a text, but he and Smithson diverged on the degree of literal-

ity in their work.

In interviews and writings of the later 1960s, Smithson appealed to a well-

developed, independently articulated extra-artistic tradition: dialectics and the language of

entropy and confinement. This had tremendous power and benefit for his analysis but also

involved him in certain ways of reading the artwork as text that had an inertial drag on his

own analysis—ways of reading the meaning of the text that ran against his artistic aspira-

tions. Smithson did not indicate the extent to which the viewer was to read the text (artwork)

for its material qualities, but consistently emphasized the inherently unstable mechanics of

texts that involved the viewer moving from the signifier, the material of the work, to the sup-

posed meanings of that material. Although such meanings were no longer literal but im-

plicit, they nevertheless remained meanings; the viewer was still engaged in decoding

metonyms and metaphors in the artwork/text to determine what signified might be indi-

cated by a given signifier.

Because Huebler did not claim any connection between signifier and meaning, he

produced a reading of his own work that was far more literal than Smithson’s. Huebler did

not explicitly route a reading of his artistic production through a metaphorical language, the

way Smithson routed his work through entropy, confinement, and the tradition of dialectical


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theory; he did not claim a connection, however oblique, between the signifiers of his work,

which he called the “raw information,” and some signified.32 Rather, in a way that bears a kin-

ship with Kosuth who stressed art’s literalness, Huebler was interested in the facticity of that

raw information without worrying about supposed meanings. As he put it, the tremendously

prosaic nature of the documents employed in his work served as

a criticism of what I consider to be the irresponsible use of signifying. We have come to a point where

things are very accessible and the more they get stacked up with myth, the more easily they’re con-

sumed and the more bullshit they become. I would like to try to help unload this stack of myth. This

stack of myth is related to man, his culture, and not just art. I’m using art to speak through to these


Huebler’s was thus a post-Smithson understanding of the artwork as text. It is un-

likely that Huebler would have been as literal about the textual operation of an artwork if

Smithson had not pointed the way by emphasizing the raw materials, the signifiers of his

work. In order to preserve his own creative identity, Huebler completed Smithson, as it were,

by being more literal than the latter, dropping his emphasis on spatial metaphors of inside

and outside, site and non-site, and replacing these with an emphasis on the temporality and

practice of making. The real and literal aspects of an artwork, Huebler argued, are located in

the practice of making, a process that by definition has a temporal dimension. For Huebler

the temporal dimension of an artwork operates not only in the process of production but also

in that of reception. Just as works of art are not produced or realized instantaneously, they

are also not present to the viewer immediately, contrary to Fried’s notorious claim in “Art and

Objecthood.”34 Rather, artworks are mediated in the literal sense that it takes time to observe

them and to contemplate their significance.

The serialization of relations in Huebler’s new work (the information package of

maps, photographs, and Robbe-Grillet-like language emptied of all metaphorical or

metonymical content) implies a degree of objectivity (in terms of its autonomous, self-

contained structure and self-definition) that precludes rational decision-making processes.

For if a system follows an external ordering principle, if it becomes a self-perpetuating, self-

generating structure with its own self-sufficient internal logic, then the artist takes a very

minor role and virtually disappears behind the structure’s self-generation. Such a self-

perpetuating system taking place, a priori, outside of the actual objects on view, but deter-


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mining them nonetheless, not only eliminates arbitrary artistic decisions but, as Huebler

noted, has ultimately to be seen as a process of decentering that negates the presence of sub-

jectivity in the work: “An inevitable destiny is set in motion by the specific process selected

to form such a work freeing it from further decisions on my part.”35

One of the foundational motivations for this artistic effort to break down the mys-

tery of compositional structure, to dismantle the myth of privileged aesthetic experience

and decenter the rational control over the art object, was political. It was an operation that

aimed to eliminate the need for privileged knowledge in the reception of art, advocating

instead a doctrine of equal access and interaction. “All of my works,” Huebler put it in


have been directed towards the process or the capacity of a work to generate the making of the work

by the percipient. . . . It’s a political concern also. It is, in effect, an effort to empty the work of what

appears to be the content. It is not to fill the work with content. It is to empty it . . . of mythology, to

empty it of literature and to allow it to speak by being empty. . . . I want to open the situation up to

the person seeing the work. I feel very obliged to allow the perceiver all the space he or she can use.

Therefore, my distance is to me a necessary posture so that I don’t get in the way. . . . The language

that I use in the work is meant to very carefully structure itself and build towards a kind of conclu-

sion that allows a reconstitution of the information by the viewer.36

Indeed, as noted earlier, in some cases the beholder was in control of much more than the

reconstruction of information. In the road trip pieces, Huebler placed the decision as to

whether or not to set the work in motion, to activate the work by taking the trip, in the do-

main of the beholder. These issues came together in a landmark show of Huebler’s work that

Siegelaub organized in 1968.

“ D O U G L A S H U E B L E R : N O V E M B E R 1 9 6 8 ”

The “Douglas Huebler: November 1968” show was the first to employ the exhibition cata-

logue as sole material support. Initially Huebler planned to produce ten distinct site-specific

sculptures, each located in a different city. On 25 June 1968, Siegelaub began to orchestrate

a campaign of direct-mail advertising to promote the project, sending a prospectus to a num-

ber of potential patrons.37 Whereas a few months earlier the work, the catalogue, and the


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documentation had been three discrete entities, at this stage the documentation and the

catalogue were fused.38 “Each sculpture,” Siegelaub explained, “will come with photographs,

drawings, maps, metes and bounds, description and other relevant documents to certify

ownership.” Not only did the documentation “make the piece exist,” it also served to authen-

ticate the work and give it prominence. The cost of the sculpture would be computed ac-

cording to the amount of money and time the artist spent on transportation to and from the

site, on materials, and on documentation. The latter now plays an unprecedented role in de-

termining the overall value of the work.39

A couple of weeks later, Siegelaub placed further stress on the documentation.

Along with a slightly modified prospectus sent to a larger number of collectors, the cover let-

ter stated unequivocally that the information about the work would function as a certificate

of authenticity for the patron.40 In other words, possession of the information or documen-

tation of the work signaled ownership. In one blow, then, Siegelaub eliminated the bulk of the

material object and replaced it with documentation.

Although there were no direct responses to the prospectus, Siegelaub secured

funding for the printing costs of an exhibition catalogue from a local patron.41 Since Hue-

bler’s new work no longer entailed immediate, intimate objects or space, while its visible,

material aspects took the abstract form of documents and linguistic information sited on

printed pages, Siegelaub concluded that the artist’s new work could be effectively presented

in the field of distribution—and specifically in the catalogue—alone. As he observed in his

1969 interview with Harrison, “The catalogue can now act as primary information for the

exhibition, as opposed to the secondary information. . . . In some cases the exhibition can be

the catalogue.”42

In an important sense, this shift in perspective from a narrow concern with the ob-

ject, or even with the context of placement, to a broader investigation of the artwork as a

phenomenon of the apparatus of publicity was perhaps best articulated by Dan Graham’s

important works for magazine pages, begun a few years earlier.43 Graham had recognized

that since most people rarely see original works of art but know of them primarily through

illustrations in art magazines, the work could effectively be embedded in the magazine from

the very beginning. This in turn enabled a fundamental decentering whereby the work not

only lost its object structure but its center as well, with the mass-cultural distribution form

of printed matter substituting for those conventions. As early as 1966, in a development that

came to represent one branch of “conceptual art,” Graham renounced the possibility of mak-


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ing objects altogether, reckoning that it was more feasible to inscribe the work from the be-

ginning within the channels in which it would inevitably be received.44 Like Graham, Huebler

and Siegelaub addressed questions of site specificity, hybrid categories, forms of distribution,

and, more generally, the contextual issues traditionally omitted from thinking about art.

The development of a type of work that could be presented without originals—a

syntagmatic work whose materiality slid along a chain of signifiers—also problematized the

issue of ownership.45 For if elements of documentary information now constituted the work,

then possession of those elements became ownership, and documents became artworks.46

This was a further step in the demystification of the precious, fetishized art object (the sep-

aration of the artistic idea from the palpable object) characteristic of the recent work of

Flavin and Andre. As Huebler put it in the Prospect 69 catalogue,

During the last ten years other art forms that do exist as objects have seriously challenged collec-

tors to suspend former expectations about what is original. Anyone could reproduce an Andre or a

Flavin for instance. What would he have? I believe that the sensibility behind a work of art should

be broadly accessible.47

In Huebler’s view the critique of the unique object performed by his new work, which he un-

derstood to be in the lineage of Flavin’s and Andre’s work, also incorporated a redefinition of

the role of the art patron. He described this change in a New York radio broadcast that Siege-

laub organized in 1969:

Someone who buys a Flavin, for instance, isn’t buying a light show. He is supporting an artist, like

scientists receive the money from science foundations. They are supporting his activities, whatever

his activities are, and if they want a fluorescent light they go to the hardware store and buy it for a

great deal less.48


Siegelaub and Huebler tried to present the “Douglas Huebler: November 1968” exhibition in

as literal and detached a manner as possible. The laconic facticity of the exhibition title

echoed the works in the catalogue, which were conspicuous for their negation of all poetic

and metaphorical connotations. Consistent with his attempt “to avoid prejudicing the view-


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ing situation,” Siegelaub decided not to include “outside verbal information like catalogue in-

troductions, thematic titles, et cetera.”49 Such neutrality, he reasoned, would allow the view-

ers more freedom to determine the nature of their own art experiences and interpretations

Huebler’s work was changing so rapidly that he evidently began to have doubts

about the feasibility of the exhibition project. This skepticism was compounded by the

highly ephemeral and unprecedented nature of his new works. As each successive work

posed a greater challenge to the existing conventions, the problem of criteria became more

pressing.50 But Siegelaub’s enthusiasm for the project, and for the recent developments in

Huebler’s work, was undiminished. He worked on the exhibition all summer and into the fall,

devising ways to tailor the information to the parameters of the catalogue.51

A general reference map of the United States printed in white with a black back-

ground was featured on the front and back covers of Douglas Huebler: November 1968 (fig. 3.3).

The catalogue’s dimensions (8 x 8 inches) and thinness gave it the appearance of a 45 rpm

record sleeve. It reproduced twelve of the fifteen works in the exhibition. Four of the new

works were untitled ink-on-paper drawings that combined descriptive language with graphic

signs and literal and referential facts, all locating lines and points in various spatial rela-


Huebler’s series of statements printed on the second page of the catalogue mani-

festly and programmatically elucidated the operation of the new, conceptualist work. “The

existence of each sculpture is documented by its documentation,” Huebler announced:

The documentation takes the form of photographs, maps, drawings and descriptive language. The

marker “material” and the shape described by the location of the markers have no special signifi-

cance, other than to demark the limits of the piece.

The permanence and destiny of the markers have no special significance.

The duration pieces exist only in the documentation of the marker’s destiny within a se-

lected period of time.

The proposal projects do not differ from the other pieces as idea, but do differ in the ex-

tent of their material substance.

Two contradictory currents run through these statements: one, literal and temporal, frames

the material limits of the works; the other, less tangible or material, demarcates the

ideational component. They parallel, respectively, the material and phenomenological as-


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3.3 Cover of Douglas Huebler: November 1968, 1968

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pects of minimal art and the structuralist elements of the theory of conceptual art that Le-

Witt was beginning to articulate. Huebler’s current work fused these two paradigms. It fell

into three categories: “Location,” “Duration,” and “Variable.” The “Location Piece” Boston-New

York Exchange Shape, for example, included maps of the downtown areas of New York and

Boston, each with a superimposed hexagon. The hexagons defined the same dimension of

space in each city. At each of the six corners, Huebler designated a letter of the alphabet

(from A to F on the Boston map; A� to F� on the New York map). He typed a list of the specific

sites demarcated by the corners on an 81/2-x-11-inch sheet of paper and then traveled to each

site, where he placed a white, one-inch square sticker and made photographs. The docu-

mentation of the piece thus consisted of two maps with the hexagonal drawings and letters,

an 81/2-x-11-inch sheet of paper, and a number of photographs of each site (figs. 3.4–3.6). The

sculptural ideas remained abstract, manifested only in the mind of the person viewing the


The parameters of the work referred to in the catalogue as “Duration Pieces” were

formed by predetermined amounts of time, evoking the way Huebler’s “soulmate,” John Cage,

framed off four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence in his famous aleatory compo-

sition 4�33�, first performed by David Tudor in 1952.53 In contrast to Cage’s work, which

loomed large over much art of the 1960s, Huebler’s “Duration Pieces” depended on the docu-

mentation of the performance—the framework—rather than on the event itself. Real time

was suspended by the frame of Huebler’s documentary information, whereas in Cage’s piece

the actual passing of time was an integral component. In the twenty-four-minute Duration

Piece #2, a one-foot-wide line of sand was laid across a designated stretch of highway (Route

125, near Plaistow, New Hampshire). A series of twelve black-and-white photographs of the

disintegrating line of sand were then taken at two-minute intervals.54

This process of production, which employed the camera as a mere “duplicating de-

vice whose operator makes no ‘aesthetic’ decisions,” negated not only the competence of the

artist and the role of the author but also the notion that the photographs had any aesthetic

value.55 “I use the camera,” declared Huebler, “as a dumb copying device that only serves to

document whatever phenomena appear before it through the conditions set by a system. No

‘aesthetic’ choices are possible. Other people often make the photographs. It makes no dif-

ference.”56 Huebler’s mechanically executed photographs were anticipated by Warhol’s mid-

1960s practice of placing a film camera on a tripod, aiming it, turning it on, and walking away

from the stationary machine. Huebler’s schematic method of production similarly negated


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3.4 Douglas Huebler, Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 1968

3.5 Douglas Huebler, Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 1968

3.6 Douglas Huebler, Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 1968

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the aesthetic decision-making process, and placed the artist’s role alongside that of the

equally passive spectator. Time figured as strongly in Warhol’s films as it did in Huebler’s “Du-

ration Pieces,” for which “a period of time is chosen and whatever happens to the situation is

documented.”57 Moreover, the fact that “other people often make the photographs” was in

line with Warhol’s mode of “factory” production in which others made the work for which he

would subsequently claim authorship.

The catalogue-exhibition also included one so-called “Variable Piece,” Variable Piece

#1 (fig. 3.7).58 As a scheme to be activated, the information presented by Variable Piece #1

evoked the participatory dimension of works such as Kaprow’s 18 Happenings in Six Parts

noted above, where the audience followed a predetermined script with instructions to ap-

plaud, remain seated, or change rooms at various times during the performance. This com-

mitment to audience participation became of paramount importance for Huebler, whose

activity continued to close the gap between the viewer and the artwork. But in contrast to

Kaprow’s happenings, Huebler’s work involved a dialogic relationship between instructions

and viewer participation.

The participatory nature of Huebler’s conceptual art was aided by the simplicity of

the scheme and by his ceding of artistic control over the process of production. The works

only came into existence when the beholder sorted out and activated the information pro-

vided. In this way Huebler’s work put into motion what Benjamin Buchloh, in a discussion of

the 1960s work of Andy Warhol, has termed a “bodily synecdoche,” especially insofar as they

“bring the viewer, almost literally, into the plane of visual representation . . . —a twentieth-

century avant-garde practice intended to instigate active identification of the viewer with the

representation, replacing the contemplative mode of aesthetic experience with an active

one.”59 As with Warhol’s Dance Diagrams and Do It Yourself paintings to which Buchloh refers,

Huebler’s work canceled all gesturality or expressivity on the part of the artist through its in-

sertion of a diagram, and its emphatic foregrounding of a predetermined scheme that pre-

cluded all subsequent decision-making and intuitive processes. In a fundamental shift of

authorial agency, the spectator now set the work (i.e., the documentary information: photo-

graphs, maps, schematic drawings, linguistic descriptions) in motion.60 As Huebler put it in

the catalogue for a show of 1970: “The subject of art is the percipient engaged in a self pro-

ducing activity that, itself, replaces appearance and becomes the virtual image of the work.”61

Huebler’s conceptual art broke, at least superficially, with a series of conventions

then central to high art practice. It dismantled the fixation on the centrality of the artist and


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3.7 Douglas Huebler, Variable Piece #1, 1968

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the coherence of the object that had been integral to late modernist art. The role of the artist

was now reduced to solely “pointing the direction,” as Huebler put it.62 “If I say too much

about my intentions,” he emphasized, “then I feel that might get in the way. The work itself

will have to stand independent of my hopes for it, which is, to have people make these iden-

tifications.”63 In addition, the unity of the work of art was dismantled into simple signs: maps,

photographs, descriptions, and information of various kinds. This fracturing was directly re-

lated to issues of distribution, exhibition, salability, and ownership. The art was thus per-

petually in process, the scene of a play of information and not, as in the most ambitious late

modernist work, “a vehicle of expression or feeling,” a carrier of humanistic content from the

artist to the viewer.64

Moreover, the very core of Huebler’s project was based on questions of signifying

and signification, of making and remaking meanings, analogous to models of language

where meaning is produced by structural relationships. The material signifiers could be

joined and parted in multiple ways in each and every viewing of the work. In this sense, the

operation of Huebler’s work shifted the focus to the play of the signifier and the practice of

signifying, more strongly and decisively than previously. The information presented was not

transparent; it could not be discarded for some represented presence. Rather, the concen-

tration was on the specificity of the material signifiers and the activity of their operation.65

Indeed, the works in themselves produced an effect of virtual undecidability. As presented,

they had to be assembled—an operation that Huebler implied when he explained to Lippard

that “the act of perceiving is what concerns me rather than what is perceived.”66 In this re-

spect, these works elicit the performative dimension of the spectator in the production of

meaning, calling on the observer, to paraphrase Barthes, to produce the work anew, to draw

its signifiers “into an unknown praxis.”67 If in the early to mid-1960s Huebler sought to undo

and outdo the late modernist paradigm of autonomy and duality, placing in its stead a phe-

nomenological paradigm of visual experience that emphasized the inextricable relation-

ships between bodily, perceptual, and temporal experience, the labyrinthine mesh of

information that comprised his post-1968 work generally displaced that phenomenological

model in favor of a structuralist paradigm of visual experience and signification.

Most striking of all, Huebler’s conceptual art was advanced as representative of a

shift away from artworks that assume their place in the traditional late modernist site of

privileged, high art experience, in favor of artworks that were capable of addressing and com-

municating with a broader audience. This was the gist of Huebler’s argument when he re-


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marked in the spring of 1969 that he wanted “to suspend the notion that art is about muse-

ums and about all of the things that art has been about, . . . and open it up for more people.”68

For Huebler’s work to have access to a wider audience, its distribution form had to be dra-

matically altered as well, and this is where Siegelaub’s crucial and highly creative role in

their collaboration comes into sharper focus. If the work was to comprise secondary infor-

mation, then radically new strategies would have to be developed to sell, market, and exhibit

it. Along with these new methods came a parallel transformation in Siegelaub’s function,

changing from that of a dealer to “a consultant,” or “organizer,” of information.69 This trans-

formation is most clearly seen in Siegelaub’s response to the new work of Weiner and Barry.


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My work has no relationship to “I”, the work is presented out of context with me.

—Lawrence Weiner, 19691

Lawrence Weiner participated in the opening exhibition of Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art

(14 September–10 October 1964), and had one-person shows in each of the succeeding two

years that featured paintings from what has since come to be known as his Propeller series

(fig. 4.1).2 These paintings, which Weiner began in the early 1960s, were reminiscent of Jasper

Johns’s matrix structures of the 1950s. In a creative misreading of the latter’s Flag series,

Weiner problematized the artist’s decision-making process and frustrated critical attempts

to interpret artworks as stemming from the personal subjectivity of an exceptional, unique

sensibility. For both Weiner and Johns, separated by almost a decade, this strategy was part

of the broader move away from the mythologized rawness, spontaneity, and emotionalism

that characterized the work of the New York School.3 As with Huebler’s road maps or Kosuth’s

dictionary definitions, the scheme underlying the Propeller series—to choose a preestab-

chapter four

the linguistic turn

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4.1 Lawrence Weiner, installation of Propeller paintings at Seth Siegelaub Fine Arts,

10 November–5 December 1964

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lished, immediately recognizable and reproducible format or image: the TV test pattern—re-

moved not only compositional decisions but also questions of self-definition, inspiration,

surprise, and expression. Like Johns, Weiner critiqued representational conventions and

travestied romantic ideas of subjectivity in contemporary painting. Weiner’s canvases dif-

fered from Johns’s in their suggestion that what constituted publicness in the newly emerg-

ing consumer society was not, as the Flag paintings implied, one’s national identity, but

rather one’s identification with the newly formed global network of electronic culture trans-

mitted and received through television. What I want to single out here is how similar

Weiner’s suggestion is to Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s observation that an utterly

new era had arrived: “Electric circularity has overthrown the regime of ‘time’ and ‘space’ and

pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men. It has reconstituted

dialogue on a global scale.”4

The Propeller paintings, with their restricted palette of colors, appropriation of the

propeller motif that figured in the TV test pattern, and thick black outlines, also engaged in

dialogue with another legacy of Johns’s painting: the depersonalized style of pop art. At the

time, Weiner’s canvases were stylistically compared to Roy Lichtenstein’s signature paintings

of cartoon explosions.5 Furthermore, as work that, like Kosuth’s, was posited as dealing “with

the idea of painting, rather than a painting,”6 Weiner’s canvases shared common ground with

Lichtenstein’s bright cartoon paintings, which were “concerned with an idea of something

rather than with something itself,” as Donald Judd noted in a review of the artist’s work.7

Whereas Lichtenstein had appropriated the popular imagery of comic books,

Weiner located mass-cultural imagery in the infinitely more pervasive medium of television.

Thus Weiner’s paintings had an unlikely kinship with Warhol’s pop art work. As with

Warhol’s photo-silkscreens of mass-cultural motifs (packaged commodities and celebrities

alike), Weiner’s use of the TV test pattern provided an abstract formulation that allowed un-

limited variations. Similarly to the work of Kosuth, whose own peculiar debt to Warhol has

already been addressed, Weiner’s Propeller paintings negated claims of uniqueness and priv-

ileged forms of experience. They suggested that the technological revolution of electronic

communication networks had fundamentally transformed the intimate communicative

function of art. “Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness [all-at-once-ness],” McLuhan

and Fiore wrote in their widely popular The Medium Is the Massage. “‘Time’ has ceased, ‘space’

has vanished. We now live in a global village . . . a simultaneous happening.”8


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4.2 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1966

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Further echoing Warhol’s photo-silkscreens, Weiner’s Propeller series evokes the

conditions of experience that were coming to characterize public life through television. “A

new form of ‘politics’ is emerging,” McLuhan and Fiore announced; “the living room has be-

come a voting booth. Participation via television . . . is changing everything.”9 Never before

had an age been so globally interconnected: “The instantaneous world of electric informa-

tional media involves all of us, all at once. No detachment or frame is possible.”10 According

to McLuhan and Fiore, the new media thus radically affected contemporary perceptions of

the global environment, and required entirely new analytical and conceptual processes. By

the early 1960s, Weiner’s work was drawing attention to the transformation of publics into

mass audiences. In evoking the TV viewer who, fed a steady stream of images and informa-

tion, became globally “plugged in” to other spectators, Weiner posited an active viewer for

his art, one who could engage dialogically in the co-production of meaning—a shift of focus

that prefigured Huebler’s later theorization of “the percipient.”11


Weiner’s first Removal paintings of 1966 continued to break down the hierarchical relation-

ship between art object and audience. On the surface, the works appeared profoundly dif-

ferent from the Propeller paintings. Evocative of Frank Stella’s Aluminum series of 1960 and

Robert Mangold’s shaped Areas of 1965–1966, the Removal paintings had a sculptural element:

a rectangular notch removed from one corner of the bottom framing edge of the canvas (fig.

4.2). Though the notches in these pictures represent only a small departure from the rec-

tangle in comparison to Weiner’s subsequent more significant displacements, they consti-

tute the beginning of this main line of development.

Unlike the Propeller series, the Removal paintings were not hand-painted but me-

chanically produced with a spray gun and compressor, an approach that negated the artist’s

expressive or decision-making processes and—in a way that paralleled pop and minimal

art’s critiques of subjectivity—lessened the role of handicraft and its attendant unpre-

dictable nature. For if the Removal paintings employed an industrial mode of production that

paralleled the factory fabrication practice of the minimalists, Warhol’s gambit of abandon-

ing manual production in favor of stenciling and silkscreening images onto canvases or ob-

jects also had an impact on Weiner. If the Propeller series problematized the autonomy of

painting in the pursuit of an art of the popular (in theory at least), paintings from the Removal


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series steered this concern in the direction of an attack on the romantic notion of the inspired

artistic genius. As Weiner stated later, “The person who was receiving the painting would say

what size they wanted, what color they wanted, how big a removal they wanted.”12 The Pro-

peller paintings thus undermined their own authority by inviting and then incorporating that

of the viewer or, as the case may be, the patron. In this exchange among artist, art object, and

viewer the sense of a single authority or signatory dissolves altogether, placing the burden

of decision-making on the collector. To that extent, Weiner was still operating within a very

traditional model of patronage, complete with commissioned works and topics assigned to


The Removal paintings continued Weiner’s dialogue not only with Johns and pop art

but also with the contemporary work of Flavin and Andre, whose use of everyday manu-

factured components and materials (e.g., fluorescent light fixtures, firebricks, metal plates)

and shattering of the traditional division between virtual and real space (e.g., by inviting

the viewer to enter into or walk onto the work and experience it phenomenologically) had

begun to dismantle the myth of the privileged art object. Here, in this hybrid of contradictory

legacies that informed Weiner’s early work, were the elements that would soon evolve

into an artistic practice akin to Huebler’s, Kosuth’s, and, as we shall see below, Barry’s in the

late 1960s.

Weiner’s Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf, exhibited on the lawn of the Windham College

campus in Vermont in April and May 1968, was the artist’s most performative work to date

(figs. 4.3–4.4). It consisted of a 70 x 100-foot grid constructed of 510 yards of hemp twine

stapled onto thirty-four stakes hammered into the ground. A rectangular notch (10 x 20 feet)

was displaced from one corner. Six inches off the ground, the hemp was run the way sur-

veyors run string to measure parcels of land or structures. Despite the systematic layout and

the simple shape of the grid, it could not be seen from any direction in its entirety without

appearing as a trapezoid.

Similar to the way Andre, following Pollock’s horizontal painting process, over-

turned the traditional verticality of sculpture in favor of sculpture that would run along the

ground, Weiner collapsed the vertical plane of his Removal paintings into a horizontal to pro-

duce Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf. Placed on a field between two student dormitories, Staples,

Stakes, Twine, Turf beckoned the viewer to become physically involved, to confront the sculp-

ture directly by walking into the space it created. Analogously to the fusion of artwork and

viewer in happenings, Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf positioned the spectator in a corporeal rela-


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4.3 Lawrence Weiner, Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf, as installed at Windham College, 30 April–

31 May 1968

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4.4 Lawrence Weiner, Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf, as installed at Windham College, 30 April–

31 May, 1968

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tionship with the structure.13 Also parallel to happenings was the ephemerality of the work,

which only existed for the duration of the event and was then destroyed.

Weiner’s development of a type of work that problematized the distinction between

the space of the artwork and that of the viewer, between designated performance areas and

ordinary life, also echoed manifestations in American dance such as those then being forged

by Ann Halprin in San Francisco, Merce Cunningham on the east coast, and the group of

dancers who formed the Judson Dance Theater (including Trisha Brown, Simone Forti, Debo-

rah Hay, Steve Paxton, and Yvonne Rainer) in New York.

The integration of spectator participation into the conceptual structure of the work

inevitably posed a series of problems and questions concerning the social functions of the

work, its imagined public, its actual audience, and its proper site. Unlike Huebler, whose con-

ceptual art followed Kaprow’s structure of determination, Weiner objected vehemently to

what he called “impositional art.” In an early 1969 interview, he stated that he was against all

forms of demand made by art: “I don’t approve of art that you cannot supposedly experience

unless you do prescribed things, because that’s choreography and, to me, really and truly is

aesthetic fascism.”14


Following the Removal paintings, Weiner turned to what was to be his final series of paintings.

These were typically produced following a highly mechanized fabrication process that, to a

greater extent than before, displaced creative control from the hands of the artist. The titles

of One Pint Gloss White Lacquer Poured Directly upon the Floor and Allowed to Dry, 1968, and Two

Minutes of Spray Paint Directly upon the Floor from a Standard Aerosol Can, 1968, described in full

the materials and production procedure of the works. Employing a mechanical, anonymous

method of production in which a can of store-bought paint was emptied directly onto the

floor, Weiner dramatically reduced artistic decision-making, conscious control, and manual

production. Relying on chance and gravity as a substitute for artistic skill, this technique

allowed for greater depersonalization than even the highly dialogical Removal series. By elim-

inating the stretcher, canvas, and even the most reduced forms of organizational decisions

that went into the production of the Removal paintings (e.g., placing colored bands at the top

and at the bottom), Weiner erased traces of craftsmanship, skill, talent, and expression from

the process of pictorial execution.


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The emphasis on the operation of chance and gravity, the abandonment of the

brush and therefore of the “touch” of the artist altogether, the specifications that the paint-

ing be produced on a horizontal plane, on the floor—all of these characteristics inevitably

linked works such as Two Minutes of Spray Paint Directly upon the Floor from a Standard Aerosol

Can and One Pint Gloss White Lacquer Poured Directly upon the Floor and Allowed to Dry not to the

paintings of Stella and Mangold (as was the case with the Removal paintings), nor to the work

of Johns (like the earlier Propeller paintings), but to Jackson Pollock’s aleatory and gravity-

directed working procedure of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Yet, rather than prioritizing the

moment when the work physically materialized, as Pollock had ostensibly done, Weiner’s

new work emphasized the generative role of the title.15 The work was thus split into two dis-

tinct parts—one centered on the descriptive title, the other on the performance and its

residue. This was the last step before the object was erased from the operation altogether by

the growing importance of the linguistic utterance.

Of concern in Weiner’s shift from producing actual objects to textual definitions

was a reconfiguration of iconicity (in the form of linguistic structures) and an understanding

that, in order to transcend the privileged parameters of an elite, institutionalized bourgeois

culture, a work of art had to radically alter its mode of distribution. Weiner took a first step

in this direction when he exhibited a schematic, topographical drawing on graph paper, Turf,

Stake, and String, 1968, at the Dwan Gallery’s “Language II” show (25 May–22 June 1968) in New

York. The drawing did not indicate the materials illusionistically but linguistically, by way of

words written in a repetitive design. The framing edges identified thirty-four stakes, while

bands of string formed a grid charting sixty-eight squares. As with his earlier pieces, Weiner

removed a notch from the bottom left corner of the rectangular field. He inscribed the word

“string” on the framing edges of each square and “turf” in the center of the square. In con-

trast to the works of earlier that year, Weiner’s new approach, which will come to represent

another facet of conceptual art, insinuated that production was ultimately irrelevant to a

work of art.

A number of variations on Turf, Stake, and String followed in 1968. One, distributed

in the journal S.M.S., took the form of a large transparent sticker.16 For another, titled Six Ten

Penny Common Steel Nails. Nails to Be Driven into Floor at Indicated Terminal Points and dated 10

July 1968, Weiner marked on graph paper the spots in which six nails were to be inserted into

a floor, and drew lines connecting all of the nails to indicate the parameters of the piece (fig.

4.5). The framing edge of the topographical drawing echoed the slightly irregular picture


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4.5 Lawrence Weiner, Six Ten Penny Common Steel Nails. Nails to Be Driven into Floor at

Indicated Terminal Points, 1968

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fields of Weiner’s earlier Removal paintings: the rectangular field was three feet wide at the

top, four feet long on the left side, and three feet long on the right, with a one-foot-by-one-

foot notch removed from the bottom right corner. To the right of the schematic layout,

Weiner wrote the title in the form of instructions, specifying the materials involved (six ten-

penny common steel nails) and the process of production (nails to be driven into the floor at

indicated terminal points). In contrast to Turf, Stake, and String, where Weiner asyntactically

organized the words of the title to render a topographical map of the piece named, in Six Ten

Penny Common Steel Nails. Nails to Be Driven into Floor at Indicated Terminal Points he wrote the

title in standard syntactical form.

Six Ten Penny Common Steel Nails was the first in a series of works Weiner presented

as statements on graph paper. The layout of the new works became at once less designed

than his earlier production and more sophisticated. For One Hole in the Ground Approximately

One Foot by One Foot / One Gallon Waterbased White Paint Poured into This Hole, dated 23 August

1968, he inserted each letter of the title into one of the gridded units of the graph paper.

Words intercepted by the twenty-two-integer limit of the seven lines of graph continue in the

following line. The statement’s two sentences are not separated by a period—when the first

ends, the second begins on the line below it.17

Weiner’s One Hole in the Ground followed Six Ten Penny Steel Nails by only six weeks,

yet it was remarkably different and signaled the direction his work was to take in the fol-

lowing years. Conspicuously absent was the type of schematic drawing that accompanied Six

Ten Penny Steel Nails. The layout also differed. The most consequential difference, however,

was in the grammatical form of the statements. Whereas the earlier one used an elliptical

imperative implying some future action (“Nails to be driven into floor”), Weiner’s new work

adopted the past participle of actions completed.

Weiner formulated the parameters of the twenty-four pieces included in his first

catalogue-exhibition Statements, published in an edition of 1,025 in December 1968, in purely

linguistic terms and all in past participles. Typeset in small lower-case letters in Royal Type-

writer face, and placed halfway down the face of the right-hand pages, each statement pro-

saically described a simple, discrete action altering the physical environment. There were no

illustrations and no catalogue numbers. Rather, the works were divided equally into two

groups of twelve, one labeled “general statements,” as in “an amount of paint poured directly

upon the floor and allowed to dry,” and the other “specific statements,” as in “one aerosol can

of enamel sprayed to conclusion directly upon the floor.” Weiner made the distinction be-

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tween general and specific according to the statement’s precise quantity and degree of de-

tail.18 The split between general and specific was part of his overall fascination with the “am-

biguity of language.” In a way that calls to mind the difference between the signified and the

referent, each of Weiner’s statements was polyvalent.19

Weiner had now, as it were, split the artistic sign. Rather than functioning as gen-

eral signs, presenting in one unit the physical art object and the conceptual information that

supplements and closes it, these statements formulated the works as enunciations. The se-

ries of declarations thus defined the work’s material structure linguistically and furnished

information about processes of production in the past participle. Weiner’s use of the past

participle in specific statements such as “One quart exterior green enamel thrown on a brick

wall” simultaneously allowed for the finality of the description and the prospect of future re-

alizations. He did not write, for example, “take a quart of exterior green enamel and throw it

at a brick wall,” for that would be “impositional.” Rather, he chose the past participle exclu-

sively. This, as he put it, inferred a greater egalitarianism: “To use the imperative would be

for me fascistic. . . . The tone of command is the tone of tyranny.”20

But one of the most extraordinary features of this type of artistic production was

that the work was equally meaningful whether performed or communicated linguistically as

a title. In effect, what Weiner had done was turn the art-making process into an endless se-

ries of inscriptions that reconceived the object quality of the work as a complex semantic

field—a text. Rather than a fixed locus, or function, serving to arrest the chain of secondary

information, the work now emphasized the entire practice of production, and the systematic

functioning of semiological mechanisms.21 The work, or object, was thus “liberated” or de-

territorialized from older coding systems. In this operation of fragmentation, where any part

of the entire production and exhibition process is part of the work, Weiner’s statements

shared with LeWitt’s and Huebler’s conceptual art a self-reflexive acknowledgment of


These 1968 works thus signal a moment of “decentering,” when the centered art ob-

ject had been driven from its locus as the primary point of reference. The result was a type

of art that was strictly about materials, about the material quality of the text, the brute fac-

ticity of the signifier, rather than any ideal meaning. It is clear that for Weiner by 1968 it did

not matter if his work lacked “meaning.” Its operation was nothing but graphic activity, a sort

of marking in which—à la nouveau roman—there was no signification and only description

involved. For the spectator, rather than decoding an elaborate semiotic system, the act of be-


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holding now centered on contemplating the object’s construction, sequential organization,

temporal placement, and overall graphic pattern or design.22

Weiner’s emphasis on the transparency of execution accented the material con-

struction of his new, conceptualist work and further removed it from the realm of privileged

experience toward an egalitarian model of communication. With its negation of a hierarchi-

cal structure of meaning that might allow the social or class background of the viewer to de-

termine the reception of the work, all interpretations became equally valid. As Huebler

reminisced in a 1981 interview: “In those days, Larry Weiner talked to me saying, ‘The funny

thing is we’re doing some things that anybody can do. Our political posture—we’re gonna

bring down some of the dumb crap that’s going on in the art world—all those aesthetic

assumptions.’ And we brought it down, all right!”23 Weiner was not alone in believing that

leveling cultural and social barriers, addressing different publics than those traditionally

empowered through privilege (privilege in the sense of having not only the wherewithal but

also adequate knowledge to reflect on aesthetic experience), carried an edge of social and po-

litical criticism. There was a caustic vulgarity in his employment of language, as there was

in Huebler’s preference for vernacular maps, “dumb” photographs, and schematic layouts,

which, combined with compositional qualities of transparency, anonymity, and equality of

parts, carried an egalitarian dimension. Like Andre’s use of hay or Flavin’s of light fixtures,

Weiner and Huebler used vernacular materials as a counterpoint to the marketplace for rare

and precious works of art. Minimalism’s (and pop’s) claims that works of art should employ

the most common and accessible media in order to communicate better were now taken to

their logical conclusion.

Weiner intended his “Statement of Intent,” 1969, to function as a guideline for the

operation of his work:

1. The artist may construct the piece

2. The piece may be fabricated

3. The piece need not be built

Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with

the receiver upon the condition of receivership.24

The statement points directly to several aspects of Weiner’s work of 1968: it decenters the

traditional role of the artist by placing equal responsibility for the production of the work


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with a second party; it stresses the need to diminish the distance between making and be-

holding, transforming the passive spectator into an active producer of the artwork; it is di-

rected to any interested party, collector or otherwise, yielding an egalitarian method of art

production, distribution, and consumption.25 Implicit in Weiner’s statement is the claim that

works of art can never generate stable, noncontingent meanings, since visual and linguistic

proposals are always dialogically negotiated by the audience.

The first publication of the “Statement of Intent” was in the catalogue for the “Jan-

uary 5–31 1969” show organized by Siegelaub. This show also featured eight new pieces by

Weiner. Two of these were installed in the office space, while photographs of two others were

reprinted in the exhibition catalogue. The remaining four were presented linguistically, as

titles in the catalogue. In a quintessential example of the practice of deskilling adopted by

many artists during the late 1960s and early 1970s, on 4 January 1969, the day prior to the

show’s opening, Weiner performed An Amount of Bleach Poured on a Rug and Allowed to Bleach

by emptying a container filled with a gallon of bleach onto the horizontal plane of the gray

carpet in the temporary gallery space. The resulting discoloration of the gray carpet formed

an amoeba-like shape over an area approximately 3 x 7 feet. The work thus unambiguously

disclaimed skill, virtuosity, and privileged forms of artistic knowledge in the production of

art—very much in the same way that Huebler’s, Kosuth’s, and (as we shall see) Barry’s con-

ceptual art would disavow inherited notions of artistic competence.26

The other work Weiner installed in the temporary gallery space, A 36� x 36� Re-

moval to the Lathing or Support Wall of Plaster or Wallboard from a Wall, 1968, best illustrated the

next step in the artist’s steady dismantling of traditional art media and the hallowed space

of the “white cube” (fig. 4.6).27 Insofar as the work cut into the support surface to remove a

section of the material skin of the supporting wall, it functioned as a relief, but in its sub-

version of traditional artistic genres (neither painting, nor sculpture, nor architecture) it in-

evitably generated a reflection on the categorical divisions and boundaries of media. In

addition, the empirical and critical operation of A 36� x 36� Removal, where all procedures

were immediately self-evident, was in many ways the ultimate response to the self-

reflexivity of late modernist painting. The insertion of A 36� x 36� Removal directly into the

gallery foregrounded the relationship between the work and its institutional frame or sup-

port system.

Weiner’s inversion of conventional practices of fabrication in his work of 1968

pushed LeWitt’s participatory model of conceptual art one step further. Although LeWitt


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4.6 Lawrence Weiner, A 36� x 36� Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of Plaster or Wallboard

from a Wall, 1968, as installed in the exhibition “January 5–31, 1969”

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called for a greater distinction between the manufacturing stage of the work and its artistic

value, he nevertheless maintained that the work should take physical form. By contrast, in

a way that is methodologically related to Huebler’s new work, one of the explicit conditions

of Weiner’s conceptual art was that it did not need to be built, and the decision whether to

actually give a piece physical form was left to the viewers, or, in Weiner’s terminology of the

time, the “receivers.” Such an activation of the receiver resulted directly from the eclipse of

the authorial figure of the artist.28

Weiner’s conceptualist work thus joined Kosuth’s and Huebler’s in dismantling the

conventional idealization of the artist as that person who, on the basis of a craftsmanlike

maintenance of traditional skills, emblematized the unity of the psyche, society, and culture

based on the synthesis of physical, mental, spiritual, and technical work. Instead, Weiner,

Huebler, and Kosuth simply claimed value for their work by the mental labor of artistic de-

velopment that led to its design, while deeming the physical labor of inserting a readymade

text as a newspaper advertisement, taking a photograph, or emptying an aerosol can of spray

paint directly onto the floor to be of secondary importance. In the process, these artists repli-

cated not only capitalism’s division of mental and physical labor, but also its privileging of

the planning and design stage of production over the procedure of construction. The es-

trangement that these works inevitably generated on their initial reception only further

emphasized the unspoken sacrosanct and mythical roles art continued to play well into the

late 1960s.

In drawing the next logical inference from the work of Andre and Flavin, Weiner,

Kosuth, and Huebler joined Graham and Lozano in presenting one of the most radical cri-

tiques of the commodity status of art in the twentieth century. Whether executed in a me-

chanical manner (as by Weiner), or taking form purely as information (as in Kosuth’s Second

Investigation or Huebler’s road trips), there was little to prevent anyone interested in these

works from producing exact replicas, or tearing them out of the newspapers or catalogue-

exhibitions in which they were situated.29 Unlike the classical late modernist works, carefully

differentiated from everything around them (not only their physical but also their informa-

tional context), Weiner’s new production, as much as Kosuth’s and Huebler’s, acknowledged

its participation in the heterogeneous fabric of what was then the art world. This expansion

of aesthetic experience also characterized Robert Barry’s conceptual art, to which we shall

now turn.



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How do you present an art that can’t be photographed in magazines devoted to color

reproductions and things like that?

—Robert Barry, 19691

If Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner presented Siegelaub with bodies of work that required new

display and marketing techniques, the work of Robert Barry manifested an even greater chal-

lenge, since it ultimately comprised an art entirely devoid of materiality. Barry’s first exhibi-

tion in New York was in a show of 1964, “Eight Young Artists,” organized by Eugene Goossen

at the Hudson River Museum, where Barry exhibited a series of nonrepresentational geo-

metrical paintings clearly related to the work of Barnett Newman.2 The impersonal, quasi-

symmetrical quality of the latter’s pictures found resonance in Barry’s paintings of the 1960s,

as would Newman’s emphasis on succinct immediacy and his willfully naive technique. The

work of Ad Reinhardt had also captivated Barry, as it had Kosuth. The austerity of Reinhardt’s

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pictorial operations had an obviously enormous impact on Barry’s own painterly practice.

Other aspects of Reinhardt’s paintings of the 1960s would also reverberate in the younger

painter’s work: their geometrical surface patterns, biaxial symmetry, and extreme reduction

of visual incident would inform Barry’s artistic development.

Barry’s early paintings were either large or very small, usually perfectly square can-

vases, with flat, monochrome fields of color over gesso-white grounds. He would construct a

grid pattern by leaving unpainted rows of small squares or spots, often in biaxial arrange-

ments of four but sometimes with many more (fig. 5.1). In structural and morphological

terms, the small squares, approximately the size of a painter’s brush, oscillated between

hovering over and emerging from under the field of color, and thereby collapsed the tradi-

tional hierarchy of figure and ground to an almost equal balance. The canvases presented a

simultaneity of figure-ground structures that could not be disentangled one from the other.

Further, Barry painted the governing grid pattern freehand; as the critic Elisabeth Stevens ob-

served in reviewing Barry’s first one-person exhibition in 1964: “He is uninterested in place-

ment (the rows of squares are slightly uneven) and with minor variations in shape and color

(the squares are not straight edged, the dots may vary slightly in tone).”3 None of the variety

in this extremely reduced graphic operation was planned. Although this approach repre-

sented no conscious artistic decision, the cumulative effect reflected an insistence upon the

importance of the conception of the picture, as opposed to the refinements of its execution.

Barry’s next series of paintings maintained the extreme simplicity of his earlier

work, but instead of single canvases it consisted of multiple units. Green Line, 1966, was

among the most powerful of these works. First exhibited in Lawrence Alloway’s 1966 show

“Systemic Painting” at the Guggenheim Museum, Green Line was a lateral configuration of

three small panels, each just under three feet square. The canvases were unsized, and the

one in the center of the configuration was left raw, without the slightest application of paint.

Veering horizontally across the center of the two outer pieces of the triptych, a green band,

approximately two inches thick, bisected the field. The band paralleled the top and bottom

of the square picture support edge and continued around the framing edge on the side of the

two canvases bordering the central unprimed panel. The band radiated out from the center

of the tripartite composition, stopping just short of the outer edge of the field. Thus, these

paintings reject the gesturality that characterized the work of many first-generation New

York School artists. As Alloway explained in an article written to supplement the “Systemic

Painting” show, painters such as Barry


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5.1 Robert Barry, installation of paintings at Westerly Gallery, New York, 1964

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work with a clear sight of an end state. Abstract Expressionists were supposed never to know when

a painting was finished, but in systemic painting the concept with which the artist starts has a pre-

dictive value, controlling the work’s future. This does not mean that no modifications are made dur-

ing work, of course, but it does keep these changes to a proportionate relation to the whole.4

For Alloway, Barry’s work, “arranged or conducted according to a system, plan or organized

method,” resonated with the procedure of production that LeWitt employed in his serial sys-

tems of the mid-1960s.5 As LeWitt remarked in an early interview: “I sort of discovered a

method of doing a thing with sort of an absolute control, which was mechanistic enough so

that I wouldn’t have to decide each time what tonality to make a thing because starting with

the kinds of system that I was using . . . everything was decided ahead of time.”6 In other

words, LeWitt determined a matrix principle in advance, before he started the composition,

and subjected all subsequent operations to that principle. Similarly the serial relationship

operative in Barry’s works such as Green Line implied a principle of contiguity among the pan-

els that, once established, could be infinitely extended “one after the other.”

Before the “Systemic” show closed, Barry began a series of paintings that pushed

the parameters of his art practice further toward relief sculpture. These canvases mark a

crucial step toward the more explicitly sculptural activities he was to undertake in the fol-

lowing years. In Orange Edges, 1966, for example, he abutted two five-foot-square panels lat-

erally to make a five-by-ten-foot rectangle.7 The cotton-duck canvas stretched across the

panels was left unsized. The picture’s only articulation consisted of vertical bands that

reached from top to bottom of the field, exactly parallel to the sides of the framing edge, in a

way that recalls the configuration of Newman’s paintings. Barry placed these two-inch-thick

vertical bands, painted bright orange, at the border that delimited the large rectangle. Unlike

the geometrical rigidity of such diverse hard-edge painters as Kenneth Noland and Bridget

Riley, Barry’s freehand thin vertical bands revealed the tracking of the brush. The bands be-

gan about two inches from the bottom (or top) edge and traversed the entire surface, stop-

ping approximately two inches short of the opposite end of the field. The two bands also

carried over a couple of inches onto the side of the canvas frame. Mounted on a three-inch-

deep stretcher that set the picture clearly off from the wall, with the two bands extending

beyond the frame of the rectangular field and onto the vertical sides of the framing edge, Or-

ange Edges could be considered more a relief structure than a painting. Curator Eugene

Goossen succinctly described this development in his introduction to a show of 1966 that


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featured Orange Edges: “Barry is pushing his art farther to the edge of the painting-sculpture

struggle. . . . By lapping the ends of his canvases with color he is beginning to ask us to see

them in the round. He is certainly dealing with the literal as well as lateral space.”8

Goossen’s invocation of “literal” and “lateral” space was a barely coded reference to

the deep stretchers and geometrical surface pattern of Stella’s early paintings, then under-

stood to advocate literal (as opposed to illusionistic or actual) space, and to Judd’s multipart

configurations, which in the mid-1960s were typically arranged laterally in space.9 In late

1966, Barry participated in a group show in a small New York gallery where he exhibited a

small drawing on grayish-purple construction paper.10 In each of the four corners of the field

he drew four small squares in pencil, located roughly an inch from each corner and recapit-

ulating its right angle. This was a preparatory drawing for a series of paintings on which Barry

was then working, in which he symmetrically placed small colored squares in the four cor-

ners of a canvas surface. Because the pattern was biaxially symmetrical (and thus extend-

able by continuing it radially on all four sides), the center field remained the focal point of

these compositions. Weiner saw the show and praised Barry’s piece to Siegelaub, and in early

1967 the latter called Barry and asked to visit his studio on Grand Street in the Bowery in or-

der to see more of his work.11

Their business relationship began as something between a professional associa-

tion and a collaboration. Siegelaub explained his operation to Barry—the use of his Madison

Avenue apartment as a gallery, the nightly socializing at Max’s Kansas City and other clubs,

the weekend soirées at his place, the informal relationship with collectors—and offered to

represent his work. But rather than merely a dealer, Siegelaub now saw himself more as a

collaborator, involved in a common enterprise with the artists, not necessarily in the mak-

ing of the work but in its presentation.12

As he did with the other artists he represented, Siegelaub offered Barry sales and

publicity. He envisioned that the volume of sales would increase with the greater familiarity

of his small stable of artists. In the meantime, he advanced the artists small stipends—in ex-

change for art—to help them with their rent and materials. Barry was then without a gallery

and in search of a dealer to represent his work; he was evidently impressed by Siegelaub’s en-

trepreneurial spirit and agreed to work with him—informally, however, since no contracts

were ever signed.



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7D E L I M I T I N G T H E F R A M E

The parameters of Barry’s art expanded dramatically when he began to work with Siegelaub.

In early 1968, the artist exhibited three untitled paintings, all acrylic on canvas, in the show

Siegelaub organized at the Laura Knott Gallery of Bradford Junior College. One of these, a

green monochrome (481/2 x 12 inches), was affixed to the gallery wall only a few inches from

the floor. “You have to look down on it,” Barry explained during the accompanying sympo-

sium. “It sort of forces you to examine the area around it. The fact that the panel is very small

makes it difficult just to concentrate on it and demands that you concentrate on the area

around the panel as well.”13 Rather than providing an image, or a representation, he used the

painting’s size and position to negate its status as a discrete object within a relatively spe-

cialized realm of privileged knowledge, revising and reconsidering painterly production in

terms of its potential communicability.

Barry’s work extended minimal art’s presuppositions as much as it negated them.

We get a glimpse of this development in the environmental sculptures he began to produce

in 1967. These were comprised of four plaster or wooden cubes arranged equidistantly to

mark the corners of a square; when Barry first assembled these sculptures he predetermined

the precise length of the space between them, and thus the size of the square (fig. 5.2).14 But

soon he adjusted the blocks to the contingencies of their specific place and location, so that

they delineated a square roughly coincident with the size of the room.15 The work thus be-

came increasingly site specific, requiring the viewer to move through the space in which it

was assembled in order to understand its structure.

The integration of architectural references into these sculptures addressed the

contingency of their relation not only to the environment in which they were exhibited but

also to the phenomenological experience of the beholder. In this way Barry negated the tra-

ditional separation between art object, context, and viewer by requiring the viewer to phys-

ically enter the precinct of the art work. In contrast to the late modernist emphasis on

disembodied experience, which Michael Fried termed “opticality,” Barry’s sculptures posit the

inseparability of visual and bodily perception. By providing the viewer with what Robert Mor-

ris referred to as a “preestablished visual ‘gestalt’,” Barry made the works fully apparent at

first encounter, thereby granting the viewer a greater degree of autonomy than did his paint-

ings of the mid-1960s.16 Rather than revealing secrets or providing access to unknown forms

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5.2 Robert Barry, Untitled, 1967–1968

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of experience, his new work offered models with which to exercise the viewer’s cognitive and

perceptual capacities.

Barry’s rejection of modern art’s pretension to embody higher moral values was in-

tricately and complexly related to the revision of author-viewer-object relationships that

characterized much ambitious art of the 1960s. During this period, meaning came to be

holistically constituted by the triad of object, site, and spectator.17 As with the conceptualist

work of Huebler and Weiner, Barry’s sculptures depended on the perception of the viewer for

completion. Refusing to fetishize a single, centered “moment,” he produced works that came

together as constellations in relation to environmental contingencies and the viewer’s move-

ment through space, and necessarily lost their significance with the termination of the


The other two paintings Barry exhibited at the Laura Knott Gallery employed a sim-

ilar structural model of contingency and contextuality. One, dated August 1967, consisted of

two monochrome blue squares of canvas, each wrapped around an 8 x 8-inch wooden

stretcher. The squares were fastened to the wall five feet from the ground, ten feet apart.

They were thus separate but related, distinct but of a piece, questioning once again all tradi-

tional definitions of painting, sculpture, and relief objects. The other painting, dated October

1967, comprised four 3 x 3-inch squares of stretched canvas painted yellow and fastened to

the white wall to form the corners of a 5 x 5-foot-square field, approximately the size of a

conventional picture (fig. 5.3). The space of the painterly object and the space of the wall

were fused as an inseparable entity. Although the configuration of squares functioned to

make the center field the focal point, the biaxial symmetry of these pieces could be extended

by continuing the pattern radially from the center of the picture.18

Barry’s paintings also introduced an element that went beyond the pictorial tradi-

tions that he was critiquing. Their placement on the gallery wall structurally related the

paintings to their support surfaces. Because the architectural container was integral to the

operation of the paintings, the latter prompted additional reflection on the privileged im-

portance of the gallery or museum context for pictorial objects.19 In short, what Barry pro-

duced were quintessentially incomplete objects, fragmented not only in the sense that they

were literally in pieces, but also in that they did not claim an autonomous pictorial space but

were clearly constituted within the dialogical relationship of pictorial and architectural sur-

faces. Thus Barry’s work challenged late modernist ideas of autonomous art objects and neu-

tral exhibition contexts.


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5.3 Robert Barry, Untitled, 1967

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As the concept of place grew in importance for Barry, he started to make more sculpture. At

Windham College he installed 1,206 feet of one-quarter-inch woven nylon cord strung tight

approximately twenty-six feet off the ground between two main campus buildings (the li-

brary and the student union building), which were approximately three hundred feet apart

(fig. 5.4). The nylon monofilament was meshed together to span a huge, 302 x 50-foot area,

linking the buildings and framing the space in between. The transparency of the monofila-

ment rendered the work virtually invisible.

There are a number of connections between Barry’s untitled sculpture at Windham

College and the paintings he exhibited at the Laura Knott Gallery. The Windham College in-

stallation engaged the viewer in a continuous phenomenological looping that is an extension

of the open visual field he introduced at Bradford College. The newer work was structurally

dependent on its relationship to the viewer’s body movement and its position and placement

within the architectural surround. The work at both exhibitions maintained a dialogical re-

lationship between its specific material and its support surface, engaging “the idea of span-

ning a space, trying to define the outer limits, somehow bridging that inbetweeness,” as Barry

explained in a later interview.20 This attempt to define the outer limits of the composition is

also evidenced by the way the work in both exhibitions accentuated structural parameters.

Barry’s installation at Windham College pushed the transition from visuality to

phenomenological experience further than any of his previous work. In opposition to the late

modernist concept of pure opticality, the new work reembodied vision, emphasizing the in-

extricable relationship between seeing and touching as much as between seeing and moving

through space. More than just its architectural support, the installation also integrated a

temporal element: it responded to the periodic changes that naturally occurred in the out-

door environment. Transparent during the day, the nylon cord obliquely reflected the space

in which it was placed in the evening, taking on an orange hue at sunset and an even darker

color as night progressed.

The size of Barry’s installation, as with Andre’s Joint and Weiner’s Staples, Stakes,

Twine, Turf, made it impossible to see the entire work from any one location. “I was dealing

with space rather than the object itself,” Barry recalled. “It became more and more clear that

they were almost undistinguishable, I thought. Space became place.”21 The paintings Barry

exhibited at the Laura Knott Gallery, which seemed to fuse with the wall, already effected the


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5.4 Robert Barry, Untitled, as installed at Windham College, 30 April–31 May 1968

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transformation of space to place, but this feature found its earliest concretization in his

filmic practice of 1967.

Barry’s films characteristically fused with the specific site where they were pro-

jected, integrating the darkness of the space and the whirring of the film projector within

their formal makeup. A case in point is Scenes, 1967, a five-minute-long, 16 mm production

that premiered at a film festival at Hunter College organized by Hollis Frampton, Michael

Snow, and Robert Huot in 1967. Made almost entirely with black opaque leader, Scenes

negates the filmic and visual, accenting instead the environment in which it is projected. For

most of the silent film’s duration the opaque leader entirely blackens out the screen; not even

the cinematic rectangle is visible. Flashes of movement, lasting for barely a second each, are

interspersed throughout the film. At one moment the camera pans across a cluster of

bushes, at another across a street scene. Occasionally, words flash on the screen for a couple

of seconds. But for the most part the film is black monochrome, ending with a clear leader

running through the projector for a minute or so.22 It is highly self-reflexive in its operation,

referring to its own unique characteristics. At the same time, Scenes calls attention to the ex-

perience of viewing: accenting characteristics of conventional contexts for film viewing. In-

sofar as it assimilates various nondiegetic elements originating from sources outside the

frame, including the operation of the projector and the disturbed movements and muttering

of the audience, Scenes evokes the legacy of John Cage. The piece is thereby as “concerned

with what goes on inside the frame” as with what goes on “outside the frame” of the artistic

idea, both visually and audially, as Barry commented at the Bradford symposium.23 As the

artwork transgresses the frame of the composition and connects to its audience, the latter

in turn shift from a constituency of passive receivers to one of active producers of the work.24

Unlike Barry’s films, his Windham College installation was not temporally delim-

ited by its own inherent structure. Like Andre’s Joint and Weiner’s Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf,

the sculpture was permanent but ephemeral, remaining in place after the show to be dis-

mantled by natural elements. Here is the way Barry put it at the Windham symposium: “I

consider the work both finished and constantly unfinished. It’s finished for me when I leave

the College, and yet it will keep growing; as the campus changes the work will be completely

different.”25 The installation, in other words, is perpetually incomplete, dialogically deter-

mined by the local and temporal context. This shift from an art that in its finitude tran-

scended history and remained in the perpetual present to one that admitted its historicity


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and temporal dimension was to have a profound effect not only on Barry’s work but also on

advanced art in general in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

At stake in Barry’s negation of the visual dimension was the issue of visuality as an

element in the conception of the artwork. This approach temporalized vision and established

a clearly conscious and self-conscious approach to the experience of viewing. In this sense,

Barry pushed beyond the threshold of minimal sculpture, which, in spite of its explicit in-

corporation of phenomenological experience into the object’s perception, ultimately privi-

leged visuality. Barry thus joined the other artists associated with Siegelaub in 1968 in

dismantling the visual as the highest form of experience. The obvious problem was that it

was precisely the visual element that the market required, which clearly posed new chal-

lenges for Siegelaub, not only in exhibiting but also in selling this new work.

Following the Windham show, Barry went even further in denying the kind of

pleasure that the visual arts customarily provide. His work changed extraordinarily, taking

the nearly invisible character of the nylon cord exhibited at Windham to greater extremes.

Drawing the next logical inference from Yves Klein’s “exhibition of the void” at the Iris Clert

Gallery in Paris a decade earlier, Barry now took electrical currents of varying strength emit-

ted by radio transmitters as his material.26 The work’s negation of the visual was coupled

with an increased emphasis on the role of the body of the beholder. “The nature of carrier

waves in a room—especially the FM—is affected by people,” Barry stated at the time, in terms

that reveal the extent to which he envisioned the viewer’s active participation in his work.

“The body itself, as you know, is an electrical device. Like a radio or an electric shaver it af-

fects carrier waves. . . . [Thus] the form of a piece is affected [by the people near it] because

of the nature of the material that it is made of.”27

Barry also increased the emphasis on the autonomy of the viewer, and the viewer’s

role in the perception of the work. “An interested person,” he remarked, “reacts in a personal

way based on his own experience and imagination.”28 As he inscribed the viewer even more

literally into the interaction among the perceiving body, carrier wave structure, and archi-

tectural structure, the contextual nature of aesthetic meaning increasingly surfaced. The

carrier wave installations implied that the aesthetic operation was determined not just by

the relationship between the human body and the art object, but also by that between the

body, the artwork, and the site—the field—where artistic experience is produced. Barry’s

work thus moved beyond his earlier production toward an engagement with context that

would increasingly dominate the art of the late 1960s and early 1970s.



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Similar to his piece for the Windham show, two of the works that Barry included in

Siegelaub’s “January 5–31, 1969” exhibition employed thin wire stretched so high above the

ground that it was virtually impossible to see.29 Five other pieces took the form of installa-

tions of sound and carrier waves. One, New York to Luxembourg CB Carrier Wave, January 5–31,

1969, made use of the carrier wave of a citizens band transmitter to bridge two distant points,

one in New York City and the other in Luxembourg, several times during the run of the show.

For this work Barry researched the position of the sun and atmospheric conditions during the

month of January to determine the most efficient way to construct the piece. But here the

carrier wave was used “as an object,” rather than in its conventional function as a means by

which to transmit information.30 For Barry, this medium was rich in potential: “Ultrasonic

sound waves have different qualities from ordinary sound waves. They can be directed like

a beam and they bounce back from a wall. Actually you can make invisible patterns and de-

signs with them. They can be diagrammed and measured.”31 And as with his other sound and

carrier wave installations, the only visible trace of New York to Luxembourg CB Carrier Wave,

January 5–31, 1969 was the equipment—transmitter, oscillator, batteries—required to con-

struct the work, equipment that was carefully kept out of sight.32

Barry installed two carrier wave pieces, 88 mc Carrier Wave (FM) and 1600 kc Carrier

Wave (AM), in the office space during the “January 5–31, 1969” show (fig. 5.5). Turned on every

morning and off at the end of the day, the transmitters and batteries were hidden in an office

closet. The electromagnetic waves were not only formally unstable, defying formal identifi-

cation, but also undetectable by ordinary sensory means. Two wall labels provided the only

indication of the presence of carrier waves traveling at the speed of light a few feet from the

ceiling. Although the waves could be detected with the use of a common transistor radio, the

unlikeliness of the beholder performing this task meant that he or she had to take the artist’s

claims on faith. Unlike the conceptual art of Weiner and Huebler, Barry’s new work still ad-

mitted a distinct separation between primary and secondary information: the wall labels re-

ferred to something else that was indeed taking place. At the same time, the carrier waves

were affected by the physical presence of people in the room in which they were installed.

Hence, the works no longer operated according to the older binary oppositions. Material along

with its progressive attenuation no longer posited the nonbody as its opposite.

It is customary to emphasize the importance in Barry’s work of the idea, the con-

cept. But insofar as he did not in any way alter or dilute the natural qualities of the particu-

lar materials that made up the components of his work—electromagnetic fields, ultrasonic


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5.5 Robert Barry, 88 mc Carrier Wave (FM), 1968; and 1600 kc

Carrier Wave (AM), 1968, as installed in “January 5–31, 1969”

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sound, radio waves, radiations—it suggests further analogies with the sheer materiality of

Andre’s previous work. Indeed, Andre’s selection of materials from the standard periodic table

of the elements was the direct precursor of Barry’s use of substances such as barium. What is

more, Andre’s claim that the checkerboard arrangements of metal plates that characterized

much of his late 1960s sculpture should be thought of as supporting “a column of air that ex-

tends to the top of the atmosphere” underlay the common interests of the two artists.33

More generally, Barry’s work took some of what he understood as the key tenden-

cies within the formation of minimal art—removing representation, eliminating visual inci-

dent, withholding or withdrawing perceptual information from the artistic object—to their

logical extreme, rejecting the simple materiality of minimal art in favor of a materiality ex-

isting concretely beyond the reach of human perception. The steady withdrawal of percep-

tual data that characterized Barry’s late 1960s work was in tandem with the reductivism of

ambitious art practices in the preceding several years—a route that proceeded from self-

sufficient objects to site-specific installations visible in the gallery space, and ultimately to

invisible site-specific work. The advent of an art whose material vehicle is imperceptible by

ordinary sensory means meant that the cognitive emphasis of the work was extended in the

direction of its conceptual content. This raised a broad range of questions concerning the na-

ture of artistic practice, as well as tacitly accepted conventions such as the high level of trust

placed on artists.

Like that of others represented by Siegelaub, Barry’s work was no longer posited as

autonomous, rounded, and whole—as a full-fledged aesthetic experience held perpetually

present for the viewer to behold and decode—but rather as dialogically engaged with its his-

toricity, context, and temporality. The resulting artistic operations were contingent and

shifted according to context. Furthermore, the highly imperceptible nature of Barry’s con-

ceptualist work increased the importance of the art’s mode of presentation, or, as Siegelaub

would phrase it, its secondary information. The latter now became a necessary framing de-

vice for the essence of the piece.

The opening up of these parameters, complete with the use of unconventional ma-

terials and the problematization of the traditional boundaries of art, confused many in the

contemporary art world. But this type of artistic investigation at the borderline between art

materials, objects, and structures on the one hand, and the conventional sites and parame-

ters of the defining institutions of art on the other, would soon go beyond the established lim-

its altogether.


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An art that devalued immediate visual experience and presented contingent and shifting in-

teractions posed significant marketing problems for Siegelaub. In response, he devised a

number of schemes to advertise the new and highly ambitious art. Although the work pro-

duced remained virtually unsalable, his strategy was to broadly publicize the artist’s activi-

ties and reputation. A case in point is the show of Barry’s work Siegelaub presented in Los

Angeles in April 1969. Sponsored by a local art patron, Stanley Grinstein, Barry traveled to

southern California in early March and released various measured volumes of inert gases

into the atmosphere.34 Once released, the gases naturally expanded and dispersed while

maintaining their chemical integrity.35 Accordingly, Barry’s Inert Gas series foregrounded the

procedural as much as the innate forces of matter as the determining morphological and

structural aspect of sculptural work. Since the inert gas is not only formally unstable but also

invisible, the photographs Barry took of the site in the Mohave Desert occupied by the gas

represented nothing more than desert landscapes (fig. 5.6). Paradoxically, then, Barry made

the photographs to deny the existence of visual evidence.36

More than just the act of breaking containers and releasing gas, Barry’s Inert Gas

pieces encompassed the development of the idea of gas expanding into the atmosphere, the

calling attention to that notion, and the natural consequences and material residue of the

act of releasing the gas—each of which was a stage in a semiological chain of signifiers for

which the signified (the primary information, the “art”) was intangible and abstract. A vital

part of that chain was the practice of presenting this work to an audience, thereby making

Siegelaub once again a key collaborator.

The show was widely publicized in the form of a 30 x 45-inch poster, which Siegelaub

sent by mail to a long list of people and institutions.37 A single line of text ran along the bottom




8383.” The address was a post office box in Los Angeles, and the answering service voice mes-

sage on the telephone described the piece. The exhibition was therefore split between Barry’s

action (virtually inaccessible) and an ephemeral audial recording; the only visual public man-

ifestation of the Inert Gas piece was located on the publicity poster in the form of language. The

exhibition was accessible to the public solely in the form of advertising, as pure sign.



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5.6 Robert Barry, Inert Gas Series: Helium, 1969

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This collaboration reflects the striking parallels between Siegelaub’s strategy for

disseminating works of art and advanced forms of product management and advertising

during the late 1960s. Similar to Siegelaub’s practice of distributing works of art through

posters and catalogues to a wide array of critics and potential patrons, vanguard advertising

in the 1960s distributed free samples along with product information, creating needs and de-

sires in advance of the consumer’s awareness of them.38 Just as advertising transfigures ob-

ject forms (use value) and commodity forms (exchange value) into sign values, Siegelaub

developed a merchandising practice whereby, in lieu of the aesthetic object, the only visible

aspect of the work was a certificate of authenticity and ownership on a piece of paper. This

practice, in which the economic is transfigured into sign systems and economic power be-

comes visibly transformed into the trappings of social privilege, is essentially a crystalliza-

tion of the phenomenon of sign exchange value.39

There is a further parallel between this work and the general tendency in the 1960s

of the advertising and communications sectors to take predominance over production in

Western industrialized society. The 1960s ideology heralding a postindustrial, non-object

society made growth sectors of the spheres of communication and cultural activity. From

this perspective, the work of the artists associated with Siegelaub was part of that propen-

sity toward ephemerality and the increasingly rapid dissemination of ideas characteristic of


In this transition, Siegelaub’s question about framing conditions, which he posed

following the Windham College show, found an answer. In the information society, the world

is the frame. Art, in these conditions, has the potential of being “received” (as Weiner would

put it) by millions of people at the same time, without a hierarchy of reception. Here, then,

we have reached Baudrillard’s “xerox-degree of culture,” where the proliferation of art di-

alectically turns into its opposite, as art is pushed to the threshold of its own disappearance.40

Also overturned in the process, Baudrillard observes, are evaluative criteria.41 Indeed, there

is a striking parallel between Baudrillard’s observations, made in 1988 in a reconsideration of

the 1960s art of Andy Warhol, and the criticism leveled against conceptual art in the years

of its emergence. For the huge proliferation of art—and especially the potential expansion of

audiences for art—made the prospect of devising adequate criteria of evaluation impossible,

and in the late 1960s that impossibility shocked the critical art establishment. “Who needs

criticism, if anything can be art?” asked Barbara Rose in an essay written in the pivotal early

months of 1969:



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Mass literacy, media participation in the arts, and affluence in general have all helped to enlarge the

art public. The development of such democracy in art has in turn created a situation in which the

public resents value judgments imposed from above by so-called “authorities” who in the long run

can muster no more impressive credentials than that they look at art a lot. Public hostility to the

standard-setting and taste-making role of criticism is nothing, of course, compared with the con-

tempt of the increasing population of artists on the scene, who see the critic as the enemy who stands

between themselves and success. The notion that everybody’s taste is equal and that no one, in-

cluding the critic, has the authority to impose a subjective view is common not only to the general

public but to large sectors of the art world itself. . . . If, however, there are no value judgments to be

made, if one art work is just as good as another, then one work is ‘worth’—literally, in dollars and

cents terms—as much as another. This is briefly the situation many young artists, disenchanted

with the commercialism of the art world, are trying to bring about. Their revolt against critical au-

thority must be seen in the same context as all the other revolts among the young against institu-

tional authority of all kinds. . . . Artists are denying the notion of intrinsic quality in art in order to

challenge the authority of criticism and of the market apparatus, in which the critic is the crucial

value setting factor.42

Rose here claimed to be speaking from a detached position that sought to uphold

standards of value and taste. She defused the new artists’ “revolt against critical authority,”

normalizing it as a typical oedipal struggle of youth against authority. What was really at stake,

however, was Rose’s own diminished role as a critic and arbiter of taste in a milieu that was in-

creasingly regulated by “dealers, collectors and exhibitions.”43 It was precisely between those

two spheres of influence—that of the critic and that of the dealer-collector-exhibition nexus—

that Siegelaub sought to insert himself, forging his identity as a “consultant” or “facilitator”

through highly innovative exhibition and distribution practices that were attentive to the rad-

ical contingency and implicit critique against authority at play in much of the new art.


The exhibitions that Siegelaub organized in late 1968 and early 1969 questioned conven-

tions of visuality and supplied basic models for more egalitarian forms of interaction. As-

pects of fragmentation and discontinuity operative in this work constituted less formal

investigation into the ephemerality of an art object than a refusal to provide the kind of


ary and


ary inform





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stable aesthetic value required by institutional forms of art. Many ambitious works of the

earlier 1960s (Warhol’s soup cans, Judd’s boxes, Flavin’s light fixtures, Andre’s bricks) dis-

mantled significant internal relationships to an unprecedented degree but still required

the confines of the pristine gallery or museum. In contrast, the work of Barry, Weiner, and

Huebler no longer substantiated the institutional containment of art. Destroying the val-

ues that had become habitual in the cultural realm, these works left only one thing for the

viewer to “see”—the negation of the type of perceptual information traditionally supplied

by art. While this negation was virtually absolute, it assumed the existence of a public and

thus remained highly political. However, the tangible fragments of secondary information,

turning around primary information in endless circles of paradox and categorical self-

cancelation, increasingly offered the viewer no purchase on the art that they ostensibly


The artists central to this study were divided in their conception of where the

“essence” of their work was to be located: within the sphere of primary information or in

that of secondary information. There were actually two models: one articulated by Kosuth,

who firmly adhered to a notion that only the primary information mattered (the secondary

information is like a truck that carries the work to the gallery); and that followed by Hue-

bler and Weiner, who believed in the dominance of the secondary information since the

primary was inaccessible and even undesirable. (Barry’s conceptual art fell somewhere in

between, deeming all steps in the process of production of equal value.) Working within

these two inherently contrasting models, Siegelaub had to devise an exhibition strategy

that would somehow cater to both.44

The breakthrough occurred when Siegelaub placed the elements that comprised

secondary information within the medium of publicity, enabling the fragments to take on

their own value. Paradoxically, the very process of problematizing the intimate connection

between the aesthetic and the secondary information that commonly conveyed it thus

came to posit publicity as art. At that point the sphere of art expanded to the point where

it became coterminous with market society; no longer limited to its earlier, traditional or

“specific” forms, it could be consumed throughout daily life itself. In turn, the traditional

distinctiveness of the aesthetic was lost altogether.



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PART III artists’ rights and product management

Some artists now think it’s absurd to fill up their studios with objects that won’t be sold, and are

trying to get their art communicated as rapidly as it is made. They’re thinking out ways to make

art what they’d like it to be in spite of the devouring speed syndrome it’s made in. That speed

has not only to be taken into consideration, but to be utilized.

—Lucy Lippard, 19691

If one wanted to read a political message into recent American art, it would be that this country

is on the way to some form of socialism.

—Barbara Rose, 19692

In an essay entitled “Painting Is Obsolete” from the pages of an underground newspaper pub-

lished weekly in New York City, Gregory Battcock waxes poetic about the “January 5–31, 1969”

exhibition organized by Siegelaub: “It’s like everything that happened in 1968, at Columbia

and Paris and all other symbolic places is finally being understood, and it all REALLY meant

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something and it really will result in something because it already has in this show.”3

Battcock’s euphoria crystallizes the late 1960s belief that artistic negation and the move away

from the traditional parameters of art carried an edge of social criticism. In this highly

charged political period, transformations in artistic practice, even those by the least politi-

cally aware artists, were often seen to be driven by the conviction that they were contribut-

ing to a general change in life itself. “Finally in art,” continues Battcock,

the revolution that one sometimes briefly understands at perhaps the Fillmore, or late at night on

WBAI, or in weird, unexpected glimpses at surprising places around town, or watching a Warhol

movie or in unplanned encounters with sex or metaphysics or acid or grass or just nice people—it’s

here, in art. . . . Finally there is an exhibit that doesn’t have any junk in it, doesn’t have anything at

all really. If that doesn’t fuck up all those nice comfortable minds that like art to have big dollar signs,

and armed guards, and ticket takers and don’t (or do) touch [signs], and that most annoying of all

demands some modern art tries to make, experience, [then nothing will].4

What Battcock did not fathom, however, is that the radical changes taking place at

the end of the 1960s could also result in new, more advanced forms of reification. Indeed,

three years later Lucy Lippard lamented that, although conceptual art, artists, and exhibi-

tions presented in 1969 one of the most promising radically new and potentially revolution-

ary practices in the history of twentieth-century art, their

hopes that “conceptual art” would be able to avoid the general commercialization, the destructively

“progressive” approach of modernism, were for the most part unfounded. It seemed in 1969 . . . that

no one, not even a public greedy for novelty, would actually pay money, or much of it, for a xerox

sheet referring to an event past or never directly perceived, a group of photographs documenting an

ephemeral situation or condition, a project for work never to be completed, words spoken but not

recorded; it seemed that these artists would therefore be forcibly freed from the tyranny of a com-

modity status and market-orientation. Three years later, the major conceptualists are selling work

for substantial sums here and in Europe; they are represented by (and still more unexpected—show-

ing in) the world’s most prestigious galleries. Clearly whatever minor revolutions in communication

have been achieved by the process of dematerializing the object (easily mailed work, catalogues and

magazine pieces, primarily art that can be shown inexpensively and unobtrusively in infinite loca-

tions at one time), art and artist in a capitalist society remain luxuries.5



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But in January 1969 Battcock was writing at one of the most exciting moments in

the history of the New York art world, and one in which Siegelaub was still actively involved.

That same month, Vassilakis Takis, a Greek sculptor who had taken part in the events of

May-June 1968 in Paris as well as in the artist protest demonstrations of that year at the

Venice Biennial and the Documenta exhibition, disapproved of the way he was represented

in a show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) entitled “The Machine as Seen at the

End of the Mechanical Age.”6 Pontus Hultén, the curator of the MoMA exhibition, had initially

arranged to include a large, recent work of Takis’s in the show but, without consulting the

artist, ultimately substituted Tele-Sculpture, a small three-dimensional object Takis had made

in the mid-1960s, already in the museum’s collection. Takis took exception to this, and on the

afternoon of 3 January 1969, accompanied by a small group of artists and critics, he removed

the object from the exhibition and carried it into the museum’s sculpture garden (fig. III.1).

There, holding the work hostage, Takis demanded that the piece be immediately withdrawn

from the exhibition and not shown again without his prior consent. He called on the mu-

seum to sponsor a public hearing focusing on issues pertaining to the responsibility of mu-

seums to artists. To defuse the situation, Bates Lowry, the museum’s director, immediately

met with Takis in the sculpture garden, consented to the artist’s demand that Tele-Sculpture

be withdrawn from the exhibition, and proposed that the museum create a small “Special

Committee on Artist Relations” that would regularly schedule public hearings.7 Takis and his

supporters refused Lowry’s resolution, countering that a large public meeting was necessary

to allow everyone with something to say about this issue a chance to be heard. The negotia-

tions ended at an impasse.

In the following weeks, many more artists and critics joined the group, now identi-

fied as the Art Workers Coalition (AWC), including Andre, Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Lippard,

and Siegelaub.8 Plans were made for a large demonstration at the museum on 30 March 1969.

Furthermore, Silas Rhodes, the director of the New York School of Visual Arts (SVA), agreed

to allow the AWC to hold the planned open meeting at the school on 10 April 1969.9

Hundreds of artists and critics turned out for the 3 p.m. demonstration at the Mu-

seum of Modern Art on 30 March, and roughly the same number sat attentively through the

public hearing at the School of Visual Arts eleven days later. At the MoMA demonstration,

held in the museum’s garden, the artists announced their demands and members, including

Battcock, made speeches lambasting the museum. Calls were made for the museum to insti-

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III.1 Vassilakis Takis removing Tele-Sculpture, 1965, from the exhibition “The Machine as Seen

at the End of the Mechanical Age,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 3 January 1969

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tute free admission, to include works by a much broader field of artists than the highly select

one it consistently featured, and, most importantly, to grant artists rights over their work.

During the marathon, four-hour session at the SVA, however, the target broad-

ened.10 Although some of the almost seventy speakers focused their protests on the Museum

of Modern Art, the art establishment at large drew most of their wrath. Battcock’s address at

the open hearing marks the first public recognition in the United States of limitations oper-

ative within the liberal sphere of cultural production:

The museum today, such as the Modern, the Whitney and the Metropolitan . . . actively supports

antiquated values and distorted obsessions that are not simply hypocritical, they are oppressive, re-

actionary, culturally debilitating and socially and aesthetically negative. The simple fact is that

those who control the museum—whatever museum you care to consider—are the superrich who

control all legitimate communicative agencies. The trustees of the museums direct N.B.C. and

C.B.S., the New York Times, and the associated press, . . . they own A.T.&T., Ford, General Motors,

the great multi-billion dollar foundations, Columbia University, Alcoa, Minnesota Mining, United

Fruit and A.M.K., besides sitting on the boards of each other’s museums. The implications of these

facts are enormous. Do you realize that it is those art loving, culturally committed trustees of the

Metropolitan and Modern museums who are waging the war in Vietnam? . . . It could be no worse

if control and administration of the museum were turned over to the department of defense.11

Battcock’s comments introduce the need for a critical reassessment not only of artists’ self-

understanding, but also of the idea that cultural institutions are neutral, and do not restrict,

prohibit, or exclude anything on ideological grounds. This newfound skepticism formed a

crucial stage in the emergence of those developments known collectively as “institutional

critique”—an art practice that would seek to make apparent the intersections where not only

political and economic but also ideological and state, and cultural and corporate, interests

meet. Such a practice could not be adequately evaluated in aesthetic terms, since what in-

formed it was a conception of a new social system—a vision inseparable from an even more

widespread faith in the possibilities and promise of a new global society.

The recognition had not yet been made that a work of art is intricately part of the

very process of rationalization and institutionalization that artists were now beginning to

critique. Andre, for instance, suggested at the open hearing that the power of artists was lo-

cated in their art, and in particular in withdrawing their art from the function it was con-

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ventionally made to serve. This strategy of negation, he argued, would be intolerable for the

art establishment, since it meant that there would be no more “commercial connections,” no

more “shows” and “exhibitions,” no more cooperation with museums, no more “scene,” no

more “big money artists.”12 Siegelaub emphasized a similar point to the open hearing audi-

ence: “The art is the one thing that you have. . . . This is the way your leverage lies. I would

think that by using that leverage you could achieve much greater goals than in any other

ways.”13 Of course, the “leverage” to which Siegelaub referred was not necessarily the refusal

to exhibit, as Andre proposed; rather it was the refusal to operate according to the traditional

practices, rules, and interests of galleries, museums, and collectors. The newly politicized

art public that coalesced around the Art Workers Coalition in early 1969 reflected a manifest

need for a truly democratic, public art that challenged the authority not only of the Museum

of Modern Art but of all art institutions.

Siegelaub’s strategy of exhibiting not in galleries and museums but in more public

sites of collective reception (e.g., magazines, catalogues, books) was in tandem with the

AWC’s call for a more open situation in art. What made his practice particularly explosive,

however, was the promotion of artists who completely disavowed conventional art objects.

Ironically, the negation of the art object made the artwork much more publicly attainable.14

For instance, one could easily reproduce Weiner’s An Amount of Bleach Poured on a Rug and

Allowed to Bleach or acquire part or parts of Kosuth’s Second Investigation merely by carrying

out the ideas circulated in newspapers or journals. Furthermore, the absolute negation of

preciousness that characterized these works, together with their dissemination in mass

communication networks, eliminated uniqueness and rendered artworks more readily ac-

cessible than ever before.

Siegelaub reaffirmed the public dimension of conceptual art: “The artists have cho-

sen to involve themselves in the community,” he announced in early 1969. “I think that the

obvious . . . implication of an art whose condition is immediately public domain, say an ex-

perienceless art, . . . has a lot to do with a desire to reach the community.”15 According to

Siegelaub, then, the transition from the limited space of the gallery or museum to the pub-

licly accessible space of newspapers, journals, magazines, books, and catalogues was a tran-

sition in the direction of a new public art that could be observed in the increasingly

interconnected spaces of late twentieth century modernity. This view, it should also be em-

phasized, was an underlying theme of much of the discussion of the Art Workers Coalition.



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Siegelaub’s exhibitions and the “conceptual art” they featured met their first re-

ception in this context of artistic dissent and reassessment. There was a manifest need in

the newly politicized art world for a truly democratic, public art that challenged the author-

ity not only of museums but of “all art institutions and conditions.”16 And, as Battcock’s re-

view reveals, the new works produced by the artists associated with Siegelaub, and the

development of alternative exhibition spaces such as the “January 5–31, 1969” show, ade-

quately fit the bill.

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The world is full of objects . . . I do not wish to add any more.

—Douglas Huebler, 19691

Xerography—every man’s brain-picker—heralds the times of instant publishing. Anybody can

now become both author and publisher. Take any books on any subject and custom-make your

own book by simply Xeroxing a chapter from this one, a chapter from that one—instant steal!

—Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, 19672

In many ways Siegelaub’s innovative exhibition and distribution strategies followed from the

nature of the work he promoted. The publicity for the exhibitions often mirrored the works

in the shows (and vice versa). The advertising campaign he launched to promote “Douglas

Huebler: November 1968” is a case in point. In keeping with the informational nature of

Huebler’s new work, the publicity Siegelaub circulated announcing the exhibition employed

chapter six

the xerox degree of art

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exactly the same type of descriptive language that the artist integrated into his work. In No-

vember 1968, a black and white notice appeared in Artforum that read:

This 1/4 page advertisement (41/2� x 43/4� ), appearing in the November 1968 issue of Artforum

magazine, on page 8, in the lower left corner, is one form of documentation for the November 1968

exhibition of Douglas Huebler. Seth Siegelaub, 1100 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10028.3

This was not an aestheticized commercial message in the traditional sense; on the contrary,

the structure of the work simulated the banality of an advertisement (fig. 6.1). Furthermore,

in contrast to the late modernist ambition to differentiate art from the information that sur-

rounded it and the exhibition and distribution context in which it appeared, the manner in

which Siegelaub presented the work of Huebler celebrated its insertion into the heterogeneous

fabric of publicity, display, and information. A play of allusion and formal echoes secured the

work’s kinship with the notices and advertisements, reflecting a renunciation of the mod-

ernist claim to radical difference and innovation. Whether or not this feature of the work of

artists associated with Siegelaub is to be characterized as conceptual art must remain an

open question. Although the work effaced the distinction between high and mass culture, a

distinction on which modernism depended for its specificity, this constitutive differentiation

seems already to have been on the point of disappearing. If pop artists merged the antithet-

ical realms of the high and the low by quoting the materials, fragments, and motifs of mass

culture, artists such as Huebler incorporate them to the point where many of the critical and

evaluative categories on which the radical differentiation of modernism and mass culture

was based no longer seem functional.

In this type of cultural mutation (in which what used to be stigmatized as mass or

commercial culture is now received into the precincts of fine art), the work, like advertising,

becomes an object whose use value is located in its publicity and sign value. The work abol-

ishes all claims to aesthetic value and to the auratic glow that formerly gave prestige to art.

At the same time it raised a question that would haunt the forms of art production, exhibi-

tion, and distribution that Siegelaub and the artists affiliated with him were developing: To

what extent can artistic practices parallel (and even appropriate) advertising strategies with-

out fully becoming advertisements themselves? For Huebler’s Artforum advert announces it-

self self-reflexively as “one form of documentation” of the exhibition. It is important here to

recall that for Huebler, documentation becomes the central aspect of the artwork. In other

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6.1 Advertisement in Artforum announcing the exhibition

“Douglas Huebler: November 1968,” 1968

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words, as secondary information the advertisement literally constitutes a fragment of the

work. The piece is in public freehold; possession of the advert is equivalent to possession of

an element of the artwork. Yet the nature of that intervention is not necessarily progressive,

for Siegelaub and Huebler’s distribution of a shard of the artwork at no cost to the collector

can also be seen to establish false, predetermined needs for the customer that can then only

be fulfilled by the makers of these needs: Siegelaub and Huebler.


In December 1968, Siegelaub organized a group show that served both to promote the artists

associated with him and to legitimize the format of exhibition and distribution he pioneered.

Consistent with his newly developed exhibition strategy, he also conceived of the show, “The

Xerox Book,” as a book project available for wide distribution.4 Rather than the standard

offset methods of printing, though, Siegelaub sought to make use of a much more access-

ible form of duplication: the photocopy machine, an instrument that potentially made every-

one a printer. This exhibition, with its strategic use of advanced media, thus represented a

vigorous critique of the unique and authentic work of art that deprivileged and depersonal-

ized the art-making process and virtually abolished the threshold between high and mass


Rather than critically obliterating notions of authorship, “The Xerox Book” accom-

plished the reverse. In their infamous The Medium Is the Massage of 1967, McLuhan and Fiore

locate the origins of the anxiety of authenticity or authorship in the fifteenth-century in-

vention of the printing press.6 Because the printing press reduced the investment of human

labor and the human hand and greatly standardized production, notions of authorship were

devised to arrest that natural conclusion. The same principle would play itself out with the

marketing of conceptual art.

The extreme mechanization of artistic production and distribution that character-

izes “The Xerox Book” drew on a strategy Mel Bochner had employed two years earlier in a

pivotal exhibition he organized for the School of Visual Arts gallery featuring the photo-

copied working drawings of a number of artists (fig. 6.2).7 Bochner assembled copies of each

drawing in four identical loose-leaf notebooks, which he placed on gallery white pedestals in

the center of the gallery. This shifted the focus from the particular components of the draw-

ings to the medium of communication; from traditional ideas of “depth” in art to a reflection

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6.2 Mel Bochner, Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant

to Be Viewed as Art, as installed at the Visual Arts Gallery, School of Visual Arts, New York,


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on the artwork as interpretive frame.8 Siegelaub did not merely employ the copy machine as

a means of reproduction, but requested that the artists treat the new technology as a con-

ceptual component of their work, a further index of his scheme to distribute the artwork to

an unprecedently large audience.9

Initially, Siegelaub envisioned that the work of Andre, Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Le-

Witt, Weiner, Robert Morris, Walter De Maria, and Robert Smithson would be featured in the

“Xerox Book” project. De Maria and Smithson ultimately decided not to participate, leaving

the catalogue-exhibition with seven artists in all. To keep the project impartial and free of hi-

erarchy, Siegelaub asked each of them for the same amount of work: a twenty-five-page piece

on standard 81/2 x 11-inch paper to be reproduced seriographically.10

Given the layout restrictions, it is not surprising that “The Xerox Book” generated

several unprecedented and contradictory variations on the conventional exhibition format.

On the one hand, it transformed the basic, temporal aspect of an exhibition into a different

form of extension. Rather than running for three weeks, the show ran for one hundred and

seventy-five pages. On the other hand, the temporal process of thumbing through twenty-

five pages was fundamental to each work. In this regard, “The Xerox Book” fused the static

and the filmic, the dimensional and the temporal, all the while inverting a broad range of


Siegelaub found the seriographic process of xerography appealing for several rea-

sons. To begin with, it was novel. As he emphasized in a press release announcing the cata-

logue-exhibition, “this is the first time that these . . . artists have worked in this process.”11 In

addition, the mechanical, “impersonal nature” of xerography depersonalized the production

process, negating the skilled hand of the artist in a way that once again resonated with the

visionary writings of McLuhan and Fiore, who observed that “as new technologies come into

play, people are less and less convinced of the importance of self-expression.”12 But the fea-

ture of the photocopy medium that most interested Siegelaub was its negation of the aes-

thetic component. As he explicitly asserted in an interview a few months after organizing

this project: “I chose Xerox as opposed to offset or any other process because it’s such a bland,

shitty reproduction, really just for the exchange of information. That’s all a Xerox is about. I

mean, it’s not even, you know, defined. So Xerox just cuts down on the visual aspects of look-

ing at the information.”13 In part, of course, this idea went in tandem with the deskilling prac-

tices that characterized much of the work of the artists he represented, and it fit into a much

larger anti-aesthetic trend suspicious of the slick work of art. But above all, for Siegelaub the

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electrostatic copying machine, with its leveling of all information to the zero degree, em-

phasized the new art’s status as text, as secondary information.

Consistent with his strategy of exhibiting works in as literal and disinterested a

manner as possible, however, no essays or introduction appeared in the catalogue-exhibition.

Furthermore, unlike the Bradford or Windham shows, “The Xerox Book” was not accompa-

nied by a symposium or by any other public means to establish the identity or legitimacy of

the group of artists. But that void of signification was filled with the corporate name Xerox,

which of course was loaded with meaning and was anything but disinterested. Indeed, in the

weeks prior to the show, Siegelaub lobbied the Xerox Corporation in New York to underwrite

the project. His effort to involve industry and large corporations with artists, begun a few

years earlier with the founding of Image, Inc., had been moderately successful. Yet the Xerox

Corporation, after several meetings with Siegelaub, decided not to support the book.14 Siege-

laub immediately turned to Jack Wendler, the independent businessman with whom he had

set up Image, Inc., for help in underwriting the project. They concluded that to produce a

book entirely in the photocopy medium would be too expensive. Thus, in one of the many

material paradoxes of conceptual art, “The Xerox Book” was duplicated using a regular print-

ing press. Despite this shift in production means, Siegelaub continued to invoke the corpo-

rate name Xerox, raising a number of questions: What was it about the sign value of “Xerox”

that was considered appealing? And what did it mean for an exhibition to appropriate a cor-

porate trademark?

“ T H E X E R O X B O O K ”

Consistent with his efforts to eliminate artistic hierarchy, Siegelaub presented the artists and

their work in alphabetical order in “The Xerox Book.” Hence the catalogue-exhibition began

with Andre’s piece, one in a series of so-called “scatter pieces” the artist had commenced the

previous year.15 Andre simply dropped twenty-five 1 x 1-inch units of block cardboard onto

the screen of the duplicating machine from a height of one and a half feet, and let the natu-

ral forces of gravity make the pattern (figs. 6.3–6.5). The result was a random operation that

negated conventions of skill and rational composition. Rather than let all of the individual

units of cardboard fall onto the screen at once, however, Andre dropped the pieces one at a

time. He made a photocopy each time an additional element was placed on the screen. The

work thus addressed the procedure of its own making, the indexical trace of a material pro-



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6.3 Carl Andre, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book”

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6.4 Carl Andre, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book”

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6.5 Carl Andre, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book”

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cess, as much as the idea that informed it. As with the operation of Huebler’s conceptual art,

each stage of the production process of Andre’s scatter piece (i.e., each of the twenty-five

pages) was equal in status. Without a conventional center, or point of climax, the work was

analogous to a structuralist filmic sequence or a serial musical score in which no one frame

or bar is suspended and privileged above the others.16

Barry’s One Million Dots also involved an accumulation of units over the twenty-five

pages, but here each page was alike. Consisting of twenty-five photocopies of a paper tem-

plate featuring 40,000 printed dots, One Million Dots foregrounded temporality and the accu-

mulation of the seemingly endless dots as much as it did the viewer’s operation of the piece

in turning the pages. The relationship between viewer and artwork was thus redefined, as the

work permitted the viewer a space of direct, tactile and perceptual interaction.17

LeWitt exhibited a schematic drawing that followed logically from the serial sys-

tems of three-dimensional cubes he had been working on since 1966, such as Serial Project

No. 1 (ABCD) discussed earlier (fig. 6.6). These were fully diegetic serial compositions with reg-

ulated changes between the parts.18 The artist calculated that there were twenty-four dif-

ferent ways of ordering the first four ordinate numbers, and thus formulated a system based

on the number four. First he assigned a different kind of line to each of the four numbers and

drew the lines parallel and very close to one another in boxes.19 Then he devised a system of

arranging the boxes based on the divisibility of four so that each of the twenty-four pages

featured a different arrangement of sixteen squares.

The primary material of the works that Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner exhibited in

“The Xerox Book” was language, but they employed linguistic definitions in neither a poetic

nor a philosophical sense. Instead they used language solely as a means to convey informa-

tion. This was the gist of Siegelaub’s comment in 1969 that “the same way that color was in-

formation before, language is functioning as information now.”20 Huebler put together a

number of drawings that joined descriptive language with visual signs, locating lines and

points in various spatial relationships. A typical drawing consisted of three dots, A, B and C,

a couple of inches apart from each other and midway up the page, with the following caption

in Trade Gothic type: “B represents a point located one inch ahead of the picture plane. A and

C represent two points located on the picture plane.” The English caption was translated into

French and German as well, thereby juxtaposing the same visual information to various lan-

guage systems. The experience of viewing thus differed in each case, underscoring the con-

sequential role of codes such as language in discerning information.21



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6.6 Sol LeWitt, Untitled, 1968, from “The Xerox Book”

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Weiner’s piece was another variation on his removal series, but unlike in Turf, Stake

and String or Six Common Ten Penny Steel Nails of earlier that same year, he indicated the ma-

terials and performance dimension of this piece entirely in linguistic terms. In hand-written

capital letters, toward the bottom right corner of an 81/2 x 11-inch sheet of graph paper, a

statement read: “A rectangular removal from a xeroxed graph sheet in proportion to the over-

all dimensions of the sheet” (fig. 6.7). All twenty-five pages were identical. Insofar as the pro-

cess of manufacture thus stipulated and the general artistic concept or information were not

coincident, Weiner’s method of production split apart the primary and secondary informa-

tion. This artistic paradigm was fundamentally open, and allowed a whole series of contin-

gencies to determine the final work.

A comparison of A Rectangular Removal from a Xeroxed Graph Sheet with an untitled

piece Weiner initially proposed for this show but decided at the last moment not to exhibit

can clarify this point. The latter consisted of an irregular pattern of blocks of graphic marks,

each four integers across and ten down (figs. 6.8–6.10). As the pages advanced, the pattern

shifted from left to right one integer at a time, so that by the last page the twenty-five inte-

gers are to the right of where they were on the first page. There is an obvious similarity be-

tween this earlier work and A Rectangular Removal from a Xeroxed Graph Sheet insofar as both

employed twenty-five sheets of standard graph paper. However, the piece that was ultimately

not used invoked narrative, literally focusing on the spatial-temporal procedures within

which a serial system of graphic marks could be made to move across a field over the space

of twenty-five pages. The work was thus absolutely self-referential—a narrative structure

with a systematic self-reflexivity anticipated by the serial systems of LeWitt.

In contrast to his rejected work, however, Weiner’s A Rectangular Removal was not

systematically self-reflexive, and did not follow a serial order. The performative dimension

of building the piece, of removing a rectangle from a photocopied sheet of graph paper, was

left entirely to the anonymous viewer. Accordingly, Weiner’s A Rectangular Removal was struc-

turally similar to the wall drawings LeWitt began to make at precisely this moment in late

1968. The governing principle of these drawings was that the labor of production—both con-

ceptually building the piece and actually executing the application of graphic marks on the

wall—did not have to be carried out by the artist. LeWitt limited his role to providing loosely

defined instructions (e.g., somebody draw “500 vertical black lines, 500 horizontal yellow

lines, 500 diagonal (l. to r.) blue lines, and 500 diagonal (r. to l.) red lines . . . at random”), and

encouraged his assistants to contribute conceptually to the partially predefined but largely



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6.7 Lawrence Weiner, A Rectangular Removal from a Xeroxed Graph Sheet in Proportion

to the Overall Dimensions of the Sheet, 1968, from “The Xerox Book”

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6.8 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968

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6.9 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968

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6.10 Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968

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open drawing scheme.22 Therefore, although the number of lines was predetermined, pre-

cisely where they were to be placed on the wall was left open. With A Rectangular Removal

Weiner also predefined the broader parameters of the piece in the form of general instruc-

tions, but he left the labor of production to the viewer rather than to his assistants. Thus, as

with Weiner’s conceptual art in general, the egalitarian dimension of A Rectangular Removal

went further than LeWitt’s conceptual art in that the piece could be executed by anybody.

Moreover, insofar as Weiner placed the work in what he referred to as “public free-

hold,” it could also be owned by anybody. A few months after the completion of “The Xerox

Book,” Weiner commented on A Rectangular Removal in language that revealed his concern

with the work’s democratic and egalitarian potential:

The exciting thing about the “Xerox Book” project was that there were twenty-five sheets, and it was

the same exact piece . . . and that almost helped to show that the removal, as long as it was in pro-

portion, could have been twenty-five different removals. There was no seeing whether the removal

was the art or what was left was the art. And yet it was exactly the same piece. So you had twenty-

five of exactly the same piece that could look twenty-five different ways. So for me it was a perfect

piece. And that to me is a public freehold piece. Anybody who purchased the “Xerox Book” owned

the piece.23

As utopian a principle as the idea of “public freehold” initially appeared, there was a slight

catch. As Weiner continued to explain in the same interview, “It’s called public freehold for

me, and then there’s private freehold, which is where the only people that can own the piece

are the people who ask for it when it’s freehold.”24 Thus as the work of art moved from pub-

lic to private freehold, it became endowed with a more exclusive value. Although not an-

chored by the artist’s signature, this value was guaranteed by a peculiar method of verifying

authenticity. According to Weiner, “the only record that someone owns the piece is filed with

a lawyer on a typewritten sheet. And filed in one set of books that I have and in another set

of books that’s in a safe-deposit box. That’s the record and complete proof of receivership.

The title.”25 Property value was thus conferred on a particular work through its legal title,

which was securely locked up in a safety deposit box.

Kosuth’s project matter-of-factly itemized the constituent elements employed in

the production of “The Xerox Book”: “Title of the project,” “photograph of the xerox machine

used,” “xerox machine’s specifications,” “photograph of collation machine used,” “collation

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machine specifications,” and so on. The literality of the work echoed LeWitt’s dictum that

art should not instruct the viewer but should self-reflexively present information.26 Since

the catalogue-exhibition was produced with the use of a regular offset printing press rather

than an electrostatic copying machine, however, Kosuth’s piece ultimately lost much of its


For Siegelaub, Wendler, and the artists who contributed to “The Xerox Book,” the

“Xerox” machine signified a number of things at once. To begin with, it represented a means

by which to level questions of formal aesthetic quality. In addition, the technology the Xerox

Corporation manufactured was widely considered to be on the cutting edge of innovation in

the 1960s, and therefore an association with this corporation carried the cachet of vanguard-

ism. Siegelaub and Wendler’s championing of “Xerox” was also undoubtedly related to

McLuhan and Fiore’s celebration the previous year of this company’s duplicating machine,

which they argued made publishing accessible to all and copyright virtually ungovernable:

“Take any books on any subject and custom-make your own book by simply Xeroxing a chap-

ter from this one, a chapter from that one—instant steal!”27 With its potential for unlimited

production and distribution of information and ideas, the photocopy machine constituted a

crucial addition to the communications industry.28 For Siegelaub, efficient communication

was tantamount to power: “For me, power is the ability to get things done—for example, by

means of swift global communication.”29 Therefore, whether or not an actual copying ma-

chine was used for this exhibit was irrelevant to him; what mattered was the issue of what

could transpire using such technology.


Repeatedly, in the late 1960s, Siegelaub declared that he conceived of his innovations in tan-

dem with developments in the work of the artists he represented. In one of his most impor-

tant interviews, he explained the necessary factors in the formation of the exhibition

practice he pioneered:

The type of art that I’m involved with and concerned about has to do less with materiality than ideas

and intangible considerations. And so because I deal with that, or spend time working with artists

making art in that area, the needs for presentation of the work, and things of this nature, are quite



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a bit different than just putting up walls and making them available to artists, which is what a

gallery does.30

Siegelaub adds that the artists he works with are obviously interested in going beyond the

relatively small, privileged public that frequents galleries and museums. “It’s very obviously

implicit in the work,” he insists, that these artists want to reach a much larger public. “I mean,

they don’t make objects in the studio and leave them there, or put something out to only a

few galleries. Instead its condition immediately transcends that, it’s immediately out to the

public.”31 Thus the concern is not only with reaching a larger public, but with rapid mobil-

ity—of reaching that public more quickly than did previous art.

Here the symbiotic relationship between Siegelaub’s novel distribution strategies

and the work of the artists associated with him becomes strikingly apparent. Just as these

artists developed a type of work that sought to abandon the limitations of the object, aes-

thetic concerns, and privileged codes or access, so Siegelaub altered conventional forms of

distribution, and thereby the work of art’s position within the social hierarchy of cultural in-

formation. Insofar as Siegelaub’s goal was to distribute the work he represented beyond a

specific market or set of consumers, his novel exhibition practice was consistent with the

rapidly developing and ever-thickening network of interconnections and interdependencies

transforming modern social life in the 1960s.

Although Siegelaub placed a small number of catalogues in New York bookstores

for sale to the public, he distributed most of them through a direct-mail advertising cam-

paign, in effect planning the future market for the artists and informing those on his ever-

growing mailing list of the merchandise he had available for sale.32 This colonization of the

future through promoting product recall, a crucial component in the political economy of

sign value, came to be a structural feature of the work of the artists Siegelaub represented.

His novel marketing strategy of communicating with prospective art collectors through di-

rect-mail catalogues sent from his home came to replace the function of a centrally located

gallery. Of course, this was only a new form of merchandising in the context of the prevail-

ing institutional and discursive conventions of art distribution and sales. Once we recognize

that in the 1960s the dissemination of direct-mail catalogues informing consumers of newly

available products was an increasingly common gambit advocated by advertising firms and

practiced by large and small businesses alike, the source of Siegelaub’s selling strategy be-

comes more clear.33

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In effect, then, by late 1968 Siegelaub had accomplished what Allan Kaprow had

called for barely one year earlier in “Pop Art: Past, Present and Future.” Kaprow lauds the

lengths to which pop art had gone in integrating art with everyday life, but notes that “the

job has only begun.”34 If pop art deprivileged the status of the aesthetic object, he argues,

the distribution form of the work of art still remained in privileged spheres of experience.35

Evaluating this situation and proposing what he felt still needed to be done in order to pop-

ularize art fully, Kaprow writes:

The pop artist has to do some additional reevaluating for himself particularly as regards the context

in which he presents his work. Thus far he deals only with the smart set, the esthetes, the art world,

the fashionable magazine editors. His showplace is the elegant sanctum of the gallery, museum and

town house. . . . In order for pop art to overcome its preciosity, it must move out into the open. . . .

Consider the possibilities of sky-writing, in dropping leaflets, in blimp paintings, or displays

dragged through the air. . . . The roads to take are almost unlimited. And if gallery dealers are wor-

ried about my proposals for practical reasons, they need not: from their very same desks they can

launch the careers of these new ad men, for they can simply change their gallery name to an agency

name, and their title to “art director.”36

The work of the artists affiliated with Siegelaub almost programmatically answered Kaprow’s

call, as did the former’s newly developed mode of operation: by June 1969 Siegelaub referred

to himself simply as a “consultant” “organizing information.”37 But as the work moved from

the space of the aesthetic object and closer to the space of quotidian objects, as it moved into

what Baudrillard has referred to as “the xerox degree of culture,” not only were all of the privi-

leged aspects of aesthetic objects and experience negated but so too was the possibility of

aesthetic judgment. As Baudrillard observes in “Beyond the Vanishing Point of Art,”

The logic of the disappearance of art is, precisely, inversely proportional to that of the production of

culture. The “xerox degree” of culture in a state of absolute proliferation corresponds to the zero-

degree of art: one is the other’s vanishing point, and absolute simulation.38

Baudrillard’s extraordinary remark offers a rich picture of the “end of art”: an end that is a

realization. When art is disseminated to a mass public and multiple venues beyond galleries

and museums, it loses its specificity. Its potential for proliferation as well as its accessibility



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transforms the very character of art, causing it to dissolve and vanish. The radical and in-

discernible expansion and proliferation of art calls into question its very nature and pushes

it into the domain of publicity.

The breakthrough takes place when a mediated object replaces the tangible one,

or, to put it in Walter Benjamin’s terms, when the work becomes more and more “designed

for reproducibility.”39 In this mutation in aesthetic production, traditional forms of material

support give way to the most advanced media and their offshoots in photography, film, video,

and more direct channels of the market such as magazines, billboards, newspaper adver-

tisements, and other forms of publicity. Hence, the sphere of art expands, becoming coter-

minous with market society in such a way that the aesthetic is no longer limited to its earlier,

traditional or experimental forms but is consumed throughout daily life itself. The closed

space of the aesthetic is thereby opened up to its fully culturalized context. Indeed, as Bau-

drillard points out, this expansion must also spell the end of the aesthetic itself. When the

realm of art increases to the point where everything becomes in one way or another accul-

turated, the traditional distinctiveness or “specificity” of the aesthetic (and even of culture

as such) is necessarily blurred or lost altogether.40

Yet, as Lippard concluded three years later, despite the potential for a different,

radically modified art world composed of a new collective utopian space, such a space was

ultimately unrealizable. The reasons for that failure might very well lie in conceptual art’s

belief in the medium as the sole locus of meaning.41 Or, from a more social perspective, they

might be located in the profound naivete of conceptual art’s belief that it had evaded the rig-

orous control of forces governing and structuring the art market by displacing the suppos-

edly unique art object.42 But Siegelaub, even if only for a moment in 1969, grappled with the

conundrum of how to operate within the art world without capitulating to its operative con-

ventions that necessitated unambiguous authorship, authenticity, and objectness. Later

that same year, as conceptual art’s success and acceptance grew, Siegelaub noted with a re-

signed tone, “any form of art which becomes established becomes establishment.”43 And it

was precisely against this transformation that Siegelaub increasingly worked, as he became

more and more attentive to the problem of artists’ rights.

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Artists have finally been accepted as idea men and not merely as craftsmen with poetic thoughts.

—Seth Siegelaub, 19691

Is it so surprising that in a time when postindustrial ephemeralization is rampant, when infor-

mation bits are speedier and more important than heavy matter or face-to-face contact, when we

are bombarded with message units, when time is so precious it almost has become a substance,

when space is at a premium, when history forces us to dematerialize, that artists everywhere

should come up with Conceptual Art? Conceptual Art is a symptom of globalism and it is the

first—Surrealism almost was—really international art style.

—John Perreault, 19712

Even before the “January 5–31, 1969” show closed, Siegelaub was planning several more pub-

lic exhibitions that employed the infrastructure of publicity as medium and problematized

the traditional boundaries of artistic production.3 He increasingly came to realize the enor-

chapter seven

the siegelaub idea

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mous implications of the art produced in tandem with the practice of presentation he orig-

inated. Not only were the new modes of artistic production, presentation, and distribution

capable of expanding the work’s audience, but according to Siegelaub they also rendered

“the idea of individual ownership of works of art” a “passé condition,” in many cases “totally

impossible” since “the experience” of an art presented through the infrastructure of public-

ity and display “is everybody’s immediately.”4 Recall that his advert in Artforum for the Hue-

bler show, in its role as documentation, already constituted a fragment of the work, and

therefore whoever possessed the journal had a stake in the artist’s production; similarly,

Barry’s Inert Gas was publicly accessible through a telephone answering service in Los An-

geles. By harnessing the distribution medium, Siegelaub made an unlimited viewership a

real possibility.5 This condition, in which art became unprecedentedly uncircumscribed and

mobile, put pressure on structures such as the gallery network that hierarchize through in-

clusion and exclusion. “Now,” Siegelaub observed in the spring of 1969, an artist does not

“have to be involved in a gallery or be uptight about not having a gallery. [Whereas] before

it was a sign of shame. It doesn’t make any fucking difference anymore.”6

Rather than a gallery in a particular fixed location, Siegelaub’s site of exhibition

was as ephemeral as it was vast. “I broke down, like, what a gallery does. What is its func-

tion? Its primary function is that it’s a place for artists to put their work out. But it breaks

down to many aspects. . . . There’s space, there’s money, there’s exposure or publicity, you

know, there are a number of things. And I’ve just, in a sense, eliminated space. My gallery is

the world now.”7 Of course, the work produced by the artists he represented facilitated this

conception of space, since one of the characteristics of a work presented in linguistic and

graphic terms as pages in catalogues and magazines was that it could be distributed “all

over the world very, very quickly.”8

Most significant for Siegelaub at the time was his belief that the ability to distrib-

ute the new art as primary information made geographical “decentralization” possible. “I

think New York is beginning to break down as a center,” he remarked in the summer of 1969.

“Not that there will be another city to replace it, but rather where any artist is will be the

center.”9 From Siegelaub’s perspective, the deterritorializing properties of conceptual art lib-

erated it not only from traditional institutional sites of display, but also from geographical

centers.10 In this sense, Siegelaub’s metaphors of a shrinking world of complex connectivity

were of a piece with the infamous communications discourse propagated by Marshall

McLuhan and his followers, who exalted advances in telecommunications and their global

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message with delirious optimism. McLuhan’s championing of the medium of communica-

tion over the contents of media messages, encapsulated in his formula “the medium is the

message,” transferred meaning onto the medium itself through the technological structure.

The sign value of art became triumphant as art’s use value (and exchange value) came to be

determined by its mode of distribution rather than its content. Not everyone celebrated the

potential of new media so uncritically, as is evident in the contemporaneous work of Hans

Magnus Enzensberger, who warned against the one-way communication of the media at

pains to exclude the possibility of response.11 Enzensberger’s argument represents the oppo-

site pole from McLuhan’s position, a critical standpoint to which Siegelaub would gradually

move in the following years.

Siegelaub’s hyperbolic post-1968 proclamations of global interconnectedness, of

the world as his gallery, have direct parallels in the consequences of the cybernetic and

informational revolutions for marketing and finance. The “postindustrial ephemeralization”

of the 1960s and 1970s, in which mechanized technologies of communication were intensi-

fied to the point that capital and informational transfers could be instantaneously effectu-

ated around the globe from one national zone to another, dramatically announced a new

phase of globalization.12 From the instrumental point of view of advanced capitalism, what

was heralded was an increased functional proximity, in which deterritorialized spaces and

connecting corridors were created to ease the flow of capital (including its commodities and

personnel), and the time-space compression of connectivity was matched with a degree of

cultural “compression.”13 The fact that conceptual art’s method of production and Siege-

laub’s method of distribution were at one with globalization soon rendered both profoundly

economic, and integrated them into advanced capitalism’s generalized commodity system.

But this fate was not initially evident.


In 1969 Siegelaub organized a series of shows characterized by greatly broadened exhibition

spaces and artworks that further decentered the relationship between primary and second-

ary information. For “Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris,” sponsored by Bradford Junior College’s

Laura Knott Gallery in March of that year, the primary information was presented in the

catalogue and the secondary information on the premises of the gallery space.14 This was an



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extraordinary reversal of the usual format in which primary information is on view in the

exhibition space, and the catalogue is reserved for secondary information. It also indicated

a transformation of the very nature of the art represented. As Siegelaub explained in a No-

vember 1969 interview,

when art does not any longer depend upon its physical presence, when it has become an abstraction,

it is not distorted and altered by its representation in books and catalogues. It becomes PRIMARY

information; while the reproduction of conventional art in books or catalogues is necessarily

SECONDARY information. . . . When information is PRIMARY, the catalogue can become the


Yet, when we consider that Morris’s piece at the “Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris” show fea-

tured a rubber stamp on the paper towels in the restrooms—presumably, anyone who han-

dled a paper towel would thus possess the work—the possibility that something else was at

play becomes real. By restricting the primary information to the catalogue, Siegelaub had

also limited and controlled the potential ownership of the work.

Another exhibition Siegelaub organized that year, “One Month,” took the form of a

calendar of the month of March 1969, during which a day was assigned to each of the thirty-

one invited artists.16 As with “The Xerox Book,” the information presented in the catalogue

was “primary” and there was no exhibition site or gallery to be visited.17 “You don’t need walls

to show ideas,” Siegelaub explained to Art in America’s David Shirey in the spring of 1969, ex-

tolling the virtues of working with primary rather than more conventional secondary infor-

mation. “People who have galleries can show their objects only in one place at a time. I’m not

limited. I can have my ideas in twenty different places at once. Ideas are faster than tedious

objects.”18 In other words, the new method of exhibition not only delimited the size of the au-

dience, but also shifted the emphasis from objects to ideas. And according to Siegelaub, now

that the object had been eliminated and the art only existed as an idea, to become aware of

that idea was to possess it.19

The implications of this new mode of art for the market were enormous, as evi-

denced by Patricia Norvell’s somewhat puzzled observation during her early 1969 interview

with Siegelaub: “You can’t make anyone pay for thinking about [art].”20 Siegelaub soon found

a solution to this obstacle, as the traces of these “thoughts” came to be offered for sale as

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fetishistic substitutes for the “lost” objects. Here again, the parallels between this new art

and advertising (which sells ideas as fluidly as objects) are striking, for as Baudrillard shows

in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, advanced capitalism relies on the construc-

tion of sign values to establish the relative values of objects.21 With systems of thought and

signs (and not just material objects) reified and commodified, even pricelessness can con-

tribute to the marketing of a product by increasing its desirability.

The distinction between primary and secondary information was also central to

the “Simon Fraser Exhibition” that Siegelaub organized at the gallery of Simon Fraser Uni-

versity (SFU) in Vancouver for May and June of 1969.22 As he outlined the show to university


The exhibition will have no title. . . . The overall plan: 1. Print 1000 copies of the enclosed poster be-

fore the exhibition opens, and distribute. 2. During 19 May and 19 June the work of each artist will

be introduced into the community at Simon Fraser. 3. (Towards) the end of the exhibition a catalog

of the exhibition (“what has happened”) will be printed and distributed (approximately 12 pages

with photos—details to follow).23

What is striking about this “overall plan” is the equivalence it posits between the work and

its publicity. As he had done on several recent occasions, Siegelaub also organized a sympo-

sium with the artists to coincide with the exhibition. In this case, however, he arranged for

the artists to communicate with each other and the audience by means of a telephone

hookup linking New York (Kosuth, Barry, LeWitt, Weiner, Huebler, and Siegelaub in the role

of moderator), Ottawa (Baxter), and Vancouver (local critics and curators). This multicontext

electronic conversation was transmitted to an assembled audience over the public address

system in the SFU Theater.24 Telephones were also installed in the theater, and, following an

exchange between the artists, the audience was invited to participate in the discussion.

This use of technology to enhance communications not only indicates the consid-

erable energy and creativity with which Siegelaub operated at the time, but also provides a

further example of media fetishization and points to a utopian belief that technology could

directly produce communication. This view had been held earlier by Walter Benjamin in di-

alogue with Bertolt Brecht, and later by Enzensberger who, referring to Brecht’s essay on the

potential use of radio, noted about mass media generally, “For the first time in history, the



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media are making possible mass participation in a social and socialized productive process,

the practical means of which are in the hands of the masses themselves.”25 However, En-

zensberger continues, “in its present form equipment like television or film does not serve

communication but prevents it. It allows for no reciprocal action between transmitter and

receiver.”26 This inadequacy occurs not because of a lack of technology for a two-way flow of

communication, but rather because the social structure of advanced capitalism prevents its

realization.27 According to Enzensberger, without a radical transformation of the basic eco-

nomic system upon which Western society is based, the overarching unidirectional relation-

ship of transmitter and receiver will not be altered regardless of how revolutionary and

potentially communicative the media. This was precisely the situation that confronted

Siegelaub. Although he had discovered the means by which to transmit and disseminate

art to a broader public, the commodity form was not abolished; the basic capitalist eco-

nomic structure remained in place and governed how the art market did business. Thus, to

return to a concrete example, though the Xerox Corporation’s photocopy machine po-

tentially provided an ideal means of aesthetic production, as Enzensberger woefully notes,

“The technically most advanced electrostatic copying machine, which operates with ordi-

nary paper—which cannot, that is to say, be supervised and is independent of suppliers—is

the property of a monopoly (Xerox), on principle it is not sold but rented. The rates them-

selves ensure that it does not get into the wrong hands.”28 Which begins to explain why in the

end Siegelaub was ultimately denied access to the more advanced technology of Xerox

(which was reserved to serve more clearly corporate interests) and had to rely on a conven-

tional printing press for his “Xerox Book” project.

In March of 1969 Siegelaub embarked on a show, “July, August, September 1969,”

that sought to extend over an even greater geographical scope, iterating “a certain interna-

tional sensibility that [he] sensed among artists throughout the world” (fig. 7.1).29 Meta-

phorically alluding to the phenomenon of decentralization rapidly coming to characterize

modern life, the exhibition took place simultaneously in a number of geographical locations

widely separated from one another, but excluding New York City.30 Some of the works were

instantaneous, others only accessible part of the time, and yet others observable throughout

the length of the show and beyond. The trilingual exhibition catalogue was the only site

where the show was presented as a whole.31 According to Siegelaub, the multilingual text en-

abled the show to transcend a limiting locality, furthering “global communications, rather

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7.1 Cover of July, August, September 1969, 1969

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than limited and limiting local distribution.”32 Globalization contributed to the catalogue’s

function as a broad frame, marking the global bounds of the primary information presented

in this international show.

The “July, August, September 1969” show crystallized the key aspects of Siegelaub’s

catalogue-exhibitions. First, the exhibition catalogue was kept as disinterested and neutral

as possible. Introductory comments were conspicuously absent, as were explanatory critical

essays. Second, the works were presented in an undiscriminating way, precluding hierarchy

among the artists. Each artist was allocated the same amount of space: two pages. Third, the

thirty-two pages were divided into two sections, one presenting “primary information” (“the

work itself”) and the other “secondary information” about where and when the material el-

ements that supplemented that primary information could be seen during the show. To-

gether, the two sections functioned to delineate the parameters of the individual pieces

included in the exhibition, thereby making them more comprehensible to the public. In all

cases, however, the catalogue served to present the work throughout the world. By reversing

the relationship and rendering the material in the catalogue primary information and that

at the particular geographical sites secondary information, Siegelaub once again lifted artis-

tic production from its hitherto close connection with physical locality and disseminated it

quickly and broadly. This method of distribution paralleled transformations in the dissemi-

nation of information brought about by contemporary globalization.33

Siegelaub’s euphoria about information going back and forth quickly parallels

McLuhan’s pronouncement of the “global village” in which “electric circuitry has overthrown

the regime of ‘time’ and ‘space’ and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns

of all other men.”34 Both envision a kind of cyberspace in which culture and, more directly for

Siegelaub, art have reached their ultimate dematerialization, as messages pass instanta-

neously from one nodal point to another across the globe, the formal material world. In this

transformation, with artworks become increasingly phanstasmagoric, existing primarily as

the dissemination of information, the possibility of devising concrete material structures

capable of anchoring ownership seemed more than ever to be an impossibility.


By the end of 1969, the importance of Siegelaub’s catalogues and the work they exhibited

was broadly acknowledged in North America and Europe. Articles in a wide array of news-

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papers and journals, including the New York Times, Studio International, New York, Mademoiselle,

even the Financial Times, reported on the “January 5–31, 1969” exhibition.35 The rapidly grow-

ing focus on Siegelaub’s activities culminated in Vogue magazine selecting him as one of the

most likely to succeed in the upcoming decade.36 By mid-1969, in one of the more startling

inversions of the mode of fabrication, exhibition, and distribution that Siegelaub had spear-

headed, not only the totality of his practice but also the work it featured was discussed in the

popular press as “the Siegelaub idea.” Mademoiselle reported that the “essence of the Siege-

laub idea . . . is: the idea is the work of art.”37 This led some to speculate that Siegelaub had

crossed the line and taken on the role of an artist—a role he refused to accept publicly.38

The growing political dimension of Siegelaub’s work was reinforced by the dis-

paraging remarks of critics such as Barbara Rose who, in the summer of 1969, noted that “a

great deal of the new art cannot be bought, sold, owned or traded” in the conventional man-

ner, and warned that “if one wanted to read a political message into recent American art, it

would be that this country is on the way to some form of socialism.”39 Placing Siegelaub’s art

practice in the context of the protest movements of the late 1960s was neither inconsistent

nor far-fetched. In 1969 Siegelaub became increasingly involved in the newfound commu-

nity spirit of the Art Workers Coalition. In April of that year he began to contemplate ways in

which artists might receive more rights and exert greater control over their work. He openly

wondered during the interview with Norvell: “Why don’t artists have a community of inter-

est amongst themselves the way musicians have, an ASCAP [American Society of Com-

posers, Authors, and Publishers] or some musicians’ union. You know, whereas a man can

compose music and be relatively sure that when the music is played somewhere he gets

royalties on it.”40

Parallel, then, to the growing public if not financial success of the artists he repre-

sented, Siegelaub found it imperative to develop an alternative structure to protect their

rights. Though his efforts addressed all artists generally, they were most relevant to the con-

ceptual artists associated with him due to the special nature of their work. As his involve-

ment in the AWC grew, Siegelaub’s antagonism toward the status quo intensified, and his

efforts to decentralize the art world took on a more explicitly political slant. We get a glimpse

of this in his comments to the curator Elayne Varian in a June 1969 interview conducted in

preparation for an article she was writing on new practices of dealing:



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I’m involved with the Art Workers’ Coalition, and I’m becoming very, very concerned about being

able to assist in whatever way I can to get artists together to be able to get more power in the com-

munity over their art, over their life issues, and things of this nature. I’m very concerned with things

like unions for artists. And I’m very concerned about the international aspects of what’s going on,

that’s why my catalogues, and all of my books in the future, will be in two or three languages.41

At the same time, Siegelaub’s conception of his function in the art world began to

change. He swiftly shifted from the role of a publicist promoting a small group of artists to a

catalyst for organizing exhibitions, as he referred to himself in April 1969.42 By the end of the

year he divested himself of the artists even further, seeking to “push the interest of art rather

than pushing artists.”43 This transformation was not superficial but structural and systemic.

As he wrote in a letter of 9 May 1969 requesting money from potential sponsors to underwrite

his activities,

I am presently re-orienting my function in the Art community from that of a so-called ‘dealer-

consultant’ to that of simply a ‘consultant’. . . . I have become interested in the broader communi-

cations between artists around the world. . . . I am concerned about the artists being able to have

their work known no matter where they live—not just artists living in New York.44

Here Siegelaub articulates an idea that would come to fruition only at the end of the century:

the global art world.

His success in fixing his new identity as “consultant” was debatable, since his cre-

ative role in the art world was strong. Indeed when the organizers of “Prospect 69,” Konrad

Fischer and Jürgen Harten, contacted Siegelaub in June 1969 to ask whether he would include

the four artists he represented in their show, he responded by proposing thirteen artists

instead.45 Fischer and Harten ultimately rejected Siegelaub’s expanded proposal, and, reluc-

tantly, the latter agreed to present only the work of Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner.46 At

play were the struggle between the art world and market and the dehierarchizing practice of

Siegelaub. The market system demands individual representatives and artists, and it had al-

ready recognized those associated with Siegelaub who had the most potential to succeed.

But in the late 1960s the novelty of Siegelaub’s practice of presentation continued

unabated. For the “Prospect 69” show he presented the work of Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, and

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7.2 Pages from Prospect 69, 1969

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Weiner in the form of a series of self-interviews to appear in the exhibition catalogue, re-

calling the Arthur R. Rose interviews that supplemented the “January 5–31, 1969” exhibition

(fig. 7.2). Whereas the earlier interviews had served as secondary information publicizing the

artists’ work, they now functioned as primary information; the interviews were the work.

Each fragment, formerly incomplete and needing to direct its attention elsewhere, beyond it-

self, toward what was supposed to complete (and also abolish) it, now constituted a whole

artwork in its own right. In the process, publicity took on an “art” status. The tenuousness of

the fragment was superseded by this reconstitution of secondary information as primary.

T H E A R T I S T ’ S R E S E R V E D R I G H T S


“Prospect 69” was the last exhibition in which Siegelaub exclusively presented the work of

Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner. Rather than representing the concerns of a small group

of artists, he now perceived his role to be to disseminate this new, experimental art as widely

and extensively as possible.47 Accordingly, in the twelve months following the summer of

1969, Siegelaub helped organize an unaffiliated series of what he referred to as “large, inclu-

sive chaotic exhibitions.”48 The egalitarian condition of these shows was unprecedented, as

they refused all normative limits previously governing the production and exhibition of art.

Any type of proposal demanded to be considered equal in value to any other, and the role of

artist was open to anyone regardless of training.49

Not surprisingly, given the contradictory nature of much of the highly innovative

art during this period, the opposite reading emerged at the same time. In an April 1969 re-

view of Siegelaub’s “One Month” exhibition in The Nation, for instance, Lawrence Alloway

noted that such “aphoristic or propositional forms of art” integrated the fact that art was es-

sentially “a transmittable commodity” into their very form. According to Alloway, this made

it both more difficult and easier for the dealer to distribute the art. On the one hand, “as doc-

uments or as irreducible presence, . . . the galleries cannot do much to display such work

within the canon of authenticity which is their main source of money.” But on the other hand,

since “the techniques by which art objects are sold can also be applied to the thoughts or the

services of the artist,” “handling coded information rather than precious things” leaves “the

system of distribution of art which the galleries represent . . . basically intact,” and in fact

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makes the dealer’s job less expensive and more efficient.50 Alloway thus echoes Kaprow’s ob-

servation cited earlier that as art becomes more and more integrated with advertising, deal-

ers will increasingly be able to manage the careers of the new artists.51 Concomitant with

easier and more efficient systems of distribution came an increased anxiety concerning

ownership and authorship. For though the artists themselves may have denied or questioned

traditional concepts of authorship, this did not arrest anxiety concerning authenticity.

Siegelaub had developed a rather efficient means of retailing this art: as early as

1968 he had drawn up “the relevant documents to certify ownership” that would be trans-

ferred to collectors to affirm their property.52 But as he became increasingly politicized in the

immediately following years, this marketing strategy was put in the service of protecting

artists’ economic rights and control over their work, culminating in the Artist’s Reserved

Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement (figs. 7.3–7.5).

Commencing in late 1969 and continuing for the better part of a year, Siegelaub

conducted exploratory conversations in the art world, particularly in New York but also in

Europe, and, with the help of New York lawyer Robert Projansky, drafted a contract that

would safeguard the interests of artists. In January 1971, this draft was photocopied and dis-

tributed at no cost to five hundred people through art schools, universities, galleries, muse-

ums, artists’ bars, and Siegelaub’s by now extensive mailing list, asking for their opinion.53

Then, with the help of the replies received, the final form of the contract was prepared, along

with information about its use, and widely disseminated in a number of contexts and lan-

guages.54 The contract first appeared in Studio International in April 1971, along with Siege-

laub’s explanatory preamble outlining how it was initially conceived and the practical details

of its current use. The instructions read: “1. To begin Xerox or offset a number of copies of

each page of the agreement form.” The easily accessible Agreement, distributed as printed

matter in journals and magazines, was similar in form to much of the art Siegelaub had re-

cently represented. Projansky’s meticulous brief of the legal terms of the Agreement advised

artists who might be interested in employing it without incurring legal consultation fees. The

contract greatly expanded artists’ ability to negotiate sales without relying on galleries or

other such intermediaries. Both comprehensible and accessible, Siegelaub and Projansky’s

Agreement pushed the former’s efforts to reform dominant art market practices. Now artists

could even control the financial aspects of their production.

Broadly speaking, then, the Agreement was a political project that provided the

groundwork for substantive artist empowerment. The hidden inequities and injustices it ad-



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7.3 Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale

Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971

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7.4 Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale

Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971

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7.5 Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale

Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971

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dressed were commonly acknowledged throughout the art world, which usually protects the

collector more than the artist. Siegelaub’s explanatory preface clarified why, in the context

of the uprisings at Kent State and the Vietnam War protests, a contractual approach was

considered more desirable than legislation. This route, Siegelaub wrote, involved “no organ-

ization, no dues, no government agency, no meetings, no public registration, no nothing—

just your [i.e., the artist’s] will to use it.”55 Thus the Agreement circumvented gallery or

bureaucratic intervention, serving as a self-help document in line with the ethos of anti-

institutional trends of the period, such as those crystallized in, for instance, the various edi-

tions of The Whole Earth Catalogue.

The Agreement was designed to thwart the collector’s inordinate amount of “con-

trol” in the art world by giving the artist a number of rights, including the right to some of the

profits from resale or from any other form of commercial exploitation of the work (e.g., re-

production, rentals).56 In addition, Siegelaub and Projansky made clear that the contract was

also appropriate for transfers of ownership by exchange or even gift, thereby protecting the

artist parting with a work without monetary recompense. The Agreement would be binding

on all future owners of the work (who were required to sign the legal agreement) and would

be in effect for the artist’s lifetime. Upon the artist’s death, the rights to the work would re-

vert to the artist’s heirs.57

The most controversial aspect of the Agreement was the right of the artist to par-

ticipate in, and to profit from, any increase in the work’s sumptuary value. Although it ad-

dressed many noneconomic rights, this aspect of the contract rapidly became the focus of

much harsh evaluation and criticism. Many dealers and artists felt that collectors would not

buy art if they could not control the right to use and sell it.58 Further criticism concerned the

effect of the lack of privacy on art collecting; the fact that collectors would be obliged to put

their name on the contract meant that traditionally undeclared cash flowing through the art

world would be recorded. Additionally, there was the flexibility of pricing. At one point Siege-

laub suggested that in certain instances an artist might consider inflating the market value

of the artwork on the contract, since “obviously, the higher the figure you put in, the better

the break the new owner is getting.”59

Although Siegelaub and Projansky’s timely effort capitalized on artists’ growing re-

sentment of art marketing conventions, it also reconceived these conventions in a way that

countered the model of egalitarianism. Siegelaub was very precise about the physical rela-



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tionship between the artwork and the Agreement, and he stressed that the Notice concern-

ing Ownership, Transfer, Exhibition and Reproduction of the Work of Art should always be

attached to the work.60 According to his instructions, the Notice might be placed “on a

stretcher bar under a sculpture base or wherever else it will be aesthetically invisible yet eas-

ily findable. It should get a coat of clear polyurethane—or something like it—to protect it. It

won’t hurt to put several copies of the notice on a large work.”61 In other words, the Notice,

which basically functioned as a bill of sale, would become part of the work. In instances

where the art was immaterial and had no physical base, Siegelaub advised: “If your work has

no place on it for the Notice or your signature—in which case you should always use an an-

cillary document which describes the work and which bears your signature and which must

always be transferred as a (legal) part of the work—glue the NOTICE on the document.”62 The

Notice validated secondary information and materialized primary information. Note as well

that the Agreement made a correlation between “Notice” and “signature,” and if authorship

of the new work was linked to copyright, the Notice functioned as a document indicating

copyright. In this transformation, the signature of the artist and its associative sign value

once again became the primary product. In the absence not only of iconicity but also of any

kind of discernible metaphor or allusion, the artist’s signature now came to be what the work

signified. In the process, the attack carried out by conceptual art upon the cultural system

in the preceding years was negated. Regardless of how problematic its form, the work once

again entered the market through the signature of the producer. Drafted to protect the rights

of the artist, the contract functioned to preserve exclusive ownership of the work. Thus

Siegelaub arrived at a concrete solution to his earlier queries of how to market ideas.

Although the Agreement, drafted to help destabilize the calcified art industry, may

have been politically progressive in its intention, it had the opposite effect, leading conceptual

art into what Lippard condemns as “the tyranny of a commodity status and market-

orientation.” For the Agreement’s precise limitations served to confine even work that existed

only as abstract idea or, alternately, only as widely dispersed documentation within its capi-

tal relations, and thus inserted conceptual art into the art market as a pure commodity or bill

of sale. The aura absent from conceptual art was thereby reintroduced in the auratization of

the signature. If conceptual art attacked the privileged nature of art and made the experience

of art collecting more practicable than ever before, Siegelaub’s contract ensured that one facet

of the new art would not be so readily accessible—namely, the experience of ownership.

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With the success of the artists associated with him, Siegelaub gradually dropped

out of the picture and became a shadow (fig. I.1). Just as the material object of art in some in-

stances gave way to ephemerality and pure concept, Siegelaub too became an idea: “the

Siegelaub idea.” In less than a decade, his identity had shifted from gallery owner to dealer,

organizer, publicist, and catalyst. Just as a catalyst may be necessary in a chemical process,

though it is disjunct from the final product, so too Siegelaub ceased to be involved in the early

1970s when conceptual art was legitimized as a bona fide art movement—but not before he

had succeeded in rupturing a number of the fundamental tenets of the art world, the rever-

berations of which continue to be felt today.



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PART I the contradictions of conceptual art

1. Seth Siegelaub, in Michel Claura and Seth Siegelaub, “L’art conceptuel,” Xxe siècle, 41 (December 1973);

reprinted in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass: MIT

Press, 1999), p. 289.

2. Allan Kaprow, “Should the Artist Become a Man of the World?,” Art News, 63:6 (October 1964); reprinted as

“The Artist as a Man of the World,” in Jeff Kelley, ed., Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life: Allan Kaprow (Berkeley: Uni-

versity of California Press, 1994), pp. 47–48.

3. Barbara Rose, “How to Murder an Avant-Garde,” Artforum, 4:3 (November 1965), p. 35; Alan Solomon, New

York: The New Art Scene (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), p. 66.

4. John Murphy, President, Philip Morris Europe, in Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, exh. cat.

(Bern: Kunsthalle Bern, 1969), n.p.

5. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 285: “The

process of postmodernization or informatization has been demonstrated through the migration from industry to service

jobs, a shift that has taken place in the dominant capitalist countries. . . . Services cover a wide range of activities from

health care, education, and finance to transportation, entertainment and advertising. The jobs for the most part are highly

mobile and involve flexible skills. More important, they are characterized in general by the central role played by knowledge,

information, affect, and communication. In this sense many call the postindustrial economy an informational economy.”


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6. Joseph Kosuth, in Patricia Ann Norvell, interview with Joseph Kosuth, 10 April 1969, Patricia Norvell Archives,

New York.

7. In 1971 Siegelaub left the art world and relocated to Paris, where he became involved in cultural-political re-

search and publishing. This culminated in the founding of the press International General and the publication in the

1970s of a number of critical anthologies. See Seth Siegelaub and Armand Mattelart, Communication and Class Struggle,

vol. 1, Capitalism and Imperialism (New York: International General, 1979), and Siegelaub and Mattelart, Communica-

tion and Class Struggle, vol. 2, Liberation and Socialism (New York: International General, 1979).

8. Siegelaub, in Claura and Siegelaub, “L’art Conceptuel,” p. 287.

9. For the beginnings of an analysis of the significant contributions to the early history of conceptual art by artists

who were not male, see Lucy R. Lippard, introduction to c. 7,500, exh. cat. (Valencia, Calif.: California Institute of the

Arts, 1973), n.p.; Lippard, “Deep in Numbers,” Artforum, 12:1 (October 1973), pp. 35–39; Lippard, “Escape Attempts,”

in Ann Goldstein and Anne Rorimer, eds., Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965–1975, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Museum

of Contemporary Art; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), pp. vii–xxii; Anne Rorimer, New Art in the 60s and 70s: Re-

defining Reality (London: Thames & Hudson, 2001), pp. 11–119, 160–171, 189–193; Maurice Berger, “Styles of Rad-

ical Will: Adrian Piper and the Indexical Present,” in Adrian Piper: A Retrospective (Baltimore: University of Maryland

Fine Arts Gallery, 1999), pp. 12–32; and my “Time and Conceptual Art,” in Jan Schall, ed., Tempus Fugit: Time Flies

(Kansas City: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2000), pp. 144–157.

10. See the essays included in Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farber, and Rachel Weiss, Global Conceptualism: Points of

Origin, 1950s–1980s, exh. cat. (New York: Queens Museum of Art, 1999), those in Michael Newman and Jon Bird, eds.,

Rewriting Conceptual Art (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), and many of the entries in Alberro and Stimson, eds., Con-

ceptual Art: A Critical Anthology.

11. See Lucy R. Lippard, “Postface” (1973), in Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to

1972 (1973; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 263. The most important discussion of the emergence of

conceptual art to date remains Benjamin Buchloh’s “Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration

to the Critique of Institutions” (1989), in Claude Gintz et al., L’art conceptuel: une perspective, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée

d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989), republished in October, 55 (Winter 1990), pp. 105–143. Buchloh identifies the

“major paradox of all Conceptual practices”: that conceptual art’s “critical annihilation of cultural conventions,” its “in-

sistence on artistic autonomy and the demolition of authorship,” as much as its “campaign to critique conventions of vi-

suality,” inevitably ended up miming “the operating logic of late capitalism and its positivist instrumentality” (pp. 139,

140, 143). Yet I will argue that a more dialectical reading of conceptual art’s negation of expression is productive. This

will entail applying pressure to one of Buchloh’s central claims, namely that “it was precisely the utopianism of earlier

avant-garde movements . . . that was manifestly absent from Conceptual art throughout its history” (p. 141). Although

the refusal of a transcendental dimension characterizes key aspects of early conceptual art, other aspects were charged

with as much utopianism as the historical avant-garde. Furthermore, conceptualism was given a utopian gloss not only

by some of its early practitioners and art critics, but also by a newly constituted public around the Art Workers Coalition

in 1969, who found in its practices a parallel to their revolutionary vision.

12. Siegelaub, in Claura and Siegelaub, “L’art conceptuel,” p. 289.



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notes to p

ages 3–7


313. Daniel Buren, in “Working with Shadows, Working with Words,” Art Monthly, 122 (December 1988/January

1989); reprinted in Alberro and Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, pp. 437–438: “Seth was able to do

a show that was a catalogue; it was possible to put on a show simultaneously in Paris, London, New York and New Mex-

ico; it was possible to do a show in a small village. . . . In the Sixties there was an explosion; we could show anywhere,

and anyone could show.”

14. Lawrence Weiner, “Lawrence Weiner at Amsterdam: Interview with Willoughby Sharp,” Avalanche, 4 (Spring

1972), p. 73; italics mine. The interview was conducted 15 May 1971.

chapter one art, advertising, sign value

1. Carl Andre, Bradford Junior College symposium, 8 February 1968, in Lucy R. Lippard papers, Archives of

American Art, uncatalogued recent acquisition; hereafter abbreviated LRLARCH.

2. See Image. Art Programs for Industry, Inc., brochure in Seth Siegelaub Archives, New York (hereafter

SSARCH), Box 1, File 28.

3. The crucial texts here are those of Paul Dimaggio and Michael Unseem, especially “Social Class and Arts Con-

sumption: The Origins and Consequences of Class Differences in Exposure to the Arts in America,” Theory and Society,

5:2 (March 1978), pp. 141–161; and “Cultural Democracy in a Period of Cultural Expansion: The Social Composition of

Arts Audiences in the United States,” Social Problems, 26:2 (December 1978), pp. 179–197.

4. Sam Hunter, in The Harry N. Abrams Family Collection, exh. cat. (New York: Jewish Museum, 1966), n.p.

Though not a particularly authoritative source on this matter, especially in comparison with the excellent articles cited in

the previous footnote, Hunter’s discernment of the emergence of a new class of art patrons interestingly captures the ten-

sion between the newly arrived collectors and the more established cognoscenti of the New York art world. Note that

Hunter is ultimately disdainful of the new collectors, and of the effect they are having on art production.

5. Two contemporary books on art and finance, Gerald Reitlinger’s The Economics of Taste: The Rise and Fall of

Picture Prices 1760–1960 (London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1961) and Richard H. Rush’s Art as an Investment (Englewood

Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1961), discouraged the purchase of contemporary art. Rush, an investment banker whose

book jacket featured a blurb that blared “You can make a fortune collecting art!,” purported to introduce the reader to

the world of art and its market in order to aid the reader in selecting objects that would increase in dollar value. Yet he

warned that “while there exists a great demand for Abstract painting and there is little question that this type of painting

is in vogue in the year 1961, this school may be already over the top in public performance” (p. 409). Dealers found that

their sales directly reflected the patterns of the national economy: “If you can tell me what will happen to the stock mar-

ket,” Arnold Kagan said in 1970, “I can tell you what will happen to the art market.” Joseph Poindexter, “Can the Art Mar-

ket Survive the Recession?,” Auction, 4:1 (September 1970), p. 30.

6. “Sold Out Art: More Buyers Than Ever Sail into a Broadening Market,” Life 55 (20 September 1963),

pp. 125–129.

7. Anonymous, “Vanity Fair: The New York Art Scene,” Newsweek (4 January 1965), pp. 54–59, esp. p. 54. For

an analysis of the market for pop art in the mid-1960s, see Jennifer Wells, “The Sixties: Pop Goes the Market,” in Defin-

itive Statements: American Art 1964–66 (Providence, R.I.: List Art Center, Brown University, 1986), pp. 53–61. For a

good overview of pop art collectors, see John Rublowsky, Pop Art (New York: Basic Books, 1965).

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8. Articles appeared not only in Life, Time, and Newsweek, but also in magazines such as Vogue and Ladies’

Home Journal.

9. Anonymous, “You Bought It Now You Live with It: The Country’s Leading Collectors of Pop Art Enthusiastically

Fill Their Homes with It,” Life (July 1965), p. 72.

10. Leon Kraushar, cited in ibid., p. 71.

11. Francis V. O’Connor, “Notes on Patronage: The 1960s,” Artforum, 11 (September 1972), p. 52. It is notewor-

thy, too, that although increasingly the desired product in the 1960s was American, the boom in art transcended na-

tional barriers. In 1975, as the Western economies slipped into the first major postwar recession, New York Times critic

John Russell reflected on the economic conditions for art in the previous decade: “That was the 1960s: a boom time for

art. . . . There was so much to be done with art in the 1960s and so much money and so many reputations to be made

out of it. There was the American market and there was the German market, and a Japanese market. Art was treasure

quite literally and anyone who could produce it was hunted as the stag is hunted in the west of England.” John Russell,

“Museum Shows of the 70’s Will Have Less Art and More Content,” New York Times, 18 August 1975, section 2, p. 19.

12. Harold Rosenberg, “Adding Up: The Reign of the Art Market,” in Rosenberg, Art on the Edge (Chicago: Uni-

versity of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 276.

13. Seth Siegelaub, interview with Patricia Norvell, 17 April 1969, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds.,

Recording Conceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 46.

14. Seth Siegelaub, in “On Exhibitions and the World at Large, Seth Siegelaub in Conversation with Charles Har-

rison, September 1969,” Studio International, 178:917 (December 1969); reprinted in Alexander Alberro and Blake

Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), p. 199.

15. Steven W. Naifeh, Culture Making: Money, Success, and the New York Art World (Princeton, N.J.: History De-

partment of Princeton University, 1976), p. 96.

16. Harrison C. White and Cynthia A. White, Canvases and Careers: Institutional Change in the French Painting

World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

17. The rug business was a partnership, entitled Seth Siegelaub and Robert Gaile Oriental Rugs. The partnership

with Robert Gaile (Robert Galek) began in late 1964. See letter to Joseph Kosofsky (11 December 1964) in SSARCH, Box

3, File 53. Siegelaub’s partner soon departed as the Oriental rug business collapsed, leaving Siegelaub exclusively in the

role of an art dealer.

18. For preparatory notes and press release to this show, see SSARCH, Box 3, File 62. The following artists were

featured in this exhibition: Pierre Clerk, Michael Eastman, Alfred Michael Iarusso, Herbert Livesey, Denis McCarthy,

Lawrence Weiner, and Edward Whiteman.

19. Seth Siegelaub, in SSARCH, Box 3, File 61.

20. Indeed, the happening, which ultimately turned out to be remarkably different from what Siegelaub described

to the Sculls, did receive a surprisingly broad coverage in the local press. Several newspapers (including the New York

Times) noted the event, and in January 1965 John Wilcock of the Village Voice wrote that “the most fascinating (and least

noticed) opening of the season so far was that of Arni Hendin at the Siegelaub Gallery during Christmas week.” John

Wilcock, “What’s Happening with Happenings,” Village Voice, 21 January 1965, p. 2. Other reviews included New York

Times, 6 December 1964; and an unidentified clipping in SSARCH, Box 3, File 61.



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21. This point of view was at the time most commonly associated with the dealer Leo Castelli, identified in the New

York Times in 1966 as “the Svengali of Pop Art.” See Josh Greenfield, “Sort of the Svengali of Pop,” New York Times Mag-

azine, 8 May 1966, p. 34. As Jasper Johns famously recalled in a 1970 interview with Emile De Antonio about his pri-

mary impetus for the prodution of Painted Bronze, 1960: “I was doing at that time sculptures of small objects—flashlights

and light bulbs. Then I heard a story about Willem de Kooning. He was annoyed with my dealer, Leo Castelli, for some

reason, and said something like, ‘That son-of-a-bitch; you could give him two beer cans and he could sell them.’ I heard

this and thought, ‘What a sculpture—two beer cans.’ It seemed to me to fit in perfectly with what he was doing, so I did

them and Leo sold them.” Emile De Antonio, Painters Painting: The New York Art Scene 1940–1970 (1972; Montauk,

N.Y.: Mystic Fire Video, 1989).

22. Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Art News, 57:6 (October 1958); reprinted in Jeff Kelley, ed.,

Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life: Allan Kaprow (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 7–9.

23. Active spectatorship dominated the 1960s happenings of Kaprow, who mandated that everyone who attended

one of his events be literally a participant. As New York Times critic Brian O’Doherty wrote in a review of Kaprow’s “Push

and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hoffmann” at the Santini Warehouse in Long Island City: “Mr. Kaprow invites the

participation of his fellow man. He (or they) can rearrange the rooms, re-create them, deface the walls, feel free to change

to more appropriate clothes, relate to the environment in any positive or negative way. After years of ignoring the spec-

tator, art apparently wants to make restitution.” Brian O’Doherty, “Art: ‘Furniture Comedy’,” New York Times, 19 April

1963, p. 40.

24. Sophie Burnham, The Art Crowd (New York: David McKay Company, 1973), p. 25. Note that these figures are

somewhat at odds with those of Steven Naifeh, who claims that there were 287 active galleries in New York City in 1970.

Nevertheless, Naifeh’s account also indicates the proliferation of galleries in New York in the 1960s, from 154 in 1960,

to 246 in 1965, to 287 at the end of the decade. See Naifeh, Culture Making, p. 96.

25. “Kindly note my change of address from 16 West 56 street to 1100 Madison Avenue (82nd St.),” his new form

letter stated. “Along with this change is a change in status from a public gallery to a private dealer.” Noting his change of

address and status, his correspondence also promoted the artists he represented: “I would like at this point to propose

the work of Lawrence Weiner [and] Douglas Huebler,” he wrote Dorothy Miller of the Museum of Modern Art. “You had

seen Mr. Weiner’s show at my gallery in November 1965, but the work has changed substantially since then. Mr. Hue-

bler’s work was seen by you (a small pink Formica piece) at my gallery when you were in to see Pierre Clerk’s show (April

1966). I would welcome the opportunity to show you both of these men’s recent work at your earliest convenience.” See

letter to Dorothy Miller, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, dated 28 October 1966, in SSARCH, Box 3, File 53.

26. See Image. Art Programs for Industry, Inc. brochure, in SSARCH, Box 1, File 28.

27. The premise here is that signifiers and signifieds that have been removed from context can be rejoined to other

similarly abstracted signifiers and signifieds to build new signs of identity. This is the heart of what Robert Goldman and

Stephen Papson call “the commodity sign machine”—a “mercurial process of recombining meaning systems in order to

generate additional value and desirability for brand-name commodities.” See Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson, Sign

Wars: The Cluttered Landscape of Advertising (New York: Guilford Press, 1996), pp. 5–8.

28. See C. Douglas Dillon, “Cross-Cultural Communication through the Arts,” Columbia Journal of World Business

(September-October 1971), pp. 31–38; David Antin, “Art and the Corporations,” Art News (September 1971),

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pp. 22–25, 52–55; George Dent, “The Growing Corporate Investment in the Arts,” Art News (January 1973), pp. 21–25;

Marylin Bender, “Business Aids the Arts . . . And Itself,” New York Times, 20 October 1974, section 3, pp. 1, 3.

29. Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), pp. 25–26: “The 1960s were a time of revolution in American business,

as they were in so many aspects of American life, an era that saw both the rise of market segmentation and a shift from

a management culture that revered hierarchy and efficiency to one that emphasized individualism and creativity. . . . Far

from opposing the larger cultural revolution of those years, the business revolution paralleled—and in some cases actu-

ally anticipated—the impulses and new values associated with the counterculture.”

30. Nina Kaiden, “The New Collectors,” in Artist and Advocate: An Essay on Corporate Patronage (New York: Re-

naissance Editions, 1967), p. 13.

31. John R. Bunting, president of the First Pennsylvania Corporation: “To say that a corporation has a ‘social con-

science’ is simply to say that it acts consistently from ‘enlightened self-interest’.” As cited in Gideon Chagy, The New Pa-

trons of the Arts (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1972), p. 59. Indeed, the rapidly emerging trend toward the involvement

of corporations in the arts—between 1965 and 1970 alone corporate support increased by 150 percent (Chagy, p. 15)—

led in 1967 to the creation by some of the most influential U.S. business leaders of the Business Committee for the Arts,

whose aim was to help stimulate corporate arts support. The committee was financed by four major foundations—the

Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation—in response

to the Rockefeller Panel Report of 1965 (see following note).

32. The Rockefeller Panel Report was prepared by a group of thirty distinguished foundation executives, artists,

educators, editors, and corporate and labor officials, cooperating under the chairmanship of John D. Rockefeller III.

Among other things, the panel examined the consequences of the decline of the traditional sources of patronage for the

arts and the possibility of generating significant support from Federal, state, and local governments and business cor-

porations. For an outline of the Rockefeller Panel Report, see Chagy, The New Patrons of the Arts, pp. 46–70.

In its survey of actual and potential sources of support for the arts, the panel urged that corporations do more for the

arts than they had in the past: “Corporate dollars are important dollars, capable of making the difference between life or

death for an arts organization. If business corporations have not done so, as most of them have not, the Panel urges that

they look carefully at the arts and their place in the community. Support for the arts is a part of community responsibil-

ity, and a healthy cultural environment is clearly in the self-interest of the business community.” Quoted in Chagy, p. 70.

33. As Chagy puts it in The New Patrons of the Arts, “most businessmen acknowledge that art moves goods in the

marketplace” (p. 38).

34. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 114–116. Bourdieu’s concept of “cultural capital” covers a wide variety of

resources, such as linguistic competence, erudition, grace, savoir faire, aesthetic preferences, scientific knowledge, and

educational credentials. His point is to suggest that culture (in the broadest sense of the term) can become a currency

deployed in power markets. Bourdieu directly applies this concept to corporations in Free Exchange (Stanford: Stanford

University Press, 1995), pp. 16–19.

35. Jean Baudrillard, “Sign Function in Class Logic” (1969), in Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy

of the Sign, trans. Charles Levin (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1981), p. 38.



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36. Frank, The Conquest of Cool, passim.

37. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 38.

38. The Laura Knott Gallery show ran from 4 February to 2 March 1968; the one at Windham College from 30 April

to 31 May 1968. One of the people in the audience at the symposium that coincided with the exhibition at Bradford Ju-

nior College was the sculptor Chuck Ginnever, who was then teaching at Windham College. Ginnever invited Siegelaub

to organize the second exhibition with the same three artists at his college.

39. Seth Siegelaub, “The Enclosure,” in SSARCH, Box 4, File 80.

40. See Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” Arts Yearbook, 8 (New York: Art Digest, 1965), reprinted in Judd, Com-

plete Writings, 1959–1975 (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; New York: New York University

Press, 1975), pp. 181–189; and Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture,” Artforum, 4:6 (February 1966), pp. 42–44, and

“Notes on Sculpture, Part 2,” Artforum, 5:2 (October 1966), pp. 20–23; both reprinted in Robert Morris, Continuous Proj-

ect Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993), pp. 1–8 and 11–21, respectively.

41. Arthur R. Rose, “Three since Windham,” in SSARCH, Box 5, File 111. Emphasis mine. As it turns out, Arthur

R. Rose was a pseudonym of Joseph Kosuth.

Needless to say, the Windham show was not “the first outdoor show.” It was certainly preceded by Kaprow’s Yard

(1961), which, as Robert Haywood shows, was one of the first outdoor, nonillusionistic, antipictorial environmental pieces

in the post-Pollock era in the United States. See Haywood, “Critique of Instrumental Labor: Meyer Shapiro’s and Allan

Kaprow’s Theory of Avant-Garde Art,” in Benjamin H. D. Buchloh and Judith Rodenbeck, eds., Experiments in the Every-

day: Allan Kaprow and Robert Watts—Events, Objects, Documents (New York: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery of

Columbia University, 1999), pp. 27–46.

42. Siegelaub himself decided that he did not want to moderate this symposium, feeling that the organizational lo-

gistics alone were overwhelming. Weiner suggested that Dan Graham be asked to moderate the event. Graham had by

that time achieved a considerable success as a young artist-critic, and his incisive brilliance in comprehending and ar-

ticulating recent developments in art was widely respected among his peers. He had recently written a catalogue essay

for Dan Flavin’s show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and was a regular writer for journals such as Arts

Magazine, Artforum, and Art and Artists.

43. Dan Graham, Windham College symposium, 30 April 1968, in LRLARCH. The concept of “place” in art dis-

course was in the 1960s associated primarily with Andre, who proposed that the course of development of modern sculp-

ture went from “sculpture as form,” to “sculpture as structure,” to “sculpture as place.” Carl Andre, in David Bourdon,

“The Razed Sites of Carl Andre,” Artforum, 5:2 (October 1966), p. 15.

44. “Place means defining a field,” Graham writes in “Subject Matter,” “as Andre actually did outdoors at Wind-

ham College in 1968, basing his unit of measured size and weight on the base product of the area—bales of hay. . . .

The field is perceptual as it is specific (the literal area). It is a rule that things in the perceptual field tend to be in contact

with the ground (instead of in the air).” Dan Graham, “Subject Matter,” in Endmoments (New York: Dan Graham, 1969);

reprinted in Graham, Rock My Religion: Writings and Art Projects 1965–1990, ed. Brian Wallis (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT

Press, 1993), p. 39.

45. Andre explained: “I selected hay because I had to work with materials that were available. It is rather materi-

alistic in the Marxian sense that you can’t do something that does not exist for you. If you don’t have control of the means

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of production, you can’t produce anything, so you have to find the means of production that you can control. Hay was

this means at Windham College. I always use particles, so a bale of hay was a particle of sufficient size to remain in a co-

herent array.” Carl Andre, Windham College symposium, 30 April 1968, in LRLARCH.

46. Carl Andre, in Phyllis Tuchman, “An Interview with Carl Andre,” Artforum, 8:10 (June 1970), p. 57.

47. Dan Graham, in Anna Nosei Weber and Otto Hahn, “La sfida del sistema,” Metro, 14 (June 1968), p. 52.

48. Of course, a reference to farmed fields is significantly different from a reference to the mass-produced com-

modity. My point, however, is that both deprivilege art to an unprecedented degree and deal with contemporary social re-

ality on a larger level than is normally common for artworks. Yet, whenever his work was discussed in the context of pop

art, Andre was at pains to make clear the differences between the two approaches. At Windham College, for instance, he

stated: “I believe in using the materials of the society in the form the society does not use them, whereas things like Pop

Art use the forms of the society, but using different materials to make those forms.” See Andre, Windham College sym-

posium, in LRLARCH. Rather than the pop artists, Andre at the time cited Judd and Flavin as the artists with whom he felt

aligned “most absolutely in temperament.” Andre, Bradford Junior College symposium, in LRLARCH.

49. Indeed, a good argument could be made that, more than pop and minimalism, it is European arte povera, with

its employment of common, inexpensive materials, that Andre’s Joint most closely parallels. For the beginnings of such

a comparison, see Jean-François Chevrier, The Year 1967: From Objects to Public Things, or Variations on the Conquest

of Space (Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1997), pp. 155–156.

50. Andre, Windham College symposium, in LRLARCH.

51. As Benjamin Buchloh has noted, the condition of the work of art as “the ultimate subject of a legal definition”

had been anticipated in the 1910s by the readymades of Duchamp, and introduced for the first time in 1944 when

Duchamp “hired a notary to inscribe a statement of authenticity on his 1919 L.H.O.O.Q., affirming that ‘. . . this is to cer-

tify that this is the original “ready-made” L.H.O.O.Q. Paris 1919.’” See Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Conceptual Art

1962–1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions,” in Claude Gintz et al., L’art conceptual:

une perspective, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989), pp. 118–119. Buchloh goes on to dis-

cuss how this same maneuver becomes “one of the constituent features of subsequent development in Conceptual art,”

resurfacing in the early 1960s in “the certificates issued by Piero Manzoni defining persons or partial persons as tempo-

rary or lifetime works of art,” in “Yves Klein’s certificates assigning zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility to the various

collectors who acquired them,” and in Robert Morris’s Document (Statement of Aesthetic Withdrawal) which legally voids

the aesthetic content of a previous work by Morris entitled Litanies. Yet Buchloh stops this discussion at the work of Mor-

ris and does not explore the directions the employment of a legal certificate of authenticity (and later a contract) would

take in the practices of Flavin, Andre, and, more importantly for conceptual art, the artists affiliated with Siegelaub in the

late 1960s.

52. During the Bradford Junior College symposium Andre was asked what was preventing someone who liked his

work from making an exact replica, and he replied in a way that reaffirmed his work’s essentially private nature: “You

could copy one of my works very easily I am sure, but you would have to make sure that, like if you put your name or my

name to one of your checks, you would have to make it clear to the bank that it was a forgery.” Andre, Bradford Junior

College symposium, in LRLARCH.

53. See Frank, The Conquest of Cool, esp. pp. 104–130.



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chapter two art as idea

1. Allan Kaprow, “Pop Art: Past, Present and Future,” Malahat Review, 3 (July 1967); reprinted in Carol Ann Mah-

sun, ed., Pop Art: The Critical Dialogue (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989), p. 68.

2. Joseph Kosuth, in Arthur R. Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” Arts Mag-

azine, 43:4 (February 1969); reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Idea Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton,

1973), p. 146.

3. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), p. 122.

4. For a full bibliography of Kosuth’s writings for Art Magazine, see Joseph Kosuth, Art after Philosophy and Af-

ter: Collected Writings, 1966–1990, ed. Gabriele Guercio (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 257–258.

5. See “Exhibitions: A Hint, a Shadow, a Clue,” Time, 14 June 1968, p. 63; Howard Junker, “The New Art: It’s

Way, Way Out,” Newsweek, 29 July 1968, pp. 56–63.

6. Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way Out,” p. 61.

7. Joseph Kosuth, interview with the author, 26 May 1994.

8. The journal project collapsed after one issue. See Straight (New York), 1:1 (April 1968).

9. The gallery was named after Lannis Louis Spencer, a cousin of Kosuth’s. Spencer arrived in New York in early

1967 with a great deal of money and wanted to open a poster gallery. Together with Kosuth and Kozlov, they found a

medium-sized art deco space at 315 East 12th Street in New York. Kosuth and Kozlov persuaded Spencer to sponsor se-

rious art shows; they would be responsible for the promotion and Spencer would provide the space. The gallery was

named after Spencer for his material support. Joseph Kosuth, interview with author, 4 October 1993; and Christine Koz-

lov, interview with author, 2 February 1994.

10. See for example G[ordon] D. B[rown], “Kosuth, Kozlov, Rinaldi, Rossi,” Arts Magazine, 41:7 (May 1967),

p. 61; Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” Art International, 12:2 (February 1968), p. 32.

11. Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way Out,” p. 56.

12. B[rown], “Kosuth, Kozlov, Rinaldi, Rossi,” p. 61. This exhibition was entitled “Non-Anthropomorphic Art by

Four Young Artists” and featured the work of Kosuth, Kozlov, Michael Rinaldi, and Ernest Rossi.

13. Joseph Kosuth, in Patricia Ann Norvell, interview with Joseph Kosuth, 10 April 1969, Patricia Norvell Archives,

New York.

14. See the introduction to Non-Anthropomorphic Art by Four Young Artists, exh. cat. (New York: Lannis Gallery,

1967), n.p. This antisubjective, anti-anthropomorphic discourse was current in minimal art circles and had already been

articulated by, among others, Carl Andre, “Preface to Stripe Painting,” in Dorothy C. Miller, Sixteen Americans, exh. cat.

(New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1959), p. 76; Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation” (1964), in Against Interpreta-

tion and Other Essays (New York: Delta, 1967), pp. 3–14; Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” (1965), reprinted in Judd,

Complete Writings, 1959–1975 (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; New York: New York Uni-

versity Press, 1975), pp. 181–189; and Barbara Rose, “ABC Art,” Art in America, 53:5 (October/November 1965),

reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1968), pp. 274–297.

15. Christine Kozlov, in Non-Anthropomorphic Art by Four Young Artists, n.p.

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16. In an obvious sense, Kozlov’s pictorial operation parallels that of her then-neighbor and friend On Kawara, who

in January 1966 began a series of date paintings. Each of Kawara’s paintings represents a single day—the one inscribed

on the otherwise black monochrome canvas in white letters, numerals, and punctuation marks designated by the actual

date on which the work was made. Supported on 2-inch-deep frames, the canvas is tucked around the sides and fixed

to the back, with both sides painted in acrylic. With some exceptions, each painting is kept in a specially made cardboard

box. Often, part of a page, or sometimes an entire page, from the local daily newspaper is enclosed in the cardboard box.

Similarly, in the “Non-Anthropomorphic Art” show Kozlov exhibited a piece consisting of a pile of calendar strips sys-

tematically canceled and arranged on a display table, and another for which a 16mm film of all-white leader tape was ex-

hibited, placed inside a film canister with the lid removed.

17. Dore Ashton, “Kosuth: The Facts,” Studio International, 179:919 (February 1970), p. 44.

18. Kosuth, in Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” p. 146. Italics mine.

19. The first sentence of Judd’s “Specific Objects” reads: “Half of the best new work in the last few years has been

neither painting nor sculpture.” See Judd, “Specific Objects,” p. 181. Judd declares in a 1964 interview: “I’m totally un-

interested in European art and I think it’s over with.” See Bruce Glaser, “Questions to Stella and Judd,” in Battcock, ed.,

Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, p. 154.

20. Kosuth and Kozlov had changed the name of the Lannis Gallery to the Museum of Normal Art in the summer

of 1967.

21. As Kosuth put it in an early interview, “I certainly came out of a painting and sculpture context, I never was a

poet, never wrote, and so for me words are just a media, but a transparent media.” Kosuth, in Norvell, interview with Ko-

suth, 10 April 1969, Norvell Archives.

22. “These things are thought laudable, agreeable, without much thought,” wrote Judd in late 1964 about the

iconography employed by Lichtenstein, in a language that could easily have been used to describe the iconography

Kosuth employed in his early photostats of dictionary definitions: “No one pays much attention to them; probably no one

is enthusiastic about one; there isn’t anything there to dislike. They are pleasant, bland, empty. . . . The stuff just exists,

not objectionably to many people, slightly agreeable to many. Basically, again, no one has thought about it. It’s in limbo.”

Donald Judd, “In the Galleries—Roy Lichtenstein,” Arts Magazine (December 1964); reprinted in Judd, Complete Writ-

ings, 1959–1975, p. 146. Indeed, the same “pleasant, bland, empty” quality that Judd sees in Lichtenstein’s early paint-

ings of comic strip characters is echoed in Kosuth’s photostats, where one of the earliest definitions is of the word

“empty,” followed by “nothing,” “black,” “white,” “gray,” “water,” “steam,” and other terms that “just exist,” including

what is arguably the epitome of banality, the definition of each of the four cardinal directions: “north,” “south,” “east,”


23. Moreover, Kosuth, like Warhol, was enthralled by Duchamp’s legacy and his persona of the dandy. In this con-

text it is revealing to note that Kosuth even went so far as to take the pseudonym Arthur R. Rose, echoing Duchamp’s

Rrose Sélavy.

24. John Perreault, “Art: It’s Only Words,” Village Voice, 20 May 1971, p. 24.

25. Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way Out,” p. 57.

26. See for instance Rose, “ABC Art.”



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27. See Thierry de Duve, “The Monochrome and the Blank Canvas,” in Kant after Duchamp (Cambridge, Mass.:

MIT Press, 1996), pp. 199–279, esp. 244–248.

28. Kosuth, interview with the author, 4 October 1993.

29. Joseph Kosuth, in Jeanne Siegel, “Joseph Kosuth: Art as Idea as Idea,” WBAI-FM New York radio interview,

7 April 1970; published in Jeanne Siegel, Artwords: Discourse on the 60s and 70s (New York: Da Capo Press, 1985), p. 227.

30. This definition of seriality has its roots in the serial music of Arnold Schoenberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and

Pierre Boulez, and was articulated by Mel Bochner in 1967: “Seriality is premised on the idea that the succession of terms

(divisions) within a single work is based on a numerical or otherwise predetermined derivation (progression, permuta-

tion, rotation, reversal) from one or more of the preceding terms in that piece. Furthermore the idea is carried out to its

logical conclusion, which, without adjustments based on taste or chance, is the work.” Bochner, “Serial Art, Systems,

Solipsism,” Arts Magazine, 41:8 (Summer 1967); reprinted in revised form in Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical An-

thology, p. 100. Although Bochner’s article focuses on the work of Andre, Flavin, and LeWitt, the latter is singled out as

the one who has most integrated these ideas of seriality (in part derived from a synthesis of the work of the former two)

into his work. The result of work that “in procedure, if not in results, . . . very closely resembles some contemporary se-

rialist music,” writes Bochner, is “an interesting example of conceptual art.” Bochner, “Serial Art, Systems, Solipsism,”

Arts Magazine, 41:8 (Summer 1967), p. 42.

31. Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Artforum, 5:10 (Summer 1967); reprinted in Alexander Alberro

and Blake Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), pp. 12, 16.

32. Joseph Kosuth, “Art after Philosophy III,” Studio International, 178:917 (December 1969); reprinted in Ko-

suth, Art after Philosophy and After, p. 31.

33. Sol LeWitt, “Serial Project No 1 (ABCD),” Aspen, 5–6 (Fall-Winter 1967), n.p.

34. LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” p. 13.

35. Sol LeWitt, “Serial Project No 1 (ABCD),” n.p.

36. The term “text” should be stressed, for it is essentially a substitution of text, or field, for work, or object, that

is carried out by conceptual artists, marking a deep change in the way artists and audiences conceive of the properties

and limits of the phenomena that comprise the domain of art. The text is thus defined as the system of codes coordi-

nating the various propositions activated by the artistic gesture. The crucial essays here are by Roland Barthes. These

include “The Death of the Author,” first published in Aspen, 5–6 (Fall-Winter 1967), ed. Brian O’Doherty, trans. Richard

Howard, n.p., and subsequently in Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and

Wang, 1977), pp. 142–148; “From Work to Text” (1971), in Barthes, Image Music Text, pp. 155–164; and “Research:

The Young” (1972), in Barthes, The Rustle of Language, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley: University of California

Press, 1989), pp. 69–75. Note that the reception of the writings of Roland Barthes by New York artistis first takes place

through the pages of the journal Evergreen Review, which in the mid-1960s published several articles by the author in


37. Sol LeWitt, interview with Patricia Norvell, 12 June 1969, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds.,

Recording Conceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 121–122. For an early account of the ir-

rational dimension of LeWitt’s work, see Lippard and Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” p. 32: “Some of the most

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rationally conceived art is visually non-sense. The extent to which rationality is taken can be so obsessive and so personal

that rationality is finally subverted and the most conceptual art can take on an aura of the utmost irrationality.” On the dif-

ference between rational and logical operations in LeWitt’s artistic practice see Rosalind Krauss, “LeWitt in Progress”

(1977), in Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1985),

pp. 244–258.

38. The transformation from an art that can be decoded to an art that does not serve any purpose of meaning, rep-

resentation, or signification, other than its proper operational functions, was best articulated by Barthes in “Death of the

Author,” an essay written for the same issue of Aspen in which Sontag’s “The Aesthetics of Silence,” and LeWitt’s “Se-

rial Project No 1 (ABCD)” first appeared. “In the multiplicity of writing,” writes Barthes, “everything is to be disentangled,

nothing deciphered; the structure can be followed, ‘run’ (like the thread of a stocking) at every point and at every level,

but there is nothing beneath: the space of writing is to be ranged over, not pierced.” Barthes, “The Death of the Author,”

in Barthes, Image Music Text, p. 147.

39. Joseph Kosuth, in correspondence to Lucy R. Lippard, 13 May 1968, in LRLARCH.

40. Ibid. It is in this context that statements by Kosuth such as the following to Lippard in 1968 gain resonance:

“I consider my work art and have stated emphatically that they are not paintings or sculptures and have nothing to do

with that specific history.” Joseph Kosuth, in correspondence to Lucy R. Lippard, 6 May 1968, in LRLARCH.

41. Joseph Kosuth, in John Chandler, “The Last Word in Graphic Art,” Art International, 12:9 (November

1968), p. 26.

42. Ibid.

43. Kosuth, in correspondence to Lippard, 13 May 1968, in LRLARCH.

44. Kosuth, in correspondence to Lippard, 6 May 1968, in LRLARCH. For Kosuth it was neither the act of com-

munication nor the material residue of a communication act but the idea communicated that was of utmost importance.

At the same time, he explicitly stipulated that the idea had to be new. “Art,” he told Howard Junker, “is a matter of doing

what no one has done before.” This pursuit of the new, of new ideas of art, was how Kosuth legitimated his work, and as

the following statement makes plain, it was also the underpinning of his dictum “Art as Idea as Idea”: “‘Art as idea’ was

obvious; ideas or concepts as the work itself. But this is a reification—it’s using the idea as an object, to function within

the prevailing formalist ideology of art. The addition of the second part—‘Art as Idea as Idea’—intended to suggest that

the real creative process, and the radical shift, was in changing the idea of art itself.” Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way

Out,” p. 61.

45. Kosuth, in Norvell, interview with Kosuth, 10 April 1969, Norvell Archives.

46. “Exhibitions: A Hint, a Shadow, a Clue,” Time, 14 June 1968, p. 63.

47. Ibid. John Powers, a Madison Avenue executive who became president of the Prentice-Hall publishing com-

pany, was a prolific collector of pop art.

48. Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way Out,” p. 61.

49. Junker: “Museums practically pull contemporary work out of the studios.” Ibid.

50. Joseph Kosuth, “Art after Philosophy I,” Studio International, 178:915 (October 1969); reprinted in Kosuth,

Art after Philosophy and After, p. 23.

51. Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (1968; London: Verso, 1996), p. 166.



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52. Joseph Kosuth, “L’art de la présentation (de l’art),” interview with André Ducret and Catherine Queloz, Archi-

Bref (March 1985); reprinted in Joseph Kosuth, Joseph Kosuth: Interviews (Stuttgart: Patricia Schwarz, 1989), p. 78.

53. Kosuth, in Norvell, interview with Kosuth, 10 April 1969, Norvell Archives.

54. Kosuth related this aspect of his activity to what he had learned from Reinhardt: “What makes [Ad Reinhardt]

an artist isn’t just that he painted black paintings. What those paintings mean is a product of his total signifying activity:

lectures, panel discussions, ‘The Rules For A New Academy,’ cartoons, and so forth. Our experience, and the meaning

of that experience, is framed by language, by information. Seeing is not as simple as looking.” Joseph Kosuth, in Jeanne

Siegel, “Joseph Kosuth: Art as Idea as Idea,” pp. 228–229.

55. Baudrillard, The System of Objects, p. 164.

56. Kosuth was the Director of The Museum of Normal Art. Lannis Spencer was the Chairman. The Trustees

were Richard Bellamy, Dan Graham, Klaus Kertess, Kasper König, Christine Kozlov, Lucy Lippard, Michael Rinaldi, and

John Weber.

57. Richard Bellamy, in Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way Out,” p. 61.

58. Junker, “The New Art: It’s Way, Way Out,” p. 61. The fear of a relationship being drawn between conceptual

art and drug culture was real. As one writer put it in 1969, “The influence of the drug culture on concept artists is con-

jectural but one knows that with the use of drugs the borders are erased and separate entities blend into each other. Color

can be experienced as sound, sound as color and immovable objects as movable. The drug culture demands gratifica-

tion now; no object is for the ages. An exploration of inner self with an almost religious fervor is stimulated by drug use.

All are common to concept art.” See Barbara Goldsmith, “Where Is the Art? Join the Concept of the Month Club and Find

Out,” in LRLARCH.

59. Siegelaub had lobbied for the publication of the article in Arts Magazine later in 1968. Although a press re-

lease of the journal cited the article as forthcoming, “Three since Windham” was never published. For the press release

see SSARCH, Box 5, File 111.

60. Arthur R. Rose [pseud.], “Three since Windham,” in SSARCH, Box 5, File 111. Note that this contradicts what

Andre said at Bradford about art being a way into the world of matter.

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

63. On 29 November 1968 Siegelaub sent out a form letter to a wide array of critics, collectors, and dealers in the

New York City area announcing that he was planning to open a gallery from 5 January to 31 January 1969, featuring eight

works from each of the following five artists: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, and Ian

Wilson. Continuing his recent practice of circumventing the established institutional structures of exhibition and distri-

bution by which artistic products were conventionally displayed and disseminated, Siegelaub emphasized that the land-

mark exhibition he was organizing “will be extensively catalogued.” The show, he insisted, “will be unique for a number

of reasons, not least of which will be that the catalogue and the exhibition will articulate some basic ideas regarding ‘con-

ceptuality’ and ‘immateriality’.” See Seth Siegelaub, letter to Patrick Lannan, 29 November 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File

108. In the end Wilson, whose work relied solely on language communicated through speech rather than in written form,

was not included in the show: he and Siegelaub could not come to an agreement about how to present his work in a way

that did not privilege it over the other participants.

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Siegelaub enlisted the help of another private New York dealer, Manuel Greer, to work out the logistics for the exhi-

bition. Greer in turn informed one of the collectors whom he regularly dealt with, the New York City stockbroker Robert

Topol, about the upcoming show, and on 18 December Topol informed Siegelaub and Greer that an acquaintance who

owned a midtown office building had a space that was free for the month of January. The office space was located on 44

East 52nd Street, between Park and Madison avenues, and consisted of two rooms of equal size. The previous tenants

had vacated the premises in haste in the first weeks of December, and the new occupants would not be moving into the

space until the beginning of February. This was precisely the type of exhibition space for which Siegelaub was search-

ing, since it was completely outside the conventional institutional structures. Thus on 20 December a contract was drawn

up renting the office space to Siegelaub and Greer for the month of January 1969. See contract between Seth Siegelaub,

Manuel Greer, and James F. Mackin, signed 20 December 169, SSARCH, Box 5, File 108.

64. Kosuth, “Art after Philosophy III,” p. 31.

65. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967),

p. 68.

66. For an overview of the phenomenon of works for magazine and newspaper pages, a quintessential concep-

tual art stratagem, see Anne Rorimer, “Siting the Page: Exhibiting Works in Publications—Some Examples of Concep-

tual Art in the USA,” in Michael Newman and Jon Bird, Rewriting Conceptual Art (London: Reaktion Books, 1999),

pp. 11–26; and my “A Media Art: Conceptual Art in Latin America,” in ibid., 140–151.

67. Lozano was concerned enough about Kosuth’s interest in her artistic ideas to put them down on paper in the

form of a letter (of 4 March 1968) to the artist, copied to Philip Leider and Lucy Lippard: “Dear Joseph, This is to put in

writing our several recent discussions concerning a particular idea I got on February 1, 1968. The idea, succinctly, is as

follows: buy space in the publication of your choice . . . for the time duration of your choice. Use the space in each issue

as a box for the idea or ideas of your choice. Part of the page of an art mag is as good a material for an artist to use as any

other . . . , and your ideas, piggyback as they go, would have guaranteed, fast, wide distribution.” Lee Lozano, corre-

spondence with Joseph Kosuth, in LRLARCH. Lozano was at the time working closely with Graham, and their influence

was mutual.

68. The piece “Existence,” for example, was in four parts. The first appeared in the New York Times on 5 January

1969 and read:

I. Existence

A. Being in the Abstract

1. Existence

2. Nonexistence

The second part was published in the January 1969 issue of Museum News:

B. Being in the Concrete

3. Substantiality

4. Unsubstantiality



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The third part was inserted into the January 1969 issue of Artforum:

C. Formal Existence

5. Intrinsicality

6. Extrinsicality

And the fourth and final part appeared in The Nation on 23 December 1968:

D. Modal Existence

7. State

8. Circumstance

The piece “Time” was in five parts, published in five different London newspapers on 27 December 1968: the Times, the

Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Daily Express, and the Observer.

69. Kosuth, in Norvell, interview with Kosuth, 10 April 1969, Norvell Archives.

70. Joseph Kosuth, as cited by David L. Shirey, in “Impossible Art—What Is It?,” Art in America, 57:3 (May/June

1969), p. 41.

71. Joseph Kosuth, in Konrad Fischer and Hans Strelow, Prospect 69, exh. cat. (Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf Kunst-

halle, 1969), p. 27. Kosuth continues: “Anyway, the ‘investigation 2’ series is about a two or three year project consist-

ing of 43 works with 190 separate sections. . . . On a specific level these works deal with every aspect of man’s

cognizance, at least—interestingly enough—in a practical and ‘ordinary’ linguistic sense.”

72. Kosuth: “The first Art as Idea as Idea series—the blow-ups of dictionary definitions—began to disturb me in

their iconic nature, not in a visual sense because I had successfully resolved that, but in the sense of a single, isolated

iconic ‘idea’, with amplified boundaries, and a beginning and an ending. . . . So later I tried to neutralize this ‘iconic’ qual-

ity. I first began this in the second investigation, The Synopsis of Categories, which was in 1968. In this work I used as a

form of presentation whatever was the normal information or advertising media for that society—such as newspaper,

magazine, subway, bus and billboard advertising, or handbills, or television, and so on. It was anonymous of course, so

that meaning was dependent on, first, certain situations we could refer to as ‘cultural functions’ and, secondly, an un-

derstanding (whenever it comes) of the conceptual nature of art.” See Joseph Kosuth, Introduction to The Sixth Investi-

gation 1969, Proposition 14, exh. cat. (Cologne: Gerd de Vries, 1971); reprinted as “Context Text,” in Kosuth, Art after

Philosophy and After, p. 87.

73. Kosuth, in Norvell, interview with Kosuth, 10 April 1969, Norvell Archives.

PART II primary and secondary information

1. Robert Barry, interview with Patricia Norvell, 30 May 1969, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds.,

Recording Conceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 97.

2. Seth Siegelaub, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art,

pp. 33–34.

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6 3. Seth Siegelaub, in “On Exhibitions and the World at Large, Seth Siegelaub in Conversation with Charles Harri-

son, September 1969,” Studio International, 178:917 (December 1969); reprinted in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stim-

son, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), p. 199. Italics in the original. Note

that this was a self-interview orchestrated by Siegelaub. Harrison appears in name alone; Siegelaub framed all of the

questions and answers. Charles Harrison, in conversation with author, 4 February 1994.

4. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 34.

5. Seth Siegelaub, from Elayne Varian, interview with Seth Siegelaub, June 1969. Tape recording in Finch College

Museum of Art papers, Archives of American Art, Washington. Siegelaub continues: “Sol LeWitt refers to this distinction

between the art and its presentation as the difference between content and form. And we’re just beginning to understand

that content is one thing, and the form is something else.”

6. Ibid.

7. Seth Siegelaub, from Ursula Meyer, interview with Seth Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH. Segments of

this interview were published in Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972

(1973; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 124–126.

8. Siegelaub: “Communication relates to art three ways. 1. Artists knowing what other artists are doing. 2. The art

community knowing what artists are doing. 3. The world knowing what artists are doing. Perhaps it is cynical, but I tend

to think that art is for artists. No one gets turned on by art as artists do. Of course, a person’s approach to an artist’s work

is necessarily subjective. This is where I come in. The point is to ‘objectify’ the work of the artist. And that is a question

of numbers. It’s my concern to make it known to the multitudes.” Siegelaub interview with Ursula Meyer, November 1969,

in Lippard, Six Years, p. 124. (Italics mine.)

chapter three locations, variables, and durations

1. Douglas Huebler, from Artists & Photographs (New York: Multiples, Inc., 1970); reprinted in Ursula Meyer, Con-

ceptual Art (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972), p. 137.

2. The most significant exhibition at Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art, the “25” show (1–26 March 1966),

included works by John Chamberlain, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Phillip Guston, Al Held, Hans Hofmann,

Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, Martin Maloney, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, George Ortman,

Jackson Pollock, Kenneth Price, Ad Reinhardt, David Smith, Jack Tworkov, Lawrence Weiner, Adja Yunkers, and Larry

Zox. Dore Ashton, who was evidently impressed by Siegelaub’s entrepreneurial spirit, helped the young dealer to prepare

this show. Ashton seems to have taught Siegelaub about the logistics of organizing a show of such caliber, for it was an

unqualified success. With unprecedented attendance and several significant sales, this exhibition elevated the visibility

and reputation of Siegelaub’s gallery.

3. Douglas Huebler, interview with Patricia Norvell, 25 July 1969, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds.,

Recording Conceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 136.

4. Douglas Huebler, statement, in Kynaston Mcshine, Primary Structures, exh. cat. (New York: Jewish Museum,

27 April–12 June 1966), n.p. In this connection it is interesting to note that Dan Flavin wrote in the same year about the

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way his fluorescent lamps “lack the look of history.” See Dan Flavin, “Some Remarks . . . Excerpts from a Spleenish Jour-

nal,” Artforum, 5:4 (December 1966), p. 27.

5. Douglas Huebler, in Ruth K. Meyer, “Doug Huebler: An Interview, Part 1,” Ohio Arts Journal (March-April

1981), p. 14.

6. Douglas Huebler, interview with the author, 9 February 1993.

7. Douglas Huebler, correspondence with Seth Siegelaub, 17 February 1966, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 118.

8. Ibid., 7 March 1966.

9. By this time, Huebler had been formally asked by McShine to exhibit a 40 x 40-inch sculpture from the artist’s

so-called Bradford Series in “Primary Structures,” which opened later that year. He had also been invited to exhibit one

of his works in the 1966 “Annual Exhibition of Sculpture and Prints” at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is there-

fore not surprising that Siegelaub was interested in representing Huebler, whose work he was promoting already by April

1966. See SSARCH, Box 5, File 118.

10. Huebler, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, pp. 136–137.

11. Seth Siegelaub, “The Role of the Frame,” in SSARCH, Box 4, File 80.

12. Samuel Wagstaff Jr., “Talking with Tony Smith,” in Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology

(New York: E. P. Dutton, 1968), p. 386.

13. By the end of the year Heizer had, according to Howard Junker writing in the Saturday Evening Post, “moved

12 tons of dirt, and carved the mud flats of Nevada and California with 20 ‘negative objects,’ including one 520-mile se-

ries of holes linking eight dry lakes.” Howard Junker, “The New Sculpture: Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty,” Saturday

Evening Post, 2 November 1968, p. 42.

14. When Oppenheim rolled up the fence at the end of the season, the field was marked by huge bare spots, in-

dentations, bringing to mind the “cuts” Andre had made into the gallery in the previous years with his peculiar deploy-

ment of firebricks. But for Oppenheim the photographs taken at the end of the growing season were secondary to the

work. “My feeling,” he explained to Roy Bongartz of the New York Times Magazine in early 1970, “was that the experi-

ence of directing the harvest was the main work, not the pictures.” See New York Times Magazine, 1 February 1970,

p. 27. According to Oppenheim, then, the piece was the actual performance of and chronicling of a system, in which

every step of the process was considered equal. Not surprisingly, when asked in a discussion with Heizer and Robert

Smithson to identify some of the major influences on his work, Oppenheim singled out Andre’s concept of “sculpture as

place” and LeWitt’s concern with systems as opposed to “the manual making and placement of object art” as having had

the greatest impact on his work. See Robert Smithson, “Discussions with Heizer, Oppenheim, Smithson” (fall 1970), in

The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Nancy Holt (New York: New York University Press, 1979), p. 174.

15. New York’s Feigen Gallery featured Christo’s work in the exhibition “Macrostructures,” and Dan Graham

included a photograph of Christo’s Lower Manhattan Packed Buildings (1964) in a review of the Feigen show and two other

recent exhibitions. See Dan Graham, “Models and Monuments: The Plague of Architecture,” Arts Magazine, 41:5 (March

1967), p. 32. Furthermore, in “The Dematerialization of Art,” Lippard and Chandler reproduced an image of Christo’s pro-

posal to wrap the National Gallery of Rome both inside and out with heavy brown tarpaulins (Lucy R. Lippard and John

Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” Art International, 12:2 [February 1968], p. 32). Later in 1968 Christo wrapped

the Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland, an activity that he was to repeat several times in the following years.

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16. Of course, these projects seem to have been completely anticipated by Claes Oldenburg’s monumental pro-

posals of the 1960s that were in many instances impossible to produce or realize.

17. Huebler, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 137.

18. See for instance Douglas Huebler, interview with Irmeline Lebeer, in Chroniques de l’art vivant, 38 (April 1973),

pp. 21–23; and Huebler, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, pp. 135–141.

19. Huebler on various occasions referred to the parallels between his work and that of Robbe-Grillet. See Doug-

las Huebler in “Time,” a symposium at the New York Shakespeare Theater, moderated by Seth Siegelaub and includ-

ing Carl Andre, Michael Cain, and Ian Wilson. Tape recording in LRLARCH. Some (edited) excerpts of this discussion

appear in Lucy R. Lippard, “Time: A Panel Discussion,” Art International, 13:9 (November 1969), p. 22. Also see Doug-

las Huebler, in Ruth K. Meyer, “Doug Huebler: An Interview, Part II,” Ohio Arts Journal (May-June 1981), p. 15.

20. Klaus Honnef, “Introduction,” trans. John Anthony Thwaites, in Douglas Huebler, exh. cat. (Münster: West-

fälischer Kunstverein, 1972), p. 8.

21. Douglas Huebler, in Elaine A. King, Douglas Huebler. 10+, exh. cat. (Evanston: Dittmar Memorial Gallery,

1980), n.p.

22. Fredric Jameson, “Periodizing the 60s,” in Sohnya Sayres et al., eds., The 60s without Apology (Minneapolis:

University of Minnesota Press, 1984); reprinted in Fredric Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971–1986, vol.

2, Syntax of History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), p. 197. Jameson acknowledges Jorge Luis

Borges for this image.

23. In this regard, Huebler’s new works successfully presented “time-motion without anything actually moving,”

as Lippard and Chandler put it in 1968 when describing the operation of the serial structures of another contemporary

artist, Sol LeWitt. See Lippard and Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” p. 31.

24. Douglas Huebler, letter to Seth Siegelaub, undated, spring 1968. SSARCH, Box 5, file 118.

25. Huebler in fact was at the time quite explicit about the mechanized procedure he employed to make photo-

graphs and described it in terms of a shift in focus away from the photographic object (as source and locus of meaning)

to the overarching system or idea that regulates the work: “Of course, by making a dot on a map, you really are covering

perhaps twenty or forty square feet, or circular feet. And there’s no proof that when you get there you’re pointing your

camera, or putting that marker on the exact spot, which is of course part of the point too. It doesn’t matter, you see; it

doesn’t matter. It could have been three feet over, or you could have miscalculated just because your pencil was too thick,

you know. Any number of things. So what it finally comes back to is the idea of these locations, the idea of the system.”

Huebler, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 139.

26. Douglas Huebler, in Arthur R. Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” Arts Mag-

azine, 43:4 (February 1969); reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Idea Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton,

1973), p. 144.

27. Robert Smithson, in Paul Cummings, “Interview with Robert Smithson for the Archives of American Art/ Smith-

sonian Institute. July 14 and 19, 1972,” published in The Writings of Robert Smithson, p. 155.

28. The descriptive passage read as follows: “On October 22, 1968 a small quantity of dirt was removed from each

of the five sites (each being located approximately 1.33 miles from a central point on the Windham College campus) and



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9then mixed with an epoxy composition that was cured to finally form a wedge shape. In turn the five wedges so formed

were placed together in such a manner as to describe a small pentagonal shape that was exactly similar to the ‘shape’

created by sites A B C D E. That object, two maps locating A B C D E and five Polaroid photographs of the site formed the

presentation of the piece that was located at the central point (Windham College). Approximately one month later the

‘wedges’ were returned to the earth and the maps, photographs and this statement constitute the completed work.” See

Douglas Huebler, in Meyer, “Doug Huebler: An Interview, Part 1,” p. 14.

29. As is well known, in “Art and Objecthood” Fried warned about the emergence in the 1960s of a condition,

which he termed “theatricality,” that threw the idea that an artwork could offer an experience transcending the material

conditions of its existence irrevocably into a distant and irretrievable past. Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” Artforum,

5:10 (June 1967), pp. 12–23; reprinted in Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, pp. 116–147.

30. “The archi-trace,” according to Derrida, is an “erasure of the present and thus of the subject, of that which is

proper to the subject. . . . The concept of a . . . subject necessarily refers to the concept of substance—and thus of pres-

ence—out of which it is born.” See Jacques Derrida, “Freud and the Scene of Writing” (1967), in Writing and Difference,

trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), p. 229.

31. This view of the operation of Smithson’s work is indebted to Craig Owens’s “Earthwords,” October, 10 (Fall

1979); republished in Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, et al., eds., Craig Owens. Beyond Recognition: Representation,

Power, Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 40–51.

32. Douglas Huebler, from “Conversation between Douglas Huebler and Donald Burgy,” Bradford, Massachu-

setts, October 1971, in LRLARCH. Some (edited) excerpts of this discussion appear in Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The

Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (1973; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996),

pp. 250–252.

33. Douglas Huebler, in Michael Auping, “Talking with Douglas Huebler,” LAICA Journal, 15 (July-August 1977),

p. 41.

34. In particular I am referring to Fried’s concept of pure “presentness,” which aimed to ground the advanced

visual arts in an autonomy of vision that appears as if “instantaneously present,” suspending notions of time and space.

This is a continuation of the late modernist paradigm, especially insofar as the purported aim was to uncover and dis-

play the conditions of vision itself by paring away everything extraneous to vision, separating the visual domain from the

other senses.

35. Douglas Huebler, in Harald Szeemann, Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, exh. cat. (Bern:

Kunsthalle Bern, 1969), n.p.

36. Huebler, in Auping, “Talking with Douglas Huebler,” pp. 37, 40–41.

37. Seth Siegelaub, memo dated 25 June 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 118: “In October 1968, Douglas Huebler

will have an exhibition of the site sculptures. The exhibition will consist of eight sculptures located on as many sites, sit-

uated in the Eastern half of the United States. The exhibition will be seen by travelling from one site to another. The ex-

hibition will be extensively documented with a catalogue (to be published in conjunction with the exhibition in October)

which will contain photographs and other documents pertinent to each sculpture, with appropriate credit to the collec-

tor or institution that has commissioned each sculpture. . . . Each sculpture will be made specifically for each site. It

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0 will be unique and immovable. In each case Mr. Huebler will have to see the specific site to determine how it will be dealt

with. The site will to a great extent, determine the nature and size (and cost) of each sculpture.”

38. The works, ten in all, were to be distinguished according to “Site Types,” of which Siegelaub provided a list:

“Flat grass site; Road site; Thick wooded site; Water site; City site; and so on.” The targeted patrons were informed that

a number of works were still available, as only the pieces on the “2 mile diameter site,” the “90 foot slope site,” and the

“thick wooded site” had been sold. In fact, none of these works had been sold. As will become clear in the following

pages, this strategy of conveying misleading information about the availability of works by artists he represented was a

marketing ploy that Siegelaub would use repeatedly in the next few years.

39. On top of that, there would be a flat rate of $750 for the artist’s time and concept. Seth Siegelaub, memo dated

25 June 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 118.

40. Seth Siegelaub, form letter dated 8 July 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 118. The letters were sent to six col-

lectors, including J. Patrick Lannan, John Powers, Albert A. List, Burton G. Tremaine, Howard Lipman, and Stephen

Paine. Siegelaub: “This information has been compiled to function as an ‘offer to sell’ the sculpture.”

41. Raymond Dirks was a young stockbroker who underwrote many of the projects organized by Siegelaub. Not

really an art collector, he seems to have provided money at crucial moments in order to be part of the “scene” in which

Siegelaub and the artists affiliated with him maneuvered.

42. Seth Siegelaub, in “On Exhibitions and the World at Large, Seth Siegelaub in Conversation with Charles Har-

rison, September 1969,” Studio International, 178:917 (December 1969); reprinted in Alexander Alberro and Blake

Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), p. 199.

43. These works were begun in 1965 and include Scheme (1965), Schema (March 1966) (1966), Homes for

America (1966–1967), Figurative (1967), Side Effect/Common Drug (1968), and Detumescence (1969). The historical

significance of Graham’s magazine pieces was first addressed by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Moments of History in the

Work of Dan Graham,” in Dan Graham: Articles (Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 1978), pp. 73–78; reprinted in Ben-

jamin H. D. Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975

(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 179–201. See also Anne Rorimer, “Dan Graham: An Introduction,” in Anne

Rorimer, Building and Signs, exh. cat. (Chicago: Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1981), p. 5.

44. In an important sense the strategy Graham employs is inconceivable without the immediate precedent of the

investigations of reductivism and site specificity in the work of artists such as Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, and Hans

Haacke. From this perspective, Graham problematized the development of site specificity and turned the discussion to

questions of where and how the work is read, to whom it is addressed, and within which social context it functions. The

reconfiguration of public space reflected in Graham’s magazine pieces was informed by pop artists of the early 1960s,

and in particular Ed Ruscha’s strategy, employed in such works as Twenty-six Gasoline Stations (1962), Some Los Angeles

Apartments (1965), and Every Building on Sunset Strip (1966), of making the distribution form the work’s point of


45. To supplement the information presented in the catalogue, what Siegelaub referred to in the memo of 25 June

as the “relevant documents to certify ownership,” the latter drew up a “certificate of ownership” which read:

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1I, Douglas Huebler, hereby certify that the piece known as “_________”, located on the property of _________ or

_________ or _________, located _________ miles, _________ degrees from _________ Bradford, the place of the

artist’s residence (at the time of execution of the “piece”). Attached also find pertinent information that will perma-

nently document the existence of the piece: 1) Photographs, 2) Map, 3) Drawings, 4) Receipt for cost of the “piece”.

Signed ___________ Notarized ____________

See SSARCH, Box 5, File 118.

46. The possibility of the documentation replacing or becoming the work was a controversial one that divided

artists at the time. Some, such as Oppenheim, were completely dismissive of the role of documentation, and saw it as

entirely separate from the artistic process to the extent that persons other than the artist should perform it. Others, such

as Robert Morris, were more ambivalent and saw the photograph as having a more metonymic function, as being one

small part of the entire work. For yet others, and here we can cite LeWitt, the documents were an integral part of the whole

artistic process. For Huebler, though, the documents carried the idea. For a more in-depth discussion of the role of doc-

umentation in conceptual art see my “At the Threshold of Art as Information,” in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording

Conceptual Art, pp. 1–15.

47. Douglas Huebler, in Konrad Fischer and Hans Strelow, Prospect 69, exh. cat. (Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf Kunst-

halle, 1969), p. 26.

48. Douglas Huebler in “Art without Space,” symposium at WBAI-FM New York, moderated by Seth Siegelaub

and including Robert Barry, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner, 2 November 1969; transcript in LRLARCH. It took

several years for this point of view to emerge. In the mid-1960s, Flavin’s lamps were criticized precisely for this reason.

See Jacob Grossberg’s and David Bourdon’s reviews of Flavin’s Green Gallery show, 18 November–12 December 1964,

cited in James Meyer, Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 106.

Huebler’s and Graham’s “conceptual” reading of Flavin and Andre shows a sympathy for their practice that many critics

at the time lacked. On the other hand, the reading of their work as conceptual was not one that Flavin or Andre would

have liked either.

49. Siegelaub, in “On Exhibitions and the World at Large, Seth Siegelaub in conversation with Charles Harrison,”

p. 200.

50. For Huebler, the question was one of viability. “Some of the pieces I made that summer,” he noted with hind-

sight, “were so unlike anything I’d ever seen that I worried that Seth might regard them as so absurd that he’d call off the

whole project. I knew of no criteria by which to judge what I was doing, no way to know if the work was good, bad, indif-

ferent, or even if it could be regarded as ‘Art’. I was just being swept along by one idea after another that I wanted to try

out, and hoped that Seth would go along. As it turned out he did, and I think that summer proved to be a real education

for both of us.” Douglas Huebler, in Frederic Paul, “Truro, Massachusetts, October 11–14, 1992. Frederic Paul and Doug-

las Huebler,” in Douglas Huebler. “Variable,” etc., exh. cat. (Limoges: F.R.A.C. Limousin, 1993), p. 127.

51. See Seth Siegelaub, as quoted by Jack Burnham, “Alice’s Head: Reflections of Conceptual Art,” Artforum, 8:6

(February 1970), p. 39. Siegelaub’s notion of the groundbreaking aspects of his collaboration with Huebler can be un-

derstood by introducing the contents of a letter he sent to New York Times columnist Grace Glueck on 12 September

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2 1968: “This coming November I will be organizing a one-man exhibition of the recent work of Douglas Huebler. The show

will consist of primarily outdoor ‘pieces’ running along the East Coast of the United States. Some of the pieces will be in-

ter-city. For the exhibition I will be publishing an extensive catalog to document the existence of the work. (There will be

a number of works in New York City.) This will be the first time that an exhibition has been treated on such a broad scale,

and the implications of the work will be very important in the future.” Seth Siegelaub, letter to Grace Glueck, 12 Sep-

tember 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 118.

52. Thus for example catalogue no. 14 was an isometric drawing of a 21/2-inch-square plane drawn and described

as straightforwardly as possible. Even a somewhat more complex drawing, catalogue no. 12, was presented in an ex-

tremely matter-of-fact way. It was made up of four horizontal bands of vertical lines, eight in each band, and simply de-

scribed as “Top Row: The ends of eight 1� lines positioned at 90 degrees to the picture plane; 2nd row: eight 1� lines

positioned at 30 degrees to the picture plane; 3rd row: eight 1� lines positioned at 60 degrees to the picture plane; Bot-

tom row: eight 1� lines positioned on the surface of the picture plane.”

53. Huebler refers to Cage as his “soulmate” in his interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording

Conceptual Art, p. 145.

54. The photographs, numbered from one to twelve, are presented in the catalogue with a brief description: “Doc-

umentation: 12 photographs each 21/2 x 21/2 (Photographed at 2 minute intervals). Collection: Mr. Raymond L. Dirks, N.Y.”

Placed on a black background and arranged in three rows of four, they chart the disintegration of the line of sand on the

highway as cars go by, until there is virtually no trace of it in the twelfth and final picture.

55. Douglas Huebler, in Marian Goodman, Artists and Photographs, exh. cat. (New York: Multiples, 1969), n.p.

56. Huebler, in Fischer and Strelow, Prospect 69, p. 26: “The photographs really are documents and as such have

no function as ‘representations’. They complete and complement the language of the statement.”

57. Huebler, in Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” p. 144.

58. Four maps of midtown Manhattan, each equal in size, were traced in ink onto paper (13 x 12 inches). Below

the maps, under the heading “Site Sculpture Project / New York Variable Piece #1,” were the following specifications

hand-written in capital letters: “1. All sites shown as located in Manhattan. 2. A3 B3 C3 D3—markers placed on automo-

biles and trucks thereby being carried into random and horizontal directions. 3. A2 B2 C2 D2—markers placed in static

and permanent location. 4. A1 B1 C1 D1—markers placed in elevators thereby being carried into random and vertical di-

rections.” At the top of the page of the catalogue, below the title, appears the information that the sixteen “markers” em-

ployed to carry out this work are 1 x 5/8-inch oval stickers made of fabric.

59. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Andy Warhol’s One-Dimensional Art: 1956–1966,” in Kynaston McShine, ed.,

Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989), p. 45; reprinted (slightly modified)

in Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry, p. 485.

60. See Huebler, in Meyer, “Doug Huebler: An Interview, Part 1,” p. 15: “The intention of the work has never re-

ally been properly understood in that it serves as a possibility for action or interaction between the artist and percipient

through the mediation of the piece itself. . . . Somewhere in between those two things—the art content or the cultural

context and the social or real context—a third kind of discourse or dialectic is produced that IS the content of the work.”

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61. Douglas Huebler, in C. C. Cook, Douglas Huebler, exh. cat. (Andover, Mass.: Addison Gallery of American Art,

1970), n.p.

62. Huebler, from “Conversation between Douglas Huebler and Donald Burgy,” Bradford, Massachusetts, Octo-

ber 1971, in LRLARCH.

63. Huebler, in Meyer, “Doug Huebler: An Interview, Part II,” p. 15.

64. Clement Greenberg, introduction to Three New American Painters: Louis, Noland, Olitski, exh. cat. (Regina,

Saskatchewan: Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1963), reprinted in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criti-

cism, vol. 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957–1969, ed. John O’Brian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993),

p. 153.

65. As Huebler puts it in Auping, “Talking with Douglas Huebler,” p. 41: “My basic concern, and I would call it

conceptual in this sense, is to point out that there is an equation built, as I’ve been saying, between the perceived image

or sign and the language that directs your attention to the sign. Whether the sign is a photograph, a dot on a page, a se-

ries of photographs or a series of dots or lines, it doesn’t matter. There is a relationship between the visual and the cul-

tural, the language. These signs are givens.”

66. Douglas Huebler, as quoted in Lucy R. Lippard, “Everything about Everything,” Art News, 71 (December

1972), p. 29.

67. Roland Barthes, “Musica Practica” (1970), in Barthes, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York:

Hill and Wang, 1977), p. 153: “Just as the reading of the modern text (such at least as it may be postulated) consists not

in receiving, in knowing or in feeling that text, but in writing it anew, in crossing its writing with a fresh inscription, so too

reading this Beethoven is to operate his music, to draw it (it is willing to be drawn) into an unknown praxis.” “The artist,”

Huebler wrote in another context, “sets the language of his work but need not designate its meaning.” Douglas Huebler,

in Cook, Douglas Huebler, n.p.

68. Huebler, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 152.

69. Seth Siegelaub, from Ursula Meyer, interview with Seth Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH.

chapter four the linguistic turn

1. Lawrence Weiner, interview with Patricia Norvell, 3 June 1969, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds.,

Recording Conceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 136.

2. Weiner had two one-person shows of his paintings at Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art:

10 November–5 December 1964, and 2–27 November 1965.

3. See for instance Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters,” Art News (Decem-

ber 1952), pp. 22–23, 48–50.

4. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), p. 16.

5. As one critic put it in what is clearly a reference to the similarities between Weiner’s and Lichtenstein’s paint-

ings of the same period: “Weiner’s attack is rather like that of an abstract comic strip artist.” Michael Benedikt, “New York

Letter,” Art International, 10:1 (January 1966), p. 87.

6. Lawrence Weiner, in Willoughby Sharp, “Lawrence Weiner at Amsterdam,” Avalanche, 4 (Spring 1972), p. 67.

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7. Donald Judd, “In the Galleries,” Arts Magazine (November 1963); reprinted in Judd, Complete Writings,

1959–1975 (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; New York: New York University Press, 1975), p. 101.

8. McLuhan and Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage, p. 63.

9. Ibid., p. 22.

10. Ibid., p. 53.

11. Douglas Huebler, in Michael Auping, “Talking with Douglas Huebler,” LAICA Journal, 15 (July-August 1977), p. 37.

12. Weiner, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 101.

13. In this sense, Weiner’s Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf is a prime example of the type of work that “depends on

the beholder, is incomplete without him . . . has been waiting for him . . . refuses, obstinately, to let him alone,” as

Michael Fried disparagingly described minimal art a few months earlier in “Art and Objecthood,” Artforum, 5:10 (June

1967), p. 21.

14. Weiner, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 105.

15. The generative role of the title also characterized key works of postminimalism at the time. As with the work

Weiner began in 1968, postminimalist works such as Richard Serra’s Verb List, 1967–1968, also speak of a material’s

manipulation in time.

16. The sticker Turf, Stake, and String was inserted into S.M.S. (New York), no. 5 (1968), n.p., with the words

handwritten on a grid pattern. A brief instructional text encouraged the magazine reader to remove the Kleen-stik cover-

ing and adhere the sticker “to any vertical surface.”

17. The schematic use of typographical design resonates with McLuhan and Fiore’s contemporary theories of lan-

guage. As the authors observe in The Medium Is the Massage, “the introduction of the phonetic alphabet, a medium that

depends solely on the eye for comprehension . . . , is a construct of fragmental bits and parts which have no semantic mean-

ing in themselves, and which must be strung together in a line, bead-like, and in a prescribed order. Its use fostered and

encouraged the habit of perceiving all environment in visual and spatial terms—particularly in terms of a space and of a

time that are uniform” (p. 44).

18. Thus, for example, “a two inch wide one foot deep trench cut across a standard one car driveway”; “one hole

in the ground approximately one foot by one foot by one foot. one gallon water base white paint poured into this hole”;

“one aerosol can of enamel sprayed to conclusion directly upon the floor” are specific statements. On the other hand,

“an amount of paint poured directly upon the floor and allowed to dry”; “a removal to the lathing or support wall of plas-

ter or wall board from a wall”; “a field cratered by structured simultaneous tnt explosions” are general statements.

19. The ambiguity would soon also be played out in translation from one language to another. As he explained in

an early interview, gummiball (“rubber ball” in German) differs from “rubber ball” in English, and “a shallow trench in fif-

teen different countries means fifteen different things. And yet it’s still a shallow trench. White paint in France looks com-

pletely different than white paint in Germany. They use different pigments, different bases, but it’s still white paint. So the

language, really, in my eyes, helps to get away from this thing of what something should look like and just deals with it as

a general thing.” Weiner, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 107.

20. John Anthony Thwaites, “Lawrence Weiner: An Interview and an Interpretation,” Art and Artists, 7 (August

1972), p. 23.



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21. Here one might recall the type of differential play, the syntax or logic of figural displacement that Jacques Der-

rida discerned in the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé. Writing about a short prose text by Mallarmé‚ “Mimique,” Derrida notes,

“The temporal and textual structure of ‘the thing’ (what shall we call it?) presents itself, for the time being, thus: a mimo-

drama ‘takes place’, as a gestural writing, preceded by no booklet; a preface is planned and then written after the ‘event’

to precede a booklet written after the fact, reflecting the mimodrama rather than programming it.” Jacques Derrida, “The

Double Session” (1970), in Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 199.

In other words, Derrida presents Mallarmé’s writings as the site of a series of textual displacements, complications, and

swerves from origin that make it impossible to know for sure which came first, the mimic performance that was ostensibly

at the origin of his account, or the writing that seems to invent that performance in the very act of recollecting it. In an im-

portant way, this notion of a writing that pays maximum regard to syntax, pressing the signifying potential of language to a

point where it exceeds a logocentric order of meaning or truth, and where writing acquires the kind of spatial quality pos-

sessed by various forms of hieroglyphic or ideogrammic script, parallels what I am arguing is one of the key dimensions of

Weiner’s work.

22. The parallel here is to a metaphor Roland Barthes employs in “The Death of the Author” to elucidate

(post)structuralist analysis: “everything is to be distinguished but nothing deciphered; structure can be ‘threaded’ (like

a stocking that has a run) in all its recurrences and all its stages.” Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (1967), in Barthes,

Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), p. 147.

23. Douglas Huebler, in Ruth K. Meyer, “Doug Huebler: An Interview, Part 1,” Ohio Arts Journal (March-April

1981), p. 15.

24. Lawrence Weiner, in January 5–31, 1969, exh. cat. (New York: Seth Siegelaub, 1969), n.p.

25. Weiner repeatedly emphasized this characteristic of his work in the late 1960s. For instance, in the interview

with Norvell, he states: “I want the art to be accessible. . . . See, the price becomes almost unimportant because all the

art’s given away when you think about it. I go through a lot of trouble to get things published all the time. So the pieces

are published, the information is public, anybody that really is excited can make a reproduction. So in fact, the art is all

freehold.” Weiner, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 104.

26. In his interview with Norvell, Weiner explicitly noted that the transformation of the execution into part of the

representation was primarily motivated by an attempt to negate traditional concepts of the unique object and artist from

the art discourse: “In the utilization of just ‘natural materials,’ standard process materials and standard natural resources,

I can help eliminate the unique object. I can even eliminate the unique artist.” Ibid., p. 107.

27. See Brian O’Doherty, “The Gallery as a Gesture,” Artforum, 20:4 (December 1981), pp. 25–34; and O’Doherty,

Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (1986; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

28. Only a couple of years earlier, Roland Barthes theorized (and called for) this transition from author to reader

in “The Death of the Author”: “The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (p. 148).

29. Kosuth for instance explicitly acknowledged at the time that the ownership of his work was extremely difficult

to enforce: “The new work is not connected with a precious object—it’s accessible to as many people as are inter-

ested. . . . It can be dealt with by being torn out of its publication and inserted into a notebook or stapled to the wall—or

not torn out at all—but any such decision is unrelated to the art.” Joseph Kosuth, in Arthur R. Rose [pseud.], “Four In-

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6 terviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” Arts Magazine, 43:4 (February 1969); reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed.,

Idea Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973), pp. 145–146.

chapter f ive dematerialization

1. Robert Barry, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds., Recording Con-

ceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 93.

2. “Eight Young Artists,” at the Hudson River Museum from 11 to 25 October 1964, also featured work by Carl

Andre, Walter Darby Bannard, Robert Huot, Patricia Johanson, Antoni Milkowski, Douglas Ohlson, and Terrence Syver-

son. See Eugene C. Goossen, Eight Young Artists, exh. cat. (Yonkers, N.Y.: Hudson River Museum, 1964). Barry had met

Newman in the early 1960s through Tony Smith, the former’s M.F.A. advisor at Hunter College.

3. Elisabeth Stevens, Art News, 63:4 (November 1964), p. 53. The show, at the Westerly Gallery in New York City,

ran from 6 to 24 October 1964.

4. Lawrence Alloway, “Background to Systemic,” Art News, 65:6 (October 1966), p. 33.

5. Ibid., p. 32.

6. Sol LeWitt, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 113.

7. Orange Edges was first exhibited in the show titled “Distillation,” curated by Eugene Goossen for the Tibor

de Nagy and Stable galleries in 1966.

8. Eugene C. Goossen, “Distillation: A Joint Showing,” Artforum, 5:3 (November 1966), p. 33.

9. Michael Fried, Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella (Cambridge, Mass.: Fogg

Art Museum, 1965), p. 40: “[The] first black paintings . . . amounted to the most extreme statement yet made advocat-

ing the importance of the literal character of the picture-support for the determination of the pictorial structure.”

10. The show took place in the Stephen Radich Gallery.

11. Siegelaub had in fact met Barry a few years earlier. In the fall of 1964 when Barry had his first one-person show

at the Westerly Gallery on 56th Street in New York, he had stopped by Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art and introduced

himself to Siegelaub.

12. Robert Barry, interview with the author, 15 October 1992.

13. Robert Barry, Bradford Junior College symposium, 8 February 1968, in LRLARCH.

14. For example, one sculpture made for an interior space consisted of four bright red plastic cubes (one foot on

a side) forming a 20 x 20-foot field. Others were much larger and were explicitly meant for an exterior space. One of these

was made of four white plaster blocks (5 x 5 x 5 feet) arranged in a large square format (75 x 75 feet) in a broad, level,

open expanse of land.

15. One of the sculptures, for instance, featured a block placed in each of the four corners of the exhibition room,

and others presented blocks placed a few feet from each corner.

16. See Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture,” Artforum, 4:6 (February 1966); reprinted in Morris, Continuous Proj-

ect Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993), pp. 6–8.

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17. This is Robert Morris’s idea, introduced in “Notes on Sculpture,” 1966, and “Notes on Sculpture, Part 2,” 1966,

both reprinted in Morris, Continuous Project Altered Daily, pp. 1–8 and 11–21, respectively.

18. Barry has since discussed the way in which this painting accented the structural support: “My idea of paint-

ing was that those yellow squares, being put on the wall as delineating a virtual square or rectangle, were involving the

wall itself within the piece and, in this sense, compared to what is usually a work of art, a painting, this piece was some-

how reversing the usual terms of the esthetic proposition. Usually, you see the painting and you ignore the wall. Here you

had the wall coming through the painting—and the painting itself, the painted pieces, become a standpoint to make the

wall appear.” See Robert Barry, in René Denizot, “Discussion: René Denizot, Robert Barry,” It’s about time/Il est temps

(Paris: Yvon Lambert, 1980), p. 9. Indeed, a preoccupation with the delimiting structure of the frame characterized much

of Barry’s work of the late 1960s, as it did the work of Huebler and Weiner. Questioned, for example, during the Bradford

symposium about the nature of his work and the primary concerns that it sought to address, Barry singled out the idea

of extending the parameters of art beyond the frame: “I try to deal with things that maybe other people haven’t thought

about, emptiness, making a painting that isn’t a painting, or that deals with the wall around the painting. For years people

have been concerned with what goes on inside the frame. Well maybe there is something going on outside the frame that

could be considered as an artistic idea.” Barry, Bradford Junior College symposium, in LRLARCH.

19. In turn, the paintings generated a reconsideration of the traditions of viewing and reading works of art, and

questioned the notion that genuine art objects were in and of themselves complete, as Fried would assert in his attack

on minimalism in 1967. See Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” Artforum, 5:10 (June 1967), pp. 12–23; slightly re-

vised version in Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1968), pp. 116–147.

20. Robert Barry, in Robin White, “Interview with Robert Barry,” View, 1:2 (May 1978), p. 4.

21. Ibid.

22. Once the leader had fully run through the projector, Barry would leave it on for another minute, empty.

23. Barry, Bradford Junior College symposium, in LRLARCH.

24. Barry described his untitled piece at Windham College in the context of his films: “When I made movies,” he

explained, “I tried to use the auditorium and the darkness and the sound of the projector. They were an integral part

of my movies. . . . Here, . . . I wanted to use the land, circle it in some way, emphasize it, create something in proportion

to the buildings around it, to the piece of land itself.” Robert Barry, Windham College symposium, 30 April 1968, in


25. Ibid.

26. The work was thus purely invisible. As Barry explained, the only way it could be detected was with the aid of

a radio: “The wires were so thin and were in certain places stretched so high above the ground that it was virtually im-

possible to see them—or to photograph them. And from that I went to things that could be neither seen nor perceived in

any way. . . . I guess it was the first invisible art. It could not be perceived directly.” Barry, Bradford Junior College sym-

posium, in LRLARCH.

27. Robert Barry, in Ursula Meyer, “Conversation with Robert Barry, 12 October 1969,” in Meyer, Conceptual Art

(New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972), pp. 36–38.

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28. Robert Barry, in Arthur R. Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” Arts Maga-

zine, 43:4 (February 1969); reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Idea Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton,

1973), p. 142.

29. A case in point is Outdoor Monofilament Installation (1968), which consists of 65 feet by 43 feet of nylon

monofilament fastened to a large white house and surrounding trees on the property of the collectors, Mr. and Mrs. Robert

Topol of Mamaroneck, New York.

30. Robert Barry, in Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner,” p. 142. The dimen-

sions of this “object” were recorded in the catalogue in meters, megacycles, and watts: “10 meters; 28 megacycles;

180 watts.”

31. Barry, in Meyer, “Conversation with Robert Barry, 12 October 1969,” p. 37.

32. Barry exhibited an even more unconventional piece, 0.5 Microcurie Radiation Installation, which consisted

of a small amount of barium 133 buried in Central Park, New York, on 5 January 1969. Barium 133, a radioactive iso-

tope, slowly decays and emits radiation over time. According to the amount of barium 133 employed, the piece was

deemed to have a duration of approximately ten years, even though the work would continue to emit smaller amounts

of radiation into the atmosphere for much longer. As Barry explained to the critic Ursula Meyer later in 1969: “Radia-

tion waves are way up in the upper echelon of the electromagnetic wave spectrum; they are much shorter than light

waves. Light will stop at the wall. Radiation will go right through it. A radioactive isotope is an artificial material. It has—

what they call Zero time—beautiful expression! That is the time when it is created. On the label of the small plastic vial

in which it is contained, its ‘Zero time’ is printed. From that moment on it starts losing its energy. Now the ‘half-life’ in

this particular case was ten years, which means that every ten years its energy is decreased by half; but it goes on to in-

finity, it never goes to nothing. Some isotopes have a half-life of a millionth of a second, some have a half-life of four bil-

lion years and some of fifteen minutes: i.e., every fifteen minutes the energy is halved. But it never goes out of existence.

They are perfectly harmless. A world of things can be done with this incredible material. And it is just letting them do

what they are supposed to do. You cannot change a carrier or radiation wave; you can only know what it is supposed to

do and let it do it. That’s enough.” Barry, in Meyer, “Conversation with Robert Barry, 12 October 1969,” p. 38.

33. Carl Andre, in Phyllis Tuchman, “An Interview with Carl Andre,” Artforum, 8:10 (June 1970), pp. 59–60: “I

don’t think of them as flat. I think, in a sense, that each piece supports a column of air that extends to the top of the at-

mosphere. They’re zones. I hardly think of them as flat, any more than one would consider a country flat, just because if

you look at it on a map it appears flat. Again, obviously, they are flat but, that’s curious, I don’t think of them as being flat.”

34. On 3 March 1969 Barry and the patron went to a scientific supply shop and bought one liter of argon and one

of krypton, then traveled to an undesignated site and released the gases. The next day the two repeated the procedure,

this time with one liter of xenon, and on 5 March they released one cubic foot of helium.

35. Talking about this exhibition and the unusual materials employed, Barry said: “I chose to work with inert gas

because there was not the constant presence of a small object or device that produced the art. Inert gas is a material that

is imperceivable—it does not combine with any other element. . . . It goes ‘from measured volume to indefinite expan-

sion’. . . . It continues to expand forever in the atmosphere, constantly changing and it does all of this without anybody

being able to see it.” Barry, in Meyer, “Conversation with Robert Barry, 12 October 1969,” pp. 38–39. Barry continues:

“In the desert we released all kinds of gases: Neon and xenon, the so-called noble gases. The gas is purchased in gas



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flasks or tanks. The label on the Pyrex flask might read ‘2 liter Xenon’—yet you see nothing. You have to trust the manu-

facturer. When we released a tank in the desert—in the middle of nowhere—it made a whistling sound. That’s all we

know about its being there” (p. 39).

36. As Barry explained to Norvell, “you see, I sort of allow photographs because they sort of prove the point that

there was nothing to photograph.” Barry, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art,

p. 91. It should be stressed, however, that Barry did not allow any photographs to be shown in the initial exhibition of the


37. See Seth Siegelaub, organizational notes for the “Robert Barry/Inert Gas Series/April 1969” exhibition, in

SSARCH, Box 5, File 117. Six hundred posters were mailed.

38. Such advertising is egalitarian, not privileging any particular consumers. The editor of the trade journal Ad-

vertising Age sheds light on the ideological underpinnings of the “democratic” dimension of advertising: “I’ve always felt

that advertising is one of the greatest democratizers our society has ever known, for it brings the masses information on

new products and services formerly reserved for an elite. . . . What some critics object to, I’ve discovered, is not adver-

tising itself but the fact that it enables everyone to have access to the same information, thereby breaking down one more

barrier between the great unwashed and the self-proclaimed chosen few.” Rance Crain, “Advertising: The Brick and Mor-

tar of Our Economy,” Advertising Age, 30 April 1980, p. 1.

39. Baudrillard argues that spending—“shopping”—elevates the commodity form into sign value. Consumer ob-

jects can then create needs in advance of the consumer’s awareness of a need. See Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of

the Political Economy of the Sign, trans. Charles Levin (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1981), esp. pp. 204–212.

40. Jean Baudrillard, “Beyond the Vanishing Point of Art” (1988), in Paul Taylor, ed., Post-Pop Art (Cambridge,

Mass.: MIT Press, 1989), p. 178.

41. Ibid., p. 173.

42. Barbara Rose, “Why Read Art Criticism?,” New York, 3 March 1969, pp. 44–45.

43. Harold Rosenberg, “Adding Up: The Reign of the Art Market,” in Rosenberg, Art on the Edge (Chicago: Uni-

versity of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 276.

44. That there is a true conceptual art, as opposed to derivative work with conceptual aspects, has been most per-

suasively articulated by Charles Harrison in “Conceptual Art and the Suppression of the Beholder,” in Harrison, Essays

on Art & Language (1991; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 29–62. Harrison identifies genuine conceptual art

as “critical Conceptual art,” as against “post-Minimal” art with conceptual aspects. The latter is described as a branch

of the various “anti-formal” tendencies of the later 1960s that relaxed the ontological limits of art associated with the dom-

inant art-critical regime of modernism. Art of this sort, Harrison argues, was a secondary consequence to minimalism’s

qualitative shift away from the prioritization of painting and sculpture in modernism to objects, and subsequently, to post-

objects. Furthermore, the beholder of postminimalist conceptual art was reduced to witnessing passively the artists’ spec-

ulations and concepts, and was thereby disempowered to an unprecedented degree. This leads Harrison to maintain that

the aesthetic objects of postminimalism were subject to even more sophisticated forms of mystification than the typical

late modernist art objects. In contrast, “critical Conceptual art” (by which Harrison primarily means the work of Art & Lan-

guage) was not a consequence of minimalist theory, but rather a different response to the conditions minimalism had ad-

dressed. Like minimalism, critical conceptual art realized that if the historicist tendency of modernism was to be opposed,

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the competencies of the privileged beholder (i.e., the “adequately sensitive, adequately informed, spectator”) posited by

modernism would have to be challenged. This challenge was to be mounted, according to Harrison, by breaching the di-

vision between producers and explainers. Rather than produce an idea object as postminimalism had done, the task for

critical conceptual art was to puzzle discursively at the consequences and implications of abandoning the object alto-


While I do not necessarily want to take issue with most of what Harrison says about Art & Language (though I do dis-

agree with the claim that the practice of Art & Language was a development parallel rather than subsequent to minimal-

ism), I would argue that what he groups under the rubric of “post-Minimal Conceptual art” was in fact a broader and

more diverse range of artistic strategies and practices than can be encompassed by a single category. Furthermore, such

monolithic definitions of postminimalist conceptualism, combined with the emphasis placed on the mediation of mini-

malism by this conceptualist tendency, lead to formulations of the status of the art object and the role of the beholder in

conceptual art that in their narrowness are unable to take into account the equally important impact of other art move-

ments of the 1960s on conceptualism.

PART III artists’ rights and product management

1. Lucy Lippard, from Ursula Meyer, interview with Lucy Lippard, December 1969, LRLARCH.

2. Barbara Rose, “Why Read Art Criticism?,” New York, 3 March 1969, p. 44.

3. Gregory Battcock, “Painting Is Obsolete,” New York Free Press, 23 January 1969; reprinted in Alexander Al-

berro and Blake Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), p. 88.

4. Ibid. Emphasis in the original.

5. Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (1973; Berkeley: Uni-

versity of California Press, 1996), p. 263.

6. The 1968 Venice Biennial and the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, West Germany, that same year were met

with unprecedentedly large protests. For reports on these protests, see Joseph James Akston, “Editorial,” Arts Magazine,

43:1 (September-October 1968), p. 5; and Lil Picard, “Protest and Rebellion,” Arts Magazine, 44:7 (May 1970),

pp. 18–24.

7. Two days following the confrontation of 3 January 1969, Takis and his cohorts met with several other interested

artists and critics (including Battcock) in the downtown loft of the young art critic Willoughby Sharp. The group decided

to petition others to join them in another action at the museum if their request for an open hearing was not promptly

heeded. Meetings were then held every few days, and the faction grew exponentially. Lowry agreed to meet with six rep-

resentatives of the swelling movement later that month. In the days prior to the meeting, the artists and critics augmented

Takis’s four complaints into “Thirteen Demands,” expanding the conflict beyond the specific incident between Takis and

the Museum of Modern Art to the general state of relations between artists and museums. It was around these “Thirteen

Demands” that the soon-to-be-named Art Workers Coalition (AWC) was formed. For the “Thirteen Demands,” as sub-

mitted to Bates Lowry on 28 January 1969, see “Press Release: Artists Protest against Museum of Modern Art,” 14 March

1969, signed by Carl Andre, Hans Haacke, and Tom Lloyd, in Hans Haacke Archives, Art Workers Coalition file.



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8. Many in the growing movement sensed that one of the museum’s greatest fears was a prolonged sit-in by the

artists. Given what had happened in the wake of the large student sit-in at Columbia the previous spring, the perils of a

similar chain of events at the museum appeared to be great. As one observer noted at the time, “last year’s demonstra-

tions in the universities may take place this year in the museums. . . . No one should be surprised if the museums do be-

come such targets, though it is to be hoped for that works of art will not be damaged.” Alex Gross, “Artists Attack MOMA,”

East Village Other, 24 January 1969; reprinted in Art Workers Coalition, Documents, 1 (New York: Art Workers Coalition,

1969), p. 11.

9. The Art Workers Coalition began a concerted campaign to inform artists about these events, and about the

crucial importance of their coming together around these issues. Thus, for example, when Siegelaub, as moderator of a

March 1969 symposium at the New York Shakespeare Festival Theater (organized for the Student Mobilization Commit-

tee to End the War in Vietnam) entitled “Time,” asked Andre to begin the discussion, the latter responded with a plea to

fellow artists to join him in the creation of a new artists’ guild: “I think that it’s time that artists got together to recognize

their social power and social worth. I urge you all to consider joining together with a group of concerned artists called the

Art Workers’ Coalition that has already started to act so they can influence their own destinies rather than be subject to

the cultural institutions of our society. Every artist moans about the way he’s treated, and if we moan together maybe some

of the noise will be heard. That’s the time I feel most strongly right now.” Carl Andre, in “Time,” a symposium at the New

York Shakespeare Theater, moderated by Seth Siegelaub and including Carl Andre, Michael Cain, Douglas Huebler, and

Ian Wilson. Tape recording in LRLARCH. Some (edited) excerpts of this discussion appear in Lucy R. Lippard, “Time: A

Panel Discussion,” Art International, 13:9 (November 1969), p. 20.

Kosuth, who was by this time on the faculty of the SVA, was the intermediary between the AWC and Rhodes. That

very month, Kosuth employed essentially the same medium of offset printing Siegelaub was using for the exhibition and

dissemination of the works of the artists associated with him to produce a replica of the MoMA’s annual pass. Multiple

copies of the fake membership card were printed and openly distributed by Art Workers in front of the museum as an act

of agitation.

10. The flyer announcing the meeting, written, published, and widely distributed by the Public Hearing Commit-

tee of the Art Workers Coalition, stated that “every art worker who wishes to air his views will be permitted to make a state-

ment of his attitudes and complaints about all art institutions and conditions.” Open Hearing flyer, reprinted in Art

Workers Coalition, An Open Hearing (New York: Art Workers Coalition, 1969), n.p. Emphasis in the original.

11. Gregory Battcock, in Art Workers Coalition, An Open Hearing, n.p.

12. Ibid. The very deployment of negation in art was thus theorized as political, insofar as it was meant to suggest

and register the profound complicity of cultural institutions in the Vietnam War as a defense of Western values: some-

thing that also presupposes a high level of investment in official culture and high culture’s influential status in society as

an extension of state power.

13. Seth Siegelaub, in Art Workers Coalition, An Open Hearing, n.p.

14. As Kosuth asserted at the time, “The new work is not connected with the precious object—it’s accessible to

as many people as are interested.” Kosuth, in Arthur R. Rose [pseud.], “Four Interviews with Barry, Huebler, Kosuth,

Weiner,” Arts Magazine, 43:4 (February 1969); reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Idea Art: A Critical Anthology (New

York: E. P. Dutton, 1973), p. 146.

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15. Seth Siegelaub, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds., Recording Con-

ceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 39, 40.

16. Open Hearing flyer, reprinted in Art Workers Coalition, An Open Hearing, n.p. Emphasis in the original.

chapter six the xerox degree of art

1. Douglas Huebler, statement in Seth Siegelaub, January 5–31, 1969, exh. cat. (New York: Seth Siegelaub,

1969), n.p.

2. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967),

p. 123.

3. See Artforum, 7:3 (November 1968), p. 8.

4. See “The Xerox Book,” also known as Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt,

Robert Morris, Lawrence Weiner (New York: Seth Siegelaub & John Wendler, 1968).

5. To that extent, “The Xerox Book” performs three decades later many of the issues central to Walter Benjamin’s

“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936). In this seminal essay Benjamin unreservedly cele-

brates the available technology capable of enabling art to be truly democratized and made accessible to the masses. He

remains ambivalent about one crucial issue, however, which is the necessary loss of the “aura” of authenticity that oc-

curs in the process of mechanized reproduction. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Repro-

duction” (1936), in Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1968), pp. 217–251.

6. As they note, “‘Authorship’—in the sense we know it today, individual intellectual effort related to the book as

an economic commodity—was practically unknown before the advent of print technology. . . . The invention of printing

did away with anonymity, fostering ideas of literary fame and the habit of considering intellectual effort as private prop-

erty.” McLuhan and Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage, p. 122.

7. Bochner titled the photocopied working drawings Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not

Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art. They were first exhibited 2–23 December 1966 at the Visual Arts Gallery, The

School of Visual Arts, New York. See James Meyer, “The Second Degree: Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on

Paper Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art,” in Mel Bochner: Thought Made Visible 1966–1973 (New Haven: Yale

University Art Gallery, 1996), pp. 95–106. The Working Drawings project was recently documented in an edition pub-

lished on the occasion of the exhibition “Mel Bochner: Projets à l’étude: 1966–1996” at the Cabinet des estampes du

Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva (27 February–13 April 1997).

8. Besides copies of artists’ drawings, Bochner’s Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Nec-

essarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art included photocopied plans of the Visual Arts Gallery and a blueprint of the Xerox

machine used.

9. Bochner also used the technology of the duplicating machine as a conceptual component of his Working Draw-

ings installation at the Visual Arts Gallery. However, all of the copies were made by him—indeed, most of the artists par-

ticipating in the installation were not aware that their drawings would be duplicated. Furthermore, whereas Bochner’s

multiples (four identical volumes) remained part of an installation, “The Xerox Book” did not exist as an installation but

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10. According to Siegelaub, this meant involving the use of the procedure of “xerography in the communication

of art.” See Seth Siegelaub, letter to Louis Kellner, 9 September 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 110.

11. See Seth Siegelaub, memorandum dated 22 November 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 110.

12. Siegelaub, memorandum dated 22 November 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 110; and McLuhan and Fiore,

The Medium Is the Massage, p. 123.

13. Seth Siegelaub, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds., Recording Con-

ceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 39.

14. On 14 November Siegelaub wrote a letter to the head of the public relations department at the Xerox Corpo-

ration outlining the project and requesting that the Corporation cover the printing costs. “We are presently in the process

of producing a book which will be printed by your Xerox Systems Center in New York City,” wrote Siegelaub. “The book

consists of 25 drawings from each of 7 major contemporary American artists, and will be printed in a xerox/offset pro-

cess. The book implicitly deals with standard Xerox reproduction in the context of a valid fine art medium. The book will

be distributed to Museums, Universities and Art Institutions throughout the world.” Seth Siegelaub, letter to Mr. A. Zipser,

Public Relations Department, Xerox Corporation, 14 November 1968, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 110.

15. The initial Scatter Piece (1967) was made of small identical plastic blocks.

16. As was the case with his earlier scatter pieces, Andre’s project for “The Xerox Book” completely devalued a

single position or fixed point of view, functioning instead, to quote Graham once again, in an “inverse relation” to the tra-

dition of “pictorial linear perspective where the eye (from a fixed viewing position) penetrates inside the frame continu-

ously to reach the vanishing point at the core of the picture.” Dan Graham, “Carl Andre,” Arts Magazine, 42:3 (December

1967/January 1968), p. 35. Of course, the impulse that culminated in Andre’s scatter pieces begins with Mallarmé’s Un

coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897), Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages (1913), and the collages Jean Arp

produced in the mid-1910s according to the laws of chance.

17. Morris’s piece in this catalogue-exhibition also employed the principle of serial repetition, but it did not put into

practice a temporal dimension such as governed Barry’s One Million Dots. Morris used twenty-five identical reproduc-

tions of a photograph of the planet Earth from outer space. In the deadpan serial repetition there is no development of

form (in terms of line, shape, color relationships, and so on); no conventional linear part-by-part reading logic from one

image to another or from one page to another; no hierarchy of versions or order of facts or ideas within versions.

18. As LeWitt proclaimed in the text that accompanied his first serial work, the artist follows “his predetermined

premise to its conclusion avoiding subjectivity. Chance, taste, or unconsciously remembered forms . . . play no part in

the outcome. The serial artist does not attempt to produce a beautiful or mysterious object but functions merely as a clerk

cataloguing the results of his premise.” Sol LeWitt, “Serial Project No 1 (ABCD),” Aspen, 5–6 (Fall-Winter 1967), n.p.

19. The number one was a vertical line, two a horizontal line, three a diagonal right to left, and four a diagonal left

to right

20. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 42.

21. For instance, ten of the drawings consisted of two dots, A and B, a few inches apart and midway up the page.

Visually, the ten drawings appeared identical. But the captions below described them differently. In one case the caption

read: “A represents a point located 1,000,000,000 miles behind the picture plane. B represents a point located one inch

behind the picture plane.” The drawing thus brought language into visual experience and recognized the primary role

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language plays in constructing experience, especially when compared to visuality. The potential of language to open the

work up to a large number of people was further amplified by the translation into three languages.

22. See Sol LeWitt, “All Wall Drawings,” Arts Magazine, 46:4 (February 1972), pp. 39–44. The instructions I cite

are from the wall drawing made for the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, January 1970, as cited on p. 40.

23. Lawrence Weiner, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art,

pp. 104–105.

24. Ibid., p. 105.

25. Ibid., p. 102.

26. See LeWitt, “Serial Project No 1 (ABCD),” n.p. One could also draw an interesting link between Kosuth’s work

for “The Xerox Book” and Robert Morris’s Card File (1962). Like Kosuth’s work for “The Xerox Book” which employs the

record of an activity, the mere notation of materials, as the work itself, Morris’s Card File consists of a file of index cards

on which all of the steps, materials, and events that were integral to the production of this object were meticulously


27. McLuhan and Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage, p. 123.

28. Writers and media theorists as diverse as Marshall McLuhan and Hans Magnus Enzensberger acknowledged

the importance of the photocopy machine in the 1960s. See Enzensberger’s “Constituents of a Theory of the Media”

(1970), in Enzensberger, The Consciousness Industry: On Literature, Politics and the Media (New York: Seabury Press,

1974), pp. 95–128.

29. Seth Siegelaub, from Ursula Meyer, interview with Seth Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH. Siegelaub

continues later in the interview: “My interest in art transcends the present establishment’s limited art collector’s scope of

communications. . . . For me power is not recorded in dollars and cents. This is very important. It does not have to do

with things I control but has to do with things I am in a position to make happen.”

30. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 32.

31. Ibid., p. 40.

32. Importantly, the catalogues signaled (and publicized) those works that were already in private collections and

therefore not available for sale.

33. See Herbert Zeltner, “Proliferation, Specialization Mark Media Trends in Past Fifty Years,” Advertising Age,

30 April 1980, p. 155. Several reports indicate that Siegelaub’s employment of advanced forms of advertising seem to

have gotten ahead of his entire marketing operation. As Siegelaub’s then-companion Lucy Lippard recalled in an early

1970s discussion of Huebler’s first “Conceptual ‘show’,” what those people who tracked down the address in search of

a gallery would find was anything but a slick merchandising operation: “The catalogue alone communicated the art to its

audience by mail. The map pieces and ‘site sculptures’ tended to baffle those who received it, especially those who tried

to visit the ‘gallery’ to see the ‘real’ art, only to be met at the door of a rather seedy apartment by the rather seedy ‘dealer’

(Seth Siegelaub) in his usual working costume—bathing suit or undershorts.” Lucy R. Lippard, “Everything about Every-

thing,” Art News, 71 (December 1972), p. 29.

34. Allan Kaprow, “Pop Art: Past, Present and Future,” Malahat Review, 3 (July 1967); reprinted in Carol Ann

Mahsun, ed., Pop Art: The Critical Dialogue (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989), p. 72.



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35. Admittedly, large silkscreen editions were a step in expanding the accessibility of the work of art, but they were

still limited editions, and certainly priced at much higher than the $20 for which “The Xerox Book” sold.

36. Kaprow, “Pop Art: Past, Present and Future,” pp. 72–74.

37. Seth Siegelaub, from Elayne Varian, interview with Seth Siegelaub, June 1969. Tape recording in Finch Col-

lege Museum of Art papers, Archives of American Art.

38. Jean Baudrillard, “Beyond the Vanishing Point of Art” (1988), in Paul Taylor, ed., Post-Pop Art (Cambridge,

Mass.: MIT Press, 1989), p. 173.

39. Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” p. 224.

40. Baudrillard, “Beyond the Vanishing Point of Art,” p. 176.

41. Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s observation from 1970 about the media determinism of conceptual art remains

relevant for much art practice today: “Short cuts, of the kind Concept Art peddles,” writes Enzensberger, “are based on

the banal and false conclusion that the development of the productive forces renders all work superfluous. With the same

justification, one could leave a computer to its own devices on the assumption that a random generator will organize ma-

terial production by itself.” Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media,” p. 128.

42. See Daniel Buren, “Critical Limits” (1970), trans. Laurent Sauerwein, in Buren, Five Texts (New York: John

Weber Gallery; London: Jack Wendler Gallery, 1973), p. 52

43. Siegelaub, from Meyer, interview with Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH.

chapter seven the siegelaub idea

1. Seth Siegelaub, as cited in David L. Shirey, “Impossible Art—What Is It?,” Art in America, 57:3 (May/June

1969), p. 39.

2. John Perreault, “It’s Only Words,” Village Voice, 20 May 1971; reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Idea Art: A

Critical Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973), pp. 137–138.

3. The form letter sent to artists inviting them to participate in the “March Show” is dated 21 January 1969. See

SSARCH, Box 5, File 120. Siegelaub began planning for “Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris” as early as 16 November 1968.

See Seth Siegelaub, double entry ledger, January 1968–December 1969, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 109.

4. Seth Siegelaub, interview with Patricia Norvell, in Alexander Alberro and Patricia Norvell, eds., Recording Con-

ceptual Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 39.

5. As Siegelaub noted to Norvell in April 1969, “by making a piece that is an unlimited edition of, say, a million

copies in the case of big newspapers, or something like that, you’ve ready made your art; you’ve extended your art to a

million people.” Ibid., p. 40.

6. Ibid., p. 51.

7. Ibid., p. 38.

8. Ibid., p. 52.

9. Seth Siegelaub, in “On Exhibitions and the World at Large, Seth Siegelaub in Conversation with Charles Harri-

son, September 1969,” Studio International, 178:917 (December 1969); reprinted in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stim-

son, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), p. 201.

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10. As he put it, “it’s now getting to the point where a man can live in Africa and make great art,” by which he

meant actively participate in the avant-garde art world. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds.,

Recording Conceptual Art, p. 52.

11. In a footnote to “The Industrialization of the Mind,” Enzensberger notes: “No matter how ingenious, no mat-

ter how shrewd and fresh some of [McLuhan’s] observations may seem, his understanding of media hardly deserves the

name of a theory. His cheerful disregard of their social and political implications is pathetic. It is all too easy to see why

the slogan ‘The medium is the message’ has met with unbounded enthusiasm on the part of the media, since it does

away, by a quick fix worthy of a cardsharp, with the question of truth. Whether the message is a lie or not has become ir-

relevant, since in the light of McLuhanism truth itself resides in the very existence of the medium, no matter what it may

convey: the proof of the network is in the network. It is a pity Goebbels had not lived to see this redemption of his oeuvre.”

Enzensberger, “The Industrialization of the Mind” (1962), in his The Consciousness Industry: On Literature, Politics and

the Media (New York: Seabury Press, 1974), p. 171, n. 3.

12. Perreault, “It’s Only Words,” p. 137.

13. See David Held, ed., A Globalizing World? Culture, Economics, Politics (London: Routledge, 2000),

pp. 49–54. Hardt and Negri describe this compression as a quintessential effect of postmodernization: “In the post-

modernization of global economy, the creation of wealth tends ever more to what we will call biopolitical production, the

production of social life itself, in which the economic, the political, and the cultural increasingly overlap and invest one

another.” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. xiii. In this

regard, also see Fredric Jameson, “Transformations of the Image in Postmodernity,” in Jameson, The Cultural Turn: Se-

lected Writings on the Postmodern 1983–1998 (London: Verso, 1998).

14. Morris’s work, There Are Two Temperatures: One Outside, One Inside (1969), was presented in two parts. Mor-

ris gave Siegelaub instructions to have a 4 x 8-inch stamp made with the title of the piece enclosed by a rectangular black

line with rounded corners. The stamp was then applied to every brown paper towel placed in dispensers in the gallery

building’s washrooms. According to Morris, “the washroom was selected because of the paper towels. Because of how

they are peeled off like the layers of an artichoke. Because of the low keyed delivery. Like a soft, damp, linguistic whis-

per accompanying the wiping. A kind of rustling of words around the hands that reminded of the perpetual banishment

of stasis, of two faces in one: motion and heat. A reminder of that inseparable bond between life and heat, and of that

vague anxiety just out of sight that could have appeared as the crumpled towel fell silently into the receptacle—heat death

but a few million years away.” Robert Morris, correspondence with the author, 31 December 1994. At the same time, a

log documented the daily temperature inside the washrooms as well as the temperature outside of the building during

this show. The log was displayed in the gallery, and every day of the exhibition the temperatures were written in.

Kosuth exhibited another part of his Second Investigation, section II of the first class of Roget’s Synopsis of Cate-

gories, “Relation,” that consisted of three parts: “A. Absolute Relation; B. Partial Relation; and C. Correspondence of Re-

lationship.” This information was presented in the catalogue, where Kosuth also indicated that each part of the category

“Relation” would appear separately and anonymously in a different local publication. The latter included the Lawrence

Eagle-Tribune (3 March 1969), The Quill (20 March 1969), and the Haverhill Gazette (31 March 1969).

15. Seth Siegelaub, from Ursula Meyer, interview with Seth Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH.

16. See “One Month,” also known as March 1–31, 1969 (New York: Seth Siegelaub, 1969).



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17. Instead, the work consisted solely of “verbal information” presented in the catalogue, printed in an edition of

2,000 and distributed free of charge. See Seth Siegelaub, notes, in SSARCH, Box 5, File 120.

18. Seth Siegelaub, as cited in Shirey, “Impossible Art—What Is It?,” p. 39. Italics mine. For “One Month,” Siege-

laub sent each of the artists a form letter describing the project and asking that they return to him by post “any relevant

information regarding the nature of the ‘work’” to be published in the catalogue. See Seth Siegelaub, form letter sent to

artists inviting them to participate in “March Show,” dated 21 January 1969, SSARCH, Box 5, File 120. An index of the

thirty-one artists, listed alphabetically, was included in the letter, and Siegelaub went down the list assigning each a day

in the month of March. The catalogue begins with a copy of Siegelaub’s form letter to the artists. The latter are given

three choices: (1) to have their names listed, with a description of their “work” and/or relevant information; (2) to have

their names listed with no other information; and (3) not to have their names listed at all. The artists who did not re-

spond were Carl Andre, Michael Asher, Dan Flavin, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, and Ed Ruscha. But ac-

cording to Siegelaub, for some of these the very fact of not responding was their participation. As Siegelaub recollected

a few months later: “With the March Show I gave each of the artists a day, which was quite presumptuous. And a lot of

people did great things, but there was also absolute terrible shit in there. But I wasn’t really concerned about that. That’s

their responsibility. . . . In all, there were seven people who didn’t participate with a reply. But some of them consider

themselves to have participated just by keeping the page blank, whereas others abstained not wanting anything to do

with the damn thing. That’s their decision, I don’t really care. Some of them felt very uptight about being sent a mimeo-

graphed letter, and they didn’t want to participate because they wanted a more personal approach.” Siegelaub, inter-

view with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 36.

19. In contrast to an object, “it’s not something you have to wait to see until it comes to you.” Siegelaub, from

Meyer, interview with Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH. It was precisely in facilitating the rapid communication

of ideas that the new media were particularly adept. As he explained to Meyer, “Whereas it took years to get a work to Eu-

rope or California, now it takes a telephone call. . . . The idea of swift communication implies that no one has anything.”


20. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 46.

21. Jean Baudrillard, “The Art Auction: Sign Exchange and Sumptuary Value,” in Baudrillard, For a Critique of the

Political Economy of the Sign, trans. Charles Levin (1972; St. Louis: Telos Press, 1981), pp. 115–116.

22. See “Simon Fraser Exhibition,” also known as May 19–June 19, 1969 (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University,

1969). The artists who particpated in this exhibition included Terry Atkinson, Michael Baldwin, Robert Barry, Iain Baxter,

Jan Dibbets, Stephen Kaltenbach, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, and Douglas Huebler. The exhibition cat-

alogue is distinct from Siegelaub’s previous projects insofar as it is clearly divided into two sections. Section One, “Cata-

logue,” presents a list of the artists, followed by the titles and dates of their works. In some cases, a brief description of the

work is included. Some of the descriptions focus on the materials, others on the temporal process of making, and yet oth-

ers on both. Thus for example Dibbets’s Perspective Correction (1969) is described as a 31/2 x 51/2-inch printed postcard,

whereas Barry’s Telepathic Piece (1969) is described as follows: “During the exhibition I shall try to communicate tele-

pathically a work of art, the nature of which is a series of thoughts; they are not applicable to language or image.” In the

case of others, such as Huebler’s Duration Piece #8 (1968), both the material (“rubbed surfaces”) and the temporal pro-

cess of making (“32 days”) are described. For most, however, only the title and date of the piece are acknowledged. These

notes to p

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include Atkinson and Baldwin’s two pieces, Hot Warm Cool Cold (1967) and 22 Sentences: The French Army (1968),

Kaltenbach’s Life Drama (1969), Kosuth’s VIII. Eventuality (Art as Idea as Idea) (1968), and Weiner’s A Rubber Ball Thrown

at the Sea (1969). Section Two, “Presentation,” provides information on the means/method through which each piece is

to be communicated during the exhibition. Some of this information is brief, such as that signaling Barry’s contribution:

“At the conclusion of the exhibition (June 19, 1969), the information about the work of art was made known in this cata-

logue,” or Weiner’s piece, which reported that on 23 May 1969 the words “a rubber ball thrown at the sea” were typed in

block letters immediately above the artist’s name on an 81/2 x11-inch sheet of white paper with Simon Fraser University let-

terhead, photocopied, and “distributed in the mailboxes of all students and faculty members and mailed out to all inter-

ested parties.”

23. See Seth Siegelaub, letter to James W. Feltner, 15 April 1969, in SSARCH, Box 4, File 73.

24. The teleconference took place on 17 June 1969 at 12 p.m. local (Vancouver) time.

25. Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media,” in Enzensberger, The Consciousness

Industry, p. 97. See Bertolt Brecht, “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication” (1926), in John Hanhardt, eds.,

Video Culture: A Critical Investigation (Rochester, N.Y.: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1986), pp. 53–55.

26. Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media,” p. 97. Brecht remarked on the same problem in 1926

when he stated, “Radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That

is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit.” Brecht, “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communi-

cation,” p. 53.

27. Enzensberger is quick to note that communist societies are no different from capitalist in thwarting the full re-

ciprocal and therefore political potential of communication apparatuses in order to maintain as much control over infor-

mation as possible.

28. Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media,” p. 100.

29. The exhibition was initially to include thirteen artists, each of whom was asked to “make one work in one lo-

cation anywhere in the world.” Seth Siegelaub, form letter, 16 April 1969, in SSARCH, Box 4, File 75. Siegelaub outlined

how he envisioned the exhibition in a letter to J. Patrick Lannan, 21 April 1969, in SSARCH, Box 4, File 75, requesting

that the latter consider underwriting the show: “The exhibition is the first of its kind, and one of its purposes is to (im-

plicitly) articulate a certain international sensibility that I have sensed among artists throughout the world. . . . The na-

ture of the exhibition transcends any of the traditional sources of patronage (i.e. museums), because the art will be

located in many different places, and not brought together under the (traditional) museum roof.” Only Baldwin and Atkin-

son, who had begun to separate themselves from what they considered “impure” or “existential” conceptual art, refused

Siegelaub’s invitation. Their recalcitrance is significant because it indicates that already by the spring of 1969 the notion

of what could properly be termed “conceptual art” was in dispute. For an early statement of the differences between

Atkinson and Baldwin and the artists associated with Seth Siegelaub, see Terry Atkinson, “From an Art & Language Point

of View,” Art-Language, 1:2 (February 1970), pp. 25–60.

30. Andre’s piece was in The Hague, Barry’s in Baltimore, Buren’s in Paris, Dibbets’s in Amsterdam, Huebler’s in

Los Angeles, Kosuth’s in Portales, New Mexico, LeWitt’s in Düsseldorf, Long’s in Bristol, England, Iain Baxter’s in Van-

couver, Smithson’s in the Yucatán peninsula, and Weiner’s in Niagara Falls.



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notes to p

ages 15




931. Echoing the “Douglas Huebler: November 1968” exhibition, the catalogue for the “July, August, September

1969” show also featured a map on the cover. In keeping with the expanded scope of Siegelaub’s exhibition practices,

however, rather than presenting a map of the United States as had been the case in the earlier catalogue-exhibition, this

one featured a map of the world.

32. Siegelaub, from Meyer, interview with Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH.

33. By mid-1969 the theme of decentralization and the fabulous potential of the increased speed and breadth of

communications had become the central motivating force of Siegelaub’s exhibition practices. “Part of what’s going on

and prompted me to do this show that I’ll be doing during the summer,” he observed in an interview while organizing the

“July, August, September 1969” show, “is the idea that information is going back and forth so quickly. I like that idea and

can see myself working in this area very much, being able to ship not things but ideas and people, and ideas about things

all over the world very, very quickly. . . . I’d kind of like to spend the time, as I will in the next few months, to begin work-

ing on something that will really begin to speed up the communications abroad, people abroad, ideas going back and

forth.” Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 52.

34. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Simon and Schuster,

1967), p. 16.

35. See John Perreault, “Disturbances,” Village Voice, 23 January 1969, pp. 14, 18; Gregory Battcock, “Painting

Is Obsolete,” New York Free Press, 23 January 1969, p. 7; Rosalind Constable, “The New Art: Big Ideas for Sale,” New

York, 10 March 1969; Lil Picard, “Art,” East Village Other, 7 February 1969, p. 13; Dore Ashton, “New York Commen-

tary,” Studio International, 177:909 (March 1969), p. 136; Peter Frank, “Variations (VI or Merz(bau) or Whatever,”

Barnard Bulletin, 19 February 1969, p. 7; Grace Glueck, “Art Notes,” New York Times, 16 March 1969; Leo Lerman,

“Export Import: The Siegelaub Idea,” Mademoiselle, June 1969, pp. 116–117; Don McDonagh, “Oh Wall!,” Financial

Times, 16 July 1969.

36. “Bets for the 70s,” Vogue, 155:1 (1 January 1970), pp. 149–150.

37. Lerman, “Export Import,” p. 117. Siegelaub expressed an awareness of this phenomenon in a December

1969 interview with Charles Harrison: “SS: By keeping the exhibition situation as uniform as possible for each and all of

the artists in the exhibition and not relying on outside verbal information like catalogue introductions, thematic titles, etc.,

I’ve tried to avoid prejudicing the viewing situation. CH: This holds good as long as no one can begin to identify a ‘house

style’ in what you do. SS: True. Failure is imminent. Unfortunately over a period of twenty exhibitions one begins to be-

come the theme and the cement; which begins to be as offensive as prefaces, thematic titles, etc.” “On Exhibitions and

the World at Large, Seth Siegelaub in Conversation with Charles Harrison,” pp. 200–201.

38. Witness the following exchange between Stephen Kaltenbach and Patricia Norvell concerning Siegelaub: “PN:

He’s becoming an artist, although he won’t say that. SK: No, he won’t admit it. I’ve tried to get him to admit it.” Stephen

Kaltenbach, interview with Patricia Norvell, 24 May 1969, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 83.

39. Barbara Rose, “Why Read Art Criticism?,” New York, 3 March 1969, p. 44.

40. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 43.

41. Elayne Varian, interview with Seth Siegelaub, June 1969. Tape recording in Finch College Museum of Art

papers, Archives of American Art. Siegelaub continues: “I’m very much concerned about the communication between

Page 227: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity


0 artists here and in Europe. . . . I would want to be able to create a fabric whereby they can participate in the community

as quickly and as equally as possible. It’s not a question of getting involved in the New York scene, which I think stinks,

rather I want to equalize that. Also, the European art is much more politically aware of what’s going on.”

42. Siegelaub, interview with Norvell, in Alberro and Norvell, eds., Recording Conceptual Art, p. 50.

43. Siegelaub, from Meyer, interview with Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH.

44. Seth Siegelaub, “Statement of Condition,” 9 May 1969, a memorandum sent to potential sponsors requesting

money to underwrite his future activities; in SSARCH, Box 1, File 3.

45. These included Dibbets, Buren, Kosuth, N.E. Thing Co., Kaltenbach, Ruscha, Atkinson, Baldwin, Weiner, Wil-

son, and Huot. See Konrad Fischer, letter to Seth Siegelaub, 11 June 1969, in SSARCH, Box 1, File 7. Also see Seth

Siegelaub, letter to Konrad Fischer, 27 June 1969, in SSARCH, Box 1, File 9.

46. Fischer and Harten argued that “although we find the suggestion good and the choice of artists excellent, . . .

this sort of presentation by one person does not meet this year’s conception of PROSPECT.” See Konrad Fischer, letter

to Seth Siegelaub, 7 July 1969, in SSARCH, Box 1, File 9.

47. As he explained to Ursula Meyer in the fall of 1969: “For the last few years I have been interested in getting a

certain type of art out into the world. One of the things you have to do is to promote the interest of specific artists. Now I

much prefer to push the interest of art rather than pushing artists, making possible situations in which artists can show

their work. But I no longer want to be responsible for the selection of artists. I prefer to make it possible for other people

to do the type of exhibition they want to do by providing these people with organizational and financial support.” Siege-

laub, from Meyer, interview with Siegelaub, November 1969, in LRLARCH.

48. Seth Siegelaub, letter to Harald Szeemann, 5 July 1969, in SSARCH Box 1, File 7.

49. For an overview of the large “kaleidoscopic” shows of 1969–1970, see Ian Jeffery, “Art Theory and the De-

cline of the Object,” Studio International, 186:961 (December 1973), pp. 267–271; and Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-

Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), esp. 236–255.

50. Lawrence Alloway, “Art,” The Nation, 7 April 1969, p. 446.

51. See Allan Kaprow, “Pop Art: Past, Present and Future,” Malahat Review, 3 (July 1967); reprinted in Carol Ann

Mahsun, ed., Pop Art: The Critical Dialogue (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989), pp. 72–74.

52. See letters, dated 8 July 1968, sent by Seth Siegelaub to six collectors, including J. Patrick Lannan, John Pow-

ers, et al., in SSARCH, Box 5, File 118.

53. Siegelaub: “We feel that this Agreement form will, in a few months, be the standard instrument for the trans-

fer of all contemporary art. We would like to make it as simple, fair and useful as possible. To do so, we would like your

comments and opinions.” Siegelaub, “Artists Reserved Rights Sale Agreement,” dated 30 January 1971, in SSARCH,

Box 1, File 26.

54. Seth Siegelaub, in “The Artist’s Contract: An Interview with Seth Siegelaub and Bob Projansky,” New York El-

ement, 2:5 (June-July 1971), p. 8: “We are making the plates for the contract forms and the explanatory material avail-

able without charge to any school, museum, magazine, institution—anyone—who wants to reproduce and distribute

them. They are now being translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish, and will soon be distributed in art mag-

Page 228: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

azines and in the form of a poster. By the end of this year practically everyone in the art world will have seen this mate-

rial and should be familiar with or at least aware of the contract.”

55. Seth Siegelaub, “The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement,” Studio International, 181:932

(April 1971), p. 144. The first publication of the Agreement (with an explanatory preface by Siegelaub) was in ibid.,


56. Independent of its actual value and therefore possible resale profits, a work of art can be profitable in other

ways, e.g., at exhibitions or by reproduction, either as postcards, printed copies, or in the various forms on sale at mu-

seums, art galleries, and specialty shops. These profits can be high, and consequently the payments made to the artist

employing the Agreement could be substantial. In the Agreement, the artist reserves all the reproduction and copying

rights, which includes the right to authorize reproduction (intellectual property) and to receive payments for this. The right

to exhibit the work is divided between the artist and the owner.

57. Siegelaub, “Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement,” p. 142: “The Agreement is designed to

give the artist: 15% of any increase in the value of each work each time it is transferred in the future; a record of who

owns each work at any given time; the right to be notified when the work is to be exhibited, so the artist can advise upon

or veto the proposed exhibition of his/her work; the right to borrow the work for exhibition for 2 months every five years

(at no cost to the owner); the right to be consulted if repairs become necessary; half of any rental income paid to the

owner for the use of the work at exhibitions, if there ever is any; all reproduction rights in the work. The economic bene-

fits would accrue to the artist for life, plus the life of a surviving spouse (if any) plus 21 years, so as to benefit the artist’s

children while they are growing up. The artist would maintain aesthetic control only for his/her lifetime.”

58. As the dealer André Emmerich states: “It would be the death to the art business.” See Douglas Davis, “New

Deal for Art?,” Newsweek, 29 March 1971, p. 67.

59. Siegelaub, “Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement,” p. 143.

60. Ibid. Siegelaub continues: “Before the work is delivered, be sure that a copy of the NOTICE is affixed to the


61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

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Denizot, René. “La limite du concept.”

Opus International, 17 (April 1970), pp. 14–16.

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Diamondstein, Barbaralee.

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6 Dimaggio, Paul, and Michael Unseem. “Cultural

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Dimaggio, Paul, and Michael Unseem. “Social Class and

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selected b




7Graham, Dan. Rock My Religion: Writings and Art

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Haug, W. F. Critique of Commodity Aesthetics:

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8 Jeffery, Ian. “Art Theory and the Decline of the Art


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Junker, Howard. “The New Sculpture: Getting Down

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Kosuth, Joseph. Art after Philosophy and After:

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Kosuth, Joseph, and Christine Kozlov. “Ad Reinhardt:

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Unpublished typescript for the School of Visual Arts,

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Kozloff, Max. “9 in a Warehouse: An Attack on the

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Kramer, Hilton. “Are We Fed Up with the Artist?

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Kramer, Hilton. “Art: Xeroxophilia Rages out of Control.”

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selected b




9Krauss, Rosalind E. “A Voyage on the North Sea”:

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Kristeva, Julia. Revolution in Poetic Language.

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New York: Seth Siegelaub with the Louis Kellner

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McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy:

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VH 101, no. 3 (Autumn 1970), pp. 1–53.

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Naifeh, Stephen W. Culture Making: Money, Success

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London: Reaktion Books, 1999.


Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1970.

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Page 238: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

O’Connor, Francis V. “Notes on Patronage: The 1960s.”

Artforum, 11 (September 1972), pp. 52–56.

O’Doherty, Brian, ed. Aspen, 5–6 (Fall-Winter 1967).

O’Doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of

the Gallery Space.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

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Owens, Craig. Beyond Recognition: Representation,

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Ed. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tillman, and Jane

Weinstock. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

Peck, Abe. Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times

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New York: Citadel Press, 1991.

Perreault, John. “Art: Whose Art?”

Village Voice, 9 January 1969, p. 17.

Perreault, John. “Disturbances.”

Village Voice, 23 January 1969, pp. 14, 18.

Perreault, John. “A Minimal Future?—Union Made:

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Arts Magazine, 41:5 (March 1967), pp. 26–31.

Picard, Lil. “Protest and Rebellion.”

Arts Magazine, 44:1 (May 1970), pp. 18–24.

Pincus-Witten, Robert. “Theatre of the Conceptual:

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Artforum, 12:2 (October 1973), pp. 40–46.

Ratcliff, Carter. “New York Letter: Spring (Part I).”

Art International, 25:4 (20 April 1971), pp. 25–28, 31, 69.

Ratcliff, Carter. “New York Letter: Spring (Part II).”

Art International, 25:5 (20 May 1971), pp. 32–39, 45.

Ratcliff, Carter. “New York Letter: Spring Part III


Art International, 25:6 (20 June 1971), pp. 94–99,


Reitlinger, Gerald. The Economics of Taste. Vol. 3:

The Art Market in the 1960s.

London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1970.

selected b




1Report on the Activities of the N. E. Thing Co. at the

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and Other

Locations, June 4–July 6.

Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1969.

Robert Morris.

Exh. cat. Washington: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1969.

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Exh. cat. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,


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Artforum, 4:3 (November 1965), p. 35.

Rose, Barbara. “The Politics of Art, Part III.”

Artforum, 7:9 (May 1969), pp. 31–36.

Rose, Barbara. “Why Read Art Criticism?”

New York, 3 March 1969, p. 44.

Rosenberg, Harold. “The American Action Painters.”

Art News (December 1952), pp. 22–23, 48–50.

Rosenberg, Harold. Art on the Edge: Creators and


New York: Macmillan, 1975.

Rosenberg, Harold. “De-Aestheticization.”

New Yorker, 24 January 1970, pp. 62–67.

Rosenberg, Harold. The De-Definition of Art:

Action Art to Pop to Earthworks.

New York: Horizon Press, 1972.

Rublowsky, John. Pop Art.

New York: Basic Books, 1965.

Rush, Richard M. Art as an Investment.

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Page 239: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

Sayres, Sohnya, Anders Stephanson, et al., eds.

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Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

Schell, Jonathan. The Time of Illusion.

New York: Knopf, 1976.

Schiller, Herbert I. Culture, Inc.: The Corporate Takeover

of Public Expression.

New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Schwartz, Theresa. “The Politicalization of the Avant-


Art in America, 59 (November 1971), pp. 96–105.

Schwartz, Theresa. “The Politicalization of the Avant-

Garde: Part II.”

Art in America, 60 (March 1972), pp. 70–79.

Schwartz, Theresa. “The Politicalization of the Avant-

Garde: Part III.”

Art in America, 61 (March 1973), pp. 67–71.

Schwartz, Theresa. “The Politicalization of the Avant-

Garde: Part IV.”

Art in America, 62 (January/February 1974), pp. 80–84.

Schwarz, Dieter, ed. Lawrence Weiner: Books 1968–


Cologne: Walter König; Villeurbanne: Le Nouveau Musée,


Sharp, Willoughby. “An Interview with Dennis


Studio International, 182:983 (November 1971),

pp. 186–193.

Sharp, Willoughby. “Lawrence Weiner at Amsterdam:

Interview with Willoughby Sharp.”

Avalanche, 4 (Spring 1972), pp. 66–73.

Shirey, David L. “Impossible Art—What Is It?”

Art in America, 57:3 (May-June 1969), pp. 32–47.

Siegel, Jeanne, ed. Artwords: Discourse on the 60s

and 70s.

New York: Da Capo Press, 1985.


2 Siegelaub, Seth. “The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer

and Sale Agreement.”

Studio International, 181:932 (April 1971), pp. 142–144.

Siegelaub, Seth. Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas

Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris,

Lawrence Weiner.

[“The Xerox Book.”] New York: Seth Siegelaub & John

Wendler, 1968.

Siegelaub, Seth. 18 Paris IV. 70.

Paris: Seth Siegelaub, 1970.

Siegelaub, Seth. January 5–31, 1969.

New York: Seth Siegelaub, 1969.

Siegelaub, Seth. Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris.

Bradford, Mass.: Bradford Junior College, 1969.

Siegelaub, Seth. “July-August 1970.”

Studio International, 180:924 (July-August 1970), pp. 1–

48. Also published as July/August Exhibition Book. London:

Studio International and Seth Siegelaub, 1970.

Siegelaub, Seth. July, August, September 1969.

New York: Seth Siegelaub, 1969.

Siegelaub, Seth. March 1–31, 1969.

[“One Month.”] New York: Seth Siegelaub, 1969.

Siegelaub, Seth. “Reply to Benjamin Buchloh on

Conceptual Art.”

October, 57 (Summer 1991), pp. 155–157.

Siegelaub, Seth, and Armand Mattelart, eds.

Communication and Class Struggle.

2 vols. New York: International General, 1979.

Smith, Owen. Fluxus: The History of an Attitude.

San Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1998.

Smithson, Robert. Robert Smithson:

The Collected Writings.

Ed. Jack Flam. Berkeley: University of California Press,


Smithson, Robert. The Writings of Robert Smithson.

Ed. Nancy Holt. New York: New York University Press,


Page 240: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

“Sold Out Art: More Buyers than Ever Sail in to a

Broadening Market.”

Life 55 (20 September 1963), pp. 125–129.

Solomon, Alan. New York: The New Art Scene.

New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.

Staniszewski, Mary Anne. “Conceptual Supplement.”

Flash Art, 143 (November-December 1988), pp. 88–117.

Steigerwald, David. The Sixties and the End of

Modern America.

New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Stemmrich, Gregor. “Minimal Art—Underlying


In Minimal Art and Its Influence on International Art of the

1990s. Exh. cat. Ed. Peter Friese. Bremen: Neues

Museum Weserburg, 1998.

Taylor, Paul, ed. Post-Pop Art.

Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989.

Toffler, Alvin. The Culture Consumers: A Study of Art

and Affluence in America.

New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964.

Trini, Tommaso. “Intervista con Ian Wilson/ Ian Wilson,

an Interview.”

Data, 1:1 (September 1971), pp. 32–34.

Tuchman, Phyllis. “An Interview with Carl Andre.”

Artforum, 8:10 (June 1970), pp. 55–61.


Exh. cat. Buenos Aires: Centro de Arte y Comunicación,


“Vanity Fair: The New York Art Scene.”

Newsweek, 4 January 1965, pp. 54–59.

Varian, Elayne H. “New Dealing.”

Art in America, 8 (January-February 1970), pp. 68–73.

Waldman, Diane. “Holes without History.”

Art News, 70 (May 1971), pp. 45–47, 66–67.

Wall, Jeff. Dan Graham’s Kammerspiel.

Toronto: Art Metropole, 1991.

selected b




3When Attitudes Become Form: Works—Concepts—


Live in Your Head.

Exh. cat. Bern: Kunsthalle, 1969.

White, Harrison C., and Cynthia A. White.

Canvases and Careers: Institutional Change

in the French Painting World.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

White, Robin. “Interview with Robert Barry.”

View, 1:2 (May 1978), pp. 2–24.

Whiting, Cécile. A Taste for Pop: Pop Art,

Gender and Consumer Culture.

Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Page 241: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

Abstract expressionism, 44, 45, 65, 105. See also

New York School

Action art, 11

Advertising. See also Publicity

Andre on, 6

as art, 49, 51–52, 100

in Artforum, 132

and artistic practices, 41, 49, 52, 100, 131,


and artists, 40, 42

in buses, 51

campaign, 42, 130

direct mail, 12, 72

as discourse, 42

as documentation, 131–132

egalitarian aspect of, 199n38

and fragmentation, 133

Kosuth on, 42, 51, 185n72

language of, 41

in newspapers, 42, 49, 100


and patronage, 40

and postmodernization, 171n5

practice of, 41

proliferation of, 2

and promotion of art, 15–16, 24, 118, 131,


relationship to art, 5, 41, 49, 52, 100, 120, 131,

156, 164

as secondary information, 133

Siegelaub’s use of, 16, 118, 204n33

strategies of, 42, 118, 131

in trains, 51

venue, 52

Advertising Age, 199n38

Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America), 127

Alloway, Lawrence, 103, 105, 163–164

Aluminum series (Stella), 88

American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T),


AMK Corporation, 127

Page 242: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

Amount of Bleach Poured on a Rug and Allowed to

Bleach (Weiner), 98, 128

Andre, Carl

on advertising, 6

on art and matter, 183n60

and arte povera, 178n49

artwork by, 17, 20, 21

as art worker, 22

and Art Workers Coalition, 125, 128, 200n9

and certificate of authenticity, 23, 178n51

and conceptual art, 191n48

correspondence with Siegelaub, 207n18

exhibitions, 16, 27, 187n14, 196n2

Graham on, 20, 22, 191n48, 203n16

Huebler on, 191n48

and idea, 44, 74

influence on Huebler, 74

influence on Kosuth, 34–35, 100

Joint, 20–23, 52, 111, 113, 178n49

Kosuth on, 44

and materials, 22–23, 34, 44, 89, 97, 117, 122,

177n45, 187n14, 198n33

and minimalism, 23, 52

and patronage, 74, 177n43

and place, 20, 187n14

and pop art, 23, 178n48

and practice of art, 23

and presentation of art, 22–23, 111, 203n16

and reception of art, 24

relationship to Graham, 20, 100, 191n48

on replication, 178n52

Scatter Piece, 203n15

at School of Visual Arts, 27

and seriality, 20, 181n30

and temporality, 20, 23, 113

at Windham College symposium, 19

Andre Emmerich Gallery, 44

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 176n31

“Annual Exhibition of Sculpture and Prints” (Whitney

Museum), 187n9

Antihumanism, 28

“Archi-traces” (Derrida), 70, 189n30

Areas (Mangold), 88

Art and Artists, 177n42

Art criticism, 41, 120–121

Arte povera, 178n49

Artforum, 9, 47, 49, 131–132, 177n42, 179n4

Art in America, 49, 155

Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement,

164–169, 210n53, 211nn55–57

Artist’s rights, 123


Hot Warm Cool Cold, 208n22

22 Sentences: The French Army, 208n22

Art market, 7–10, 13, 40, 157, 161, 173nn4–5

Art News, 11

Art patrons. See Patrons

Arts Magazine, 27, 57, 177n42, 183n60

Art Workers Coalition (AWC), 125, 128, 160–161,

172n11, 200n7, 201nn9–10

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and

Publishers), 160

Asher, Michael, 207n18

Ashton, Dore, 60, 62, 63, 186n2

Associated Press, 127

Atkinson, Conrad, 4

Atkinson, Terry, 207n22, 208n29, 210n45. See also


22 Sentences: The French Army, 208n22

Avant-Garde, 7–9, 80, 172n11. See also Vanguard

Baldwin, Michael, 207n22, 208n29, 210n45. See

also Art-Language

22 Sentences: The French Army, 208n22

Bannard, Walter Darby, 196n2

Barry, Robert

artwork by, 17, 23, 56, 83, 103–119, 198n32,

208n22, 209n30

and Art Workers Coalition, 125

88 mc Carrier Wave (FM), 115–116

exhibitions, 16, 17, 47, 102, 103, 106, 107, 111,

115, 118, 156, 161, 163, 183n63, 196n2,


films, 113, 197n24

and fragmentation, 109

Green Line, 103, 105

and idea, 115

Inert Gas Series, 118




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Inert Gas Series: Helium, 119

and materials, 114–115, 117, 197n26,

198nn32,34,35, 199n36

and media fetishization, 156

and minimalism, 107, 114, 117

and negation of visual, 113–115, 117–118, 122

New York to Luxembourg CB Carrier Wave, January

5–31, 1969, 115

One Million Dots, 203n17

Orange Edges, 105–106, 196n7

Outdoor Monofilament Installation, 198n29

and photography, 199n36

and place, 106, 111, 113, 209n30

and practice of art, 55, 89, 98, 100, 103, 105, 107,

117, 118, 122

and presentation of art, 102, 106–107, 109,

114–115, 117–118, 197n18, 203n17, 208n22

publicity photo of, 58

on radiation waves, 198n32

and reception of art, 23, 107, 109, 111, 113–115,


relationship to Cage, 113

Scenes, 113

and site specificity, 117

1600 kc Carrier Wave (AM), 115–116

and systemic painting, 103, 105

Telepathic Piece, 208n22

and temporality, 113–114, 203n17

Untitled (1967), 110

Untitled (1967–1968), 108

Untitled (1968), 112

at Windham College symposium, 19

0.5 Microcurie Radiation Installation, 198n32

Barthes, Roland, 82, 181n36, 182n38, 193n67,


Battcock, Gregory, 123–125, 127, 129, 200n7

Baudrillard, Jean, 15, 41, 42, 120, 156, 199n39

Baxter, Iain, 156, 207n22, 209n30

Bellamy, Richard, 44, 183n56

Benjamin, Walter, 156, 202n5

Bochner, Mel, 133–134, 181n30, 202n7

Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper

Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art, 133,


Bongartz, Roy, 187n14

Borges, Jorge Luis, 188n22

Boston-New York Exchange Shape (Huebler), 77, 79

Boulez, Pierre, 181n30

Bourdieu, Pierre, 14, 26–27, 176n34

Brecht, Bertolt, 156, 208n26

Brown, Gordon, 28, 57

Brown, Trisha, 92

Buchloh, Benjamin H. D., 80, 178n51

Bunting, John R., 176n31

Buren, Daniel, 5, 209n30, 210n45

Burgin, Victor, 4

Business Committee for the Arts, 176n31

Butler, Eugenia, 32

Cage, John, 77, 113, 192n53

Cain, Michael, 200n9

Capitalism, 2, 7, 100, 154, 157, 171n5, 172n11,


Card File (Morris), 204n26

Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph

Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Lawrence Weiner,

202n4. See also “The Xerox Book”

Carrier waves, 114–115

Castelli, Leo, 175n21. See also Leo Castelli Gallery

Castoro, Rosemarie, 4

CBS, 127

Certificate of authenticity, 73, 120, 178n51

Chamberlain, John, 186n2

Chandler, John, 188n23

Christo, 22, 23, 65

Lower Manhattan Packed Buildings, 187n15

Clerk, Pierre, 174n18, 175n25

Collectors. See also Patrons

and art milieu, 121

and art production, 173n4

and businessmen, 12, 40

and capitalism, 7

and certificate of ownership, 4, 73

critique of, 11

and documentation, 4, 73

and idea, 1

and image, 8, 10

increase in numbers of, 11

and investment potential, 7, 40


6 Barry, Robert (cont.)

Page 244: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

new type of, 8, 173n4

and privacy, 168

relationship to artists, 2, 9, 89, 106, 168

relationship to artwork, 8, 40, 89

relationship to dealers, 10, 121

rights of, 168

Siegelaub on, 9

and value of art, 9, 40


art as, 4, 22, 100, 169

form, 15, 22

objects, 32, 178n48

sign machine, 175n27

supplier of, 7

Conceptual art

and advanced capitalism, 2

Andre’s art as, 191n48

as art movement, 124, 170, 199–200n44, 208n29

and aura, 169, 181n37

and certificates, 178n51, 191n46

commercial packaging of, 5

and commodity status of art, 4

and context specificity, 20

criticism of, 120, 172n11

and cultural system, 169

definition of, 35, 40, 56, 73, 131

and drug culture, 183n58

and economic aspect, 1

emergence, 3, 4, 5, 172n11

exhibitions, 2–3, 124, 129

Flavin’s art as, 191n48

history of, 4, 172nn9,11

of individual artists, 51, 80, 82, 92, 93, 96, 98,

100, 115, 122

for magazines and newspapers, 184n66

marketing of, 133

media determinism of, 205n41

and method of production, 154

and minimalism, 199–200n44

and negation of expression, 172n11

participatory nature of, 80, 98

political economy of, 4

public conception of, 128

reception of, 80, 98, 128

and serial music, 181n30

and site specificity, 20

and text, 181n36

theory of, 77

Consumer culture, 2

Consumer society, 84

Context-specific art, 20, 117

Copy machine, 135, 204n28. See also Photocopy;


Copyright, 169

Cornell, Joseph, 186n2


and advertising, 15

and association with art, 13–14, 176n31

as collectors, 13

and cultural capital, 15, 176n34

funds of, 13

ideology of, 13

interests of, 16

and laissez-faire economics, 13

logos, 41

as patrons, 13–15, 16, 176n32

practice of, 15

and public relations, 13–14

social conscience, 176n31

and sponsorship, 2, 176n31

Counterculture, 176n29

“Cultural capital” (Bourdieu), 15, 176n34

Cunningham, Merce, 92

Dance Diagrams, 80

Darboven, Hanne, 4

De Antonio, Emile, 175n21


of artwork, 73–74, 96

of art world, 4

of communications, 209n33

of modern life, 157

De Kooning, Willem, 175n21, 186n2

De Maria, Walter, 18

Mile Long Drawing, 65

Derrida, Jacques, 70, 195n21

De Stijl, 29

Detumescence (Graham), 190n43

Dibbets, Jan, 207n22, 209n30, 210n45

Dirks, Raymond, 190n41




Page 245: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

“Distillation,” 196n7

Distribution, 3, 5, 15, 49, 73, 74, 83, 121, 183n63

Documenta, 125, 200n6

Document (Statement of Aesthetic Withdrawal)

(Morris), 178n51

Do It Yourself (Warhol), 80

“Douglas Huebler: November 1968,” 72, 74–76, 130,

132, 209n31

Duchamp, Marcel, 30, 34

L.H.O.O.Q., 178n51

Duration Piece #2 (Huebler), 77

Duration Piece #8 (Huebler), 208n22

“Duration Pieces” (Huebler), 77, 80

Dwan Gallery, 40, 93

Eastman, Michael, 174n18

Egalitarianism, 68, 96–98, 121, 163, 168, 199n38

18 Happenings in Six Parts (Kaprow), 68, 80

88 mc Carrier Wave (FM) (Barry), 115–116

“Eight Young Artists,” 102, 196n2

Electromagnetic fields, 115

“Environments,” 11

Enzensberger, Hans Magnus, 154, 156–157, 204n28,

205n41, 206n11, 208n27

Evergreen Review, 181n36

Every Building on Sunset Strip (Ruscha), 190n44

“Exhibition of the void,” 114


and advertising, 131

catalogue-exhibitions, 95, 100, 203n18

catalogues, 28, 57, 72–75, 80, 98, 120, 154–155,

157, 159, 173n13, 183n63, 192nn51–52,

204nn32–33, 207nn17,18,22, 209n31

context, 109

and ephemerality of artwork, 92

format of, 135

and fragmentation, 96

of groups, 16

and mass media, 11

newspapers reporting on, 7

organization of, 11–12

practices and strategies, 3, 5, 10, 12, 121, 130,

148, 183n63, 209n37, 210n47

production of, 11

publicity, 7, 11, 16

and space, 24, 39, 52, 66, 184n63

and temporality, 135

transformation of, 12

and value of art, 211n56

Fascism, 92, 96

Feigen Gallery, 187n15

Ferus Gallery, 32

Figurative (Graham), 190n43

Financial Times, 160

Fiore, Quentin, 47, 86, 88, 130, 133, 135, 194n17

First Investigations (Kosuth), 32, 51

First Pennsylvania Corporation, 176n31

Fischer, Konrad, 161, 210n45

Flag (Johns), 84–85

Flavin, Dan

Bochner on, 181n30

and certificate of authenticity, 23, 74, 178n51

correspondence with Siegelaub, 207n18

exhibition of artwork by, 52, 177n42, 178n48,

191n48, 207n18

and exhibition space, 52

Graham on, 177n42, 191n48

Huebler on, 191n48

and materials, 34, 89, 97, 100, 122

and minimalism, 34–35, 52, 97

and patronage, 74

and reception of art, 34, 100

and site specificity, 190n44

Ford Foundation, 176n31

Forti, Simone, 92

Ford Motor Company, 127

Fragmentation, 49, 52, 70, 96, 109, 121, 131,

133, 163


and conceptual art, 40

conventions, 18, 64–65

the environment (outdoors), 63–65

and experience, 64

extending art beyond, 63–65, 120, 197n18

by language, 183n54

and reception of art, 120

and secondary information, 117

Siegelaub on, 64

Frampton, Hollis, 113



Page 246: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

Frank, Thomas, 15

Fried, Lawrence, 43

Fried, Michael, 70, 71, 107, 189nn29,34, 194n13,


Friedman, Milton, 13

Gallery 669, 32, 33

General Motors Corporation, 127

Ginnever, Chuck, 177n38

Globalization, 154, 159

“Global village” (McLuhan), 159

Glueck, Grace, 191n51

Goldman, Robert, 175n27

Goossen, Eugene, 102, 105–106, 196n7

Graham, Dan

on Andre, 22–23

and art as commodity, 22, 52, 100

on Christo, 187n15

and context specificity, 20

as critic, 20, 22, 191n48, 203n16

Detumescence, 190n43

Figurative, 190n43

on Flavin, 191n48, 203n16

Homes for America, 190n43

influence of Lozano on, 184n67

and minimalism, 23

as moderator, 177n42

and Museum of Normal Art, 183n56

and place, 20, 177n44

and pop art, 20, 23

and practice of art, 73–74

and publicity, 73

Schema (March 1966), 190n43

Scheme, 190n43

at School of Visual Arts, 27

Side Effect/Common Drug, 190n43

and site reception of art, 73

and specificity, 20, 74, 190n44

and temporality, 23

at Windham College symposium, 19

Greenberg, Clement, 34

Green Gallery, 44

Green Line (Barry), 103, 105

Greer, Manuel, 184n63

Grinstein, Stanley, 118

Guggenheim, Solomon R., Museum, 103

Guston, Phillip, 186n2

Haacke, Hans, 190n44

Halprin, Ann, 92

Happenings, 10, 11, 68, 80, 89–90, 174n20,


Hardt, Michael, 2, 206n13

Harrison, Charles, 9–10, 55–56, 186n3, 199n44,


Harten, Jürgen, 161, 210n46

Hay, Deborah, 92

Haywood, Robert, 177n41

Heizer, Michael, 18, 65, 187nn13–14

Held, Al, 186n2

Hendin, Arni, 10, 174n20

Hofmann, Hans, 186n2

Hollywood, 1, 12

Homes for America (Graham), 190n43

Hot Warm Cool Cold (Art-Language), 208n22

Hudson River Museum, 102

Huebler, Douglas

and abstract expressionism, 65

and art history, 82, 100

artwork by, 60–63, 66–68, 75–81

and Art Workers Coalition, 125

Boston-New York Exchange Shape, 77, 79

and documentation, 60, 66, 69–71, 75, 77,

131–132, 191n46, 204n33

Duration Piece #2, 77

Duration Piece #8, 208n22

“Duration Pieces,” 77, 80

exhibitions, 47, 63, 72, 74, 130, 156, 161, 163,

183n63, 187n9, 189–190n37, 192n51, 204n33,


and fragmentation, 70, 82, 96, 131

on framing, 63–65, 197n18

and happenings, 68

and idea, 191n46

and language, 68, 70–73, 193n65

and materials, 61, 66, 68–69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 97,

130, 208n22

and minimalism, 62, 77

and negation of visual, 60, 62

and patronage, 74




Page 247: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

and photography, 188n25, 193n65

and place, 68, 69–71, 77, 209n30

and pop art, 131

and practice of art, 68, 71–72, 77, 89, 98, 130, 133

and presentation of art, 61, 63–64, 66, 77, 98, 100,

102, 115, 122, 131, 133, 156, 209n30

and publicity, 57, 131, 175n25

publicity photo of, 58

and reception of art, 62, 66, 72, 74–75, 80, 82–83,

88, 92, 97, 100

relationship to Cage, 77, 192n53

relationship to Siegelaub, 63, 75, 102, 187n9,


and Robbe-Grillet, 66, 188n19

Rochester Trip, 67–68

and secondary information, 69–70, 115

and serialization, 71, 188n23

Siegelaub on, 175n25, 189–190n37, 192n51

and site of exhibition, 69–70, 122

Site Sculpture Project. Windham College Pentagram,


and site specificity, 69–70, 72, 74

and temporality, 71, 77, 80, 82, 208n22

texts by, 68, 80

Truro Series 3-66, 61

Variable Piece #1, 80

“Variable Pieces,” 80–81

Hultén, Pontus, 125

Humanism, 28, 82

Huot, Robert, 113, 196n2, 210n45

Iarusso, Alfred Michael, 174n18

Image. Art Programs for Industry, Inc., 12–13, 14, 16

Inert Gas Series (Barry), 118

Inert Gas Series: Helium (Barry), 119

Informatization, 2, 3

International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), 8

International General, 172n6

Iris Clert Gallery, 114

Jameson, Fredric, 66

“January 5–31, 1969,” 47, 49, 50, 58, 98, 115,

116, 123, 129, 160, 163

Jewish Museum (New York), 62

Johanson, Patricia, 196n2

John Daniels Gallery, 20

Johns, Jasper, 89, 93, 175n21

Flag series, 84, 86

Painted Bronze, 175n21

Joint (Andre), 20–23, 52, 111, 113, 178n49

“Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris,” 154–155

Judd, Donald, 18, 27, 29, 34, 35, 41, 52, 86, 106,

122, 178n48, 180nn19,22

Judson Dance Theater, 92

“July, August, September 1969,” 158, 209nn31,33

July, August, September 1969, 159

Junker, Howard, 44, 187n13

Kaltenbach, Stephen, 207n22, 209n38, 210n45

Kaprow, Allan, 2, 11, 26, 92, 164, 175n23, 177n41

18 Happenings in Six Parts, 68, 80

Yard, 177n41

Kawara, On, 30, 180n16, 207n18

Kelly, Ellsworth, 186n2

Kelly, Mary, 4

Kertess, Klaus, 183n56

Klein, Yves, 114, 178n51

Kline, Franz, 186n2

Knight, John, 4

König, Kasper, 183n56

Kosuth, Joseph. See also Rose, Arthur R.

and advertising, 30, 40, 41–42, 49, 52, 96, 184n67

artwork by, 30–33, 43, 44, 48, 50, 204n26,

206n14, 209n30

and Art Workers Coalition, 125, 200n9

and conceptual art, 35, 40, 51

and context specificity, 34

correspondence with Siegelaub, 207n18

as critic, 26–28, 41, 47, 49, 51, 57, 179n4

and de Stijl, 29

and documentation, 34

and drug culture, 44

exhibitions, 28–29, 32, 47, 156, 161, 179n12,

183n63, 207n22, 208n22, 210n45

First Investigations, 32, 51

and fragmentation, 49, 52

and history of art, 26, 182n40

and idea, 35, 40, 86, 182n44

influence of Andre on, 34–45


0 Huebler, Douglas (cont.)

Page 248: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

influence of Flavin on, 34–35

influence of Judd on, 34

influence of LeWitt on, 51

influence of Robbe-Grillet on, 28

influence on Huebler, 100

and language, 30, 45, 180n21, 183n54

and Lannis Gallery, 27–28, 30, 179n9, 180n20

and mass media, 27

and materials, 29, 34, 47, 180n21, 204n26

and minimalism, 30, 34–35, 52

and Museum of Normal Art, 29–30, 44, 180n20,


and negation of visual, 49, 128

and nouveau roman, 28

and ownership of art, 195n29

photostats, 30, 32, 40–42, 47, 49, 51, 180n22

and pop art, 27, 30, 32, 34

and practice of art, 29, 32, 34, 41–42, 49, 51, 53,

98, 182n44, 184n67

and presentation of art, 42, 47, 49, 51, 102,

184n67, 201n14

and primary information, 122

pseudonym, 26, 41, 49, 57, 177n41, 180n23

and publicity, 26–28, 41–42, 52, 179n9

publicity photo of, 43, 58

and reception of art, 128, 156, 201n14

relationship to Kozlov, 4, 27–29, 179n9

relationship to Siegelaub, 26, 42, 44, 47, 52–53,

56, 102, 161, 163

relationship to Warhol, 27, 30, 32, 86, 180n23

at School of Visual Arts, 27

Second Investigation, 47, 49–52, 100, 128,


and seriality, 30, 35, 49

and temporality, 51

Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) (1967), 31, 47, 48

Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) (1968), 33

and value of art, 96

VIII. Eventuality (Art as Idea as Idea), 208n22

Kruger, Barbara, 4

Kunsthalle (Bern), 187n15

Ladies’ Home Journal, 174n8

Laissez-faire economics, 13

Land art, 65

“Language II,” 93

Lannan, J. Patrick, 208n29

Lannis Gallery, 27–28, 30, 179n9. See also Museum

of Normal Art

Laura Knott Gallery, 16–18, 22, 107, 109, 111, 154,


Leider, Philip, 184n67

Leo Castelli Gallery, 44

LeWitt, Sol

artwork by, 36, 37, 156, 209n30

and conceptual art, 35, 77, 96, 98

correspondence with Siegelaub, 207n18

and decentering role of artist, 38

and documentation, 191n46

exhibitions, 207nn18,22

and fragmentation, 96

and idea, 35, 38

influence on Kosuth, 51

and materials, 65

and minimalism, 39

and practice of art, 38, 65, 98, 105, 181n37

and presentation of art, 35, 98

and reception of art, 51, 98, 156

at School of Visual Arts, 27

and seriality, 35, 38, 181n30, 188n23, 203n18

L.H.O.O.Q. (Duchamp), 178n51

Lichtenstein, Dorothy, 47

Lichtenstein, Roy, 27, 47, 86, 180n22, 193n5

Life (magazine), 7, 8, 9, 174n8

Lippard, Lucy R., 4, 82, 123–125, 169, 183n56,

184n67, 188n23, 204n33

Litanies (Morris), 178n51

Livesey, Herbert, 174n18

Long, Richard, 65, 209n30

Lower Manhattan Packed Buildings (Christo),


Lowry, Bates, 125, 200n7

Lozano, Lee, 4, 47, 52, 100, 184n67

“The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical

Age,” 125–126

“Macrostructures,” 187n15

Mademoiselle, 160

Mallarmé, Stéphane, 195n21

Maloney, Martin, 186n2




Page 249: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

Mangold, Robert, 88, 93

Areas, 88

Manzoni, Piero, 178n51

“March 1–31, 1969,” 207n16. See also “One Month”

Mass culture, 20, 32, 52, 73, 86

Mass media, 8, 11, 27, 52, 156

Max’s Kansas City, 12, 27, 106

May 19–June19, 1969, 207n22. See also “Simon

Fraser Exhibition”

McLuhan, Marshall, 49, 86, 88, 130, 133, 135, 154,

194n17, 204n28, 206n11

McShine, Kynaston, 62–63, 187n9

Meyer, Ursula, 198n32, 210n47

Mile Long Drawing (De Maria), 65

Milkowski, Antoni, 196n2

Miller, Dorothy, 175n25

Minimalism, 18, 23, 30, 34–45, 52, 62, 77, 88, 97,

107, 114, 117, 178n49, 179n14, 194nn13,15,

197n19, 199n39

Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company, 127

Morris, Robert, 18, 41, 107, 178n51, 190n43,

191n46, 197n17, 203n17, 206n14

Card File, 204n26

Document (Statement of Aesthetic Withdrawal),


Litanies, 178n51

There Are Two Temperatures: One Outside, One In-

side, 206n14

Motherwell, Robert, 186n2

Museum for Contemporary Art (Chicago), 177n42

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, New York), 125–128,

175n25, 200n7, 201nn8–9

Museum of Normal Art, 29, 44, 180n20, 183n56. See

also Lannis Gallery

Naifeh, Steven, 175n24

Nation, 163

Nauman, Bruce, 207n18

NBC, 127

Negri, Antonio, 2, 206n13

N.E. Thing Co., 210n45

Nevelson, Louise, 186n2

Newman, Barnett, 102, 105, 186n2, 196n2

Newsweek, 7, 27–28, 32, 40, 42, 43, 44, 174n8

New York, 160

New York School, 9, 11, 84, 103. See also Abstract


New York Times, 9, 127, 160, 174nn11,20, 175n23,

184n68, 191n51

New York Times Magazine, 175n21, 187n14

New York to Luxembourg CB Carrier Wave, January

5–31, 1969 (Barry), 115

Noland, Kenneth, 105

“Non-Anthropomorphic Art by Four Young Artists,” 28,

179nn12,14, 180n16

“Non-Site” (Smithson), 69, 70, 71

Norvell, Patricia, 155, 160, 195n26, 199n36,


Nouveau roman, 28, 96

O’Connor, Francis, 8

O’Doherty, Brian, 175n23

Ohlson, Douglas, 196n2

Oldenburg, Claes, 27, 188n16

One Hole in the Ground Approximately One Foot by

One Foot / One Gallon Waterbased White Paint

Poured into This Hole (Weiner), 95

One Million Dots (Barry), 203n17

“One Month,” 155, 163. See also “March 1–31,


One Pint Gloss White Lacquer Poured Directly upon the

Floor and Allowed to Dry, 92–93

Oppenheim, Dennis, 18, 187n14, 191n46

Surface Indentations, 65

“Opticality” (Fried), 107

Orange Edges (Barry), 105–106, 196n7

Ortman, George, 186n2

Outdoor Monofilament Installation (Barry), 198n29

Ownership, 1, 4, 40, 73, 74, 82, 120, 153, 155,

159, 164, 169

Painted Bronze (Johns), 175n21

Papson, Stephen, 175n27

Patrons. See also Collectors

and art movements, 53

and certificates of authenticity, 23

and certificates of ownership, 4

and corporations, 13–15, 16

and direct-mail advertising, 72

and distribution of art, 120



Page 250: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

of innovative art, 7

new type of, 7, 173n4

prestige of, 7

relationship to art, 4, 89

relationship to artists, 40

role of, 74

and Siegelaub, 190n38

traditional types of, 89, 176n32, 208n29

Paxton, Steve, 92

Perreault, John, 32

Phenomenology, 62, 63, 75, 82, 89, 107, 111, 114

Philip Morris Europe, 2

Photocopy, 135, 157, 164, 204n28. See also Copy

machine; Xerography

Photostat, 30, 32, 40–42, 47, 49, 51, 180n22

Piene, Otto, 65

Piper, Adrian, 4

Place, 20, 68, 69–71, 77, 106, 111, 113, 177n44,

187n14, 209n30

Pollock, Jackson, 44, 89, 93, 186n2

Pop art, 20, 23, 27, 30, 32, 34, 86, 88, 89, 97, 131,

173n7, 178nn48–49, 182n47, 190n43

Postindustrial economy, 171n5

“Postindustrial ephemeralization” (Perreault),

152, 154

Postmodernization, 171n5

Powers, John, 40

Price, Kenneth, 186n2

“Primary information” (Siegelaub), 56, 69, 73, 115,

122, 155–156, 159, 163, 169

“Primary Structures,” 63, 187n9

Printing press, 133, 202n6

Projansky, Robert, 164–168

Propeller series (Weiner), 84–86, 88, 93

“Prospect 69,” 161–163

catalogue, 74, 162, 163

Public art, 129

Publicity, 9–12, 16, 20, 41–42, 52, 56, 57, 58, 73,

106, 118, 122, 130–131, 156, 161, 163, 170

Public space, 11, 24, 57, 128

Radiation waves, 198n32

Radio waves, 117

Rainer, Yvonne, 4, 92

“Raw information” (Huebler), 71

Readymade, 23, 30, 34, 100, 178n51

Reinhardt, Ad, 27, 30, 32, 102–103, 183n54,


Removal series (Weiner), 88–89, 92–93, 95

Rhodes, Silas, 125

Riley, Bridget, 105

Rinaldi, Michael, 179n12, 183n56

Robbe-Grillet, Alain, 28, 66, 71

Rochester Trip (Huebler), 67–68

Rockefeller, John D., III, 176n32

Rockefeller Brothers Fund, 176n31

Rockefeller Foundation, 176n31

Rockefeller Panel Report, 14, 176nn31–32

Roget’s Thesaurus, 47, 49, 51, 52, 206n14

Rose, Arthur R., 20, 26, 41, 44, 57, 163, 177n41,

180n23. See also Kosuth, Joseph

Rose, Barbara, 2, 120–121, 123, 160

Rosenberg, Harold, 9

Rosler, Martha, 4

Rossi, Ernest, 179n12

Rubber Ball Thrown at the Sea (Weiner), 208n22

Ruscha, Ed, 190n44, 207n18, 210n45

Some Los Angeles Apartments, 190n44

Twenty-six Gasoline Stations, 190n44

Russell, John, 174n11

Saturday Evening Post, 187n13

Scatter Piece (Andre), 203n15

Scenes (Barry), 113

Schema (March 1966) (Graham), 190n43

Scheme (Graham), 190n43

Schoenberg, Arnold, 181n30

School of Visual Arts (New York), 27, 29, 125, 127

Visual Arts Gallery, 133–134, 202nn7–9

Scull, Ethel, 10, 174n20

Scull, Robert, 10, 174n20

“Secondary information” (Siegelaub), 56, 69, 73, 83,

96, 115, 117, 122, 133, 154–156, 159, 163, 169

Second Investigation (Kosuth), 47, 49–52, 100, 128,


Semiology, 96

Seriality, 30, 47, 49, 51, 71, 84, 88–89, 92, 96,

105, 118–119, 181n30, 203nn17–18

Serra, Richard

Verb List, 194n15




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Seth Siegelaub and Robert Gaile Oriental Rugs,


Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art, 10, 11, 12, 63, 84,

85, 174n20, 186n2, 196n11

Sharp, Willoughby, 200n7

Shirey, David, 155

Side Effect/Common Drug (Graham), 190n43

Sidney Janis Gallery, 44

Siegelaub, Seth. See also Seth Siegelaub Contempo-

rary Art

and advertising, 12, 15–16, 24, 72, 149, 204n33

as art dealer, 174n17, 204n33

as artist, 58, 106, 160, 165–167, 209n38

artists represented by, 4, 16, 47, 107, 114, 117,

150, 161, 163, 187n9, 207n18

and Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agree-

ment, 164–169, 210n53

and artist’s rights, 151, 160, 164

and Art Workers Coalition, 125, 128, 160, 161,


and certificate of authenticity, 120, 178n51,


and conceptual art, 3, 5, 55, 56, 128–129, 152,

153, 169–170

as consultant, 161

and corporations, 13–14, 136

correspondence with artists, 207n18, 208n29

distribution practices, 3, 5, 74, 120–121, 131,

133, 148–149, 157, 159–160, 164, 205n5,


and economic aspect of art, 1, 5

exhibition catalogues, 56–57, 72–75, 120, 149,

157, 159, 204n33

exhibition practices, 3, 5, 10, 35, 122, 128–129,

130, 131, 209nn31,33,37

exhibitions organized by, 3, 16, 18, 47, 60, 74, 115,

122, 123, 129, 134, 154, 155, 159, 161, 163,

177n38, 186n2, 190n41, 206n14, 207n18,


and exhibition space, 24, 74, 128, 153, 154

and framing, 18, 64–65, 120

and globalization, 154

and group exhibitions, 16, 18

and Image. Art Programs for Industry, Inc., 12–14,

16, 136

and language, 140, 157

on LeWitt, 186n5

as moderator, 177n42, 201n9

and ownership of art, 4, 73, 120, 164, 168–169

and patrons, 10–11, 12, 13–14, 16, 72, 73, 149,

168, 204n29

photograph of, 3

and primary information, 56, 73, 153–155, 159

and promotion of art, 3, 5, 12–15, 24, 42, 55,

56–57, 72, 120–122, 164, 169, 190n38, 204n33,


and publicity, 9, 10–11, 16, 24, 56–57, 106, 122,

130–131, 152, 161, 183nn59,63, 186n8

and public relations, 6, 12, 13–14, 16

relationship to Barry, 106, 196n11

relationship to Huebler, 62–65, 75, 133,


relationship to Kosuth, 26, 42, 47, 52–53

and secondary information, 56, 73, 117, 122,

135–136, 154–155

and Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art, 10–11, 12,

63, 196n11

and site specificity, 74

and value of art, 9

Weiner on, 5

and xerography, 134–136, 148, 155, 157,


“Siegelaub idea,” 160, 170

Signature, 4, 47, 86, 169

Sign value, 6, 15, 120, 131, 154, 156, 169, 199n39

“Simon Fraser Exhibition,” 156, 207n22. See also

May19–June 19, 1969

Site Sculpture Project. Windham College Pentagram

(Huebler), 69

Site specificity, 18, 20, 70, 72, 74, 117, 190n44

Six Ten Penny Common Steel Nails. Nails to Be Driven

into Floor at Indicated Terminal Points (Weiner),


1600 kc Carrier Wave (AM) (Barry), 115–116

Smith, David, 186n2

Smith, Tony, 64–65, 196n2

Smithson, Robert, 27, 41, 187n14, 188n31, 209n30

“Non-Sites,” 69–71

Snow, Michael, 113

Social capital, 26



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Solomon, Alan, 2

Some Los Angeles Apartments (Ruscha), 190n44

Sontag, Susan, 182n38

Spencer, Lannis Louis, 27, 179n9, 183n56

Stable Gallery, 196n7

Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf (Weiner), 89–91, 111,

113, 194n13

“Statement of Intent” (Weiner), 97–98

Statements (Weiner), 95

Stella, Frank, 93, 106

Aluminum series, 88

Stephen Radich Gallery, 196n10

Stevens, Elisabeth, 103

Stockhausen, Karlheinz, 181n30

Straight, 27, 42

Structuralism, 77, 82

Studio International, 160, 164–167

Surface Indentations (Oppenheim), 65

“Systemic Painting,” 103, 105

Syverson, Terrence, 196n2

Takis, Vassilakis, 125–126, 200n7

Tele-Sculpture, 125–126

Telepathic Piece (Barry), 208n22

Tele-Sculpture (Takis), 125–126

There Are Two Temperatures: One Outside, One Inside

(Morris), 206n14

36� x 36� Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of

Plaster or Wallboard from a Wall (Weiner), 98–99

Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 196n7

Time (magazine), 9, 27, 40, 174n8

Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) (Kosuth, 1967), 31,

47, 48

Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) (Kosuth, 1968), 33

Topol, Robert, 184n63, 198n29

Trademark, 41

Truro Series 3-66 (Huebler), 61

Tudor, David, 77

Turf, Stake, and String (Weiner), 93, 95, 194n16

“25,” 63, 186n2

Twenty-six Gasoline Stations (Ruscha), 190n44

Two Minutes of Spray Paint Directly upon the Floor

from a Standard Spray Aerosol Can (Weiner), 44, 46,


Tworkov, Jack, 186n2

Ultrasonic sound, 115–117

United Fruit Company, 127

Untitled (Barry, 1967), 110

Untitled (Barry, 1967–1968), 108

Untitled (Barry, 1968), 112

Untitled (Weiner, 1966), 88

Use value, 15, 49, 120, 131, 154

Utopianism, 172n11


aesthetic, 3, 8

artistic, 5, 40

of artwork, 7, 9, 14, 15, 22, 35, 168

economies of, 5

exchange, of art, 7, 8, 22, 49, 120, 154

investment, of art, 7

market, of art, 22, 168

and materials, 22

prestige, of art, 15

of public relations, 14, 16, 26

relative, of objects, 156

sumptuary, of art, 168

Vanguard, 8–10. See also Avant-garde

Variable Piece #1 (Huebler), 80

“Variable Pieces” (Huebler), 80–81

Varian, Elayne, 160

Venice Biennial, 125, 200n6

Verb List (Serra), 194n15

Vietnam War, 127, 168, 200n12

VIII. Eventuality (Art as Idea as Idea) (Kosuth),


Village Voice, 32, 174n20

Visual Arts Gallery. See School of Visual Arts

Vogue, 160, 174n8

Wagstaff, Samuel, Jr., 64

Warhol, Andy, 22, 23, 27, 29, 30, 32, 35, 52, 77, 80,

86, 120, 122, 124, 180n23

Do It Yourself, 80

Weber, John, 183n56

Weiner, Lawrence

and advertising, 5, 100

An Amount of Bleach Poured on a Rug and Allowed to

Bleach, 98, 128

and art history, 100




Page 253: Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

artwork by, 17, 46, 84–95, 97, 98, 209n30

on Barry, 106

catalogue-exhibition of, 95

and chance, 93

and conceptual art, 93, 97, 100, 115

and consumer society, 86

and decentering role of artist, 84, 89, 92, 96–97,

100, 128, 195nn25–26

exhibitions, 16, 47, 89, 93, 95, 156, 161, 163,

183n63, 186n2, 207–208n22, 210n45

and fragmentation, 96

and framing, 197n18

and happenings, 89, 92

influence of Andre on, 89

influence of Flavin on, 89

influence of Warhol on, 86, 88

Kosuth on, 45

and language, 45, 93, 95–96, 98, 195n21

and material, 86, 89, 92, 95, 96, 97, 113

and minimalism, 88, 194n15

and nouveau roman, 96

One Hole in the Ground Approximately One Foot by

One Foot / One Gallon Waterbased White Paint

Poured into This Hole, 95

One Pint Gloss White Lacquer Poured Directly upon

the Floor and Allowed to Dry, 92–93

and patrons, 89

and pop art, 86, 89, 193n5

and practice of art, 45, 88, 89, 92

and presentation of art, 45, 84, 88, 89, 97, 111,

122, 209n30

Propeller series, 84–86, 88, 93

publicity photo of, 58

and reception of art, 23–24, 68, 86, 88, 89, 92,

96–98, 111, 194n13

relationship to Graham, 20, 177n42

relationship to Siegelaub, 5, 16, 102, 106, 163,


Removal series, 88–89, 92–93, 95

A Rubber Ball Thrown at the Sea, 208n22

and secondary information, 96

on Siegelaub, 5

Six Ten Penny Common Steel Nails. Nails to Be Driven

into Floor at Indicated Terminal Points, 93–95

Staples, Stakes, Twine, Turf, 89–91, 111, 113,


“Statement of Intent,” 97–98

Statements, 95

and temporality, 97

A 36� x 36� Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of

Plaster or Wallboard from a Wall, 98–99

Turf, Stake, and String, 93, 95, 194n16

Two Minutes of Spray Paint Directly upon the Floor

from a Standard Spray Aerosol Can, 44, 46, 92–93

Untitled (1966), 88

at Windham College symposium, 19

Wendler, Jack, 6, 13, 16

Westerly Gallery, 104, 196nn3,11

“When Attitudes Become Form,” 2

White, Cynthia, 10

Whitney Museum of American Art, 127, 187n9

Whole Earth Catalogue, 168

Wilcock, John, 174n20

Wilson, Ian, 47, 183n63, 210n45

Windham College exhibition, 16, 18, 20–23, 44, 52,

64, 89, 111–113, 120

symposium, 19, 113, 197n24

Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper

Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art

(Bochner), 133, 202nn7–9

Xerography, 124, 133, 135, 202n8. See also Copy

machine; Photocopy

“Xerox Book,” 133, 155, 157, 202nn4,5,9, 203n16,

204n26, 205n35

Xerox Corporation, 157

“Xerox-degree of culture” (Baudrillard), 120

Yard (Kaprow), 177n41

Yunkers, Adja, 186n2

0.5 Microcurie Radiation Installation (Barry), 198n32

Zox, Larry, 186n2


6 Weiner, Lawrence (cont.)