THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MoMA) in New York is presenting a major retrospective of conceptual artist Adrian Piper in spring 2018. The most comprehensive exhibition to explore her practice,”Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016″ will feature more than 280 works drawn from public and private collections around the world and be on view at MoMA from March 31 to July 22, 2018.

The treatment is long overdue. For half a century, Piper has produced pioneering work that has shaped the field of Conceptual art. She has influenced generations and received the Golden Lion Award for Best Artist at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 (above), but never had a major career retrospective.

In the works for four years, the exhibition is a collaboration between the artist and Christophe Cherix and David Platzker, curators from MoMA’s Department of Drawings and Prints, and Connie Butler, chief curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The selection of works reflects the wide range of mediums Piper has engaged over the years, including video, sound, multimedia installation, performance, painting, works on paper, and photo/text-based graphics.

“It has been a privilege for us all to work with Piper in mounting this uncompromising exhibition, which will vastly expand our understanding of the Conceptual and post-Conceptual movements and Piper’s pivotal position among both her peers and later generations of artists,” Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, said in a statement.

“It has been a privilege for us all to work with Piper in mounting this uncompromising exhibition, which will vastly expand our understanding of the Conceptual and post-Conceptual movements and Piper’s pivotal position among both her peers and later generations of artists.” — Glenn D. Lowry, Director of MoMA

“A Synthesis of Intuitions” will be shown in its entirety only at MoMA where it is being presented on the museum’s sixth floor. It is the first time the entire sixth floor space has been devoted to the work of a living artist. The exhibition will subsequently be presented at the Hammer. (Still being finalized, the dates and details for the show at the Hammer are forthcoming, according to the Los Angeles museum.)

BORN IN NEW YORK, Piper earned an A.A. degree from the School of Visual Arts in 1969 and has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University (1981). A devoted practitioner of yoga, she has lived in Berlin since 2005 where runs the APRA Foundation Berlin (Adrian Piper Research Archive) and edits The Berlin Journal of Philosophy.

As both an artist and philosopher, she has pressed audiences to reconsider longstanding assumptions about gender, race, identity, and class. Her intellectual explorations of the political, social, spiritual and psychological possibilities of conceptual art have prioritized personal subjectivity. Her practice is well documented on her website.

 


Installation view of Adrian Piper exhibition at Lévy Gorvy (Sept. 14-Oct. 21, 2017). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

 

Piper currently has an exhibition on view at Lévy Gorvy through Oct. 21. Her first solo show with the New York gallery presents three bodies of work—examples from her “Mythic Being” series (1973–1975), “It’s Just Art” (1980), and “Here,” an installation conceived in 2008 and realized for the first time at Lévy Gorvy.

In “Mythic Being,” Piper walks down the street dressed like a man, wearing a loosely curled Afro-style wig, mustache, and sunglasses. As she walks, she repeatedly recites a selection from one of her journals like a mantra: “No matter how much I ask my mother to stop buying crackers, cookies, and things, she does so anyway and says they are for her, even if I always eat them. So, I decided to fast.” The experiment is designed to test “external audience perceptions” and see whether a person with her exact history, but a different visual appearance, would have a changed experience or garner a varied response.

A FEW YEARS AGO, Piper declined to participate in an exhibition exclusively featuring black artists. Footage from Piper’s “Mythic Being” was presented in “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery in 2013. The work was provided by Peter Kennedy, an Australian artist Piper had asked to document her work. His short film is called “Adrian Piper: Becoming the Mythic Being.”

When Piper requested that her work be removed from the show, organizers turned off the monitor that had been screening the film and posted a note explaining the situation. Piper contacted Valerie Cassel Oliver, the exhibition curator, to specify the reason for her withdrawal. ARTnews published the correspondence, which read in part:

“I appreciate your intentions. Perhaps a more effective way to ‘celebrate [me], [my] work and [my] contributions to not only the art world at large, but also a generation of black artists working in performance,’ might be to curate multi-ethnic exhibitions that give American audiences the rare opportunity to measure directly the groundbreaking achievements of African American artists against those of their peers in ‘the art world at large.’”

“I appreciate your intentions. Perhaps a more effective way to ‘celebrate [me], [my] work and [my] contributions to not only the art world at large, but also a generation of black artists working in performance,’ might be to curate multi-ethnic exhibitions that give American audiences the rare opportunity to measure directly the groundbreaking achievements of African American artists against those of their peers in ‘the art world at large.’”
— Adrian Piper on ‘Radical Presence’

Piper stands her ground and is adamant about how she and her work are portrayed. After unresolved disputes about errors on her Wikipedia page, Piper reconstructed her own Wikipedia entry on her website in September 2013. The artist keeps this version up to date. It notes the forthcoming MoMA exhibition in 2018.

A decade earlier, in an open letter to the editor, Piper politely requested not to be called any possible permutation of a black, African American, female or woman artist or philosopher. In the 2003 work, she states that her preference is to be called simply an artist and/or philosopher. “I have earned the right to call myself anything I like,” she concludes.

 

Embed from Getty Images
Installation view of “Everything Will Be Taken Away” by Adrian Piper during the media preview of the exhibition ‘Empire State. New York art now’ at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome on April 22, 2013. | Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

 

IN 2015, PIPER RECEIVED the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale directed by Okwui Enwezor. After accepting the honor, she said, “I am completely overwhelmed. I am so humbled by this honor because it’s the most important exhibition in the world and this particular biennale is so full fantastic, strong, eloquent art work.”

“I am completely overwhelmed. I am so humbled by this honor because it’s the most important exhibition in the world and this particular biennale is so full fantastic, strong, eloquent art work.”
— Adrian Piper on receiving the Golden Lion

In the biennale video below, she went on to talk about one of the installations she presented, a series of primarily black-and-white images in which the faces of all her subjects are erased and replaced with the typewritten phrase “Everything will be taken away.” Piper began the project a couple of years before she relocated permanently to Berlin.

“The Everything series is a project I started working on in 2003 when things in the United States for me personally, in my community and my social environment, were just extremely difficult. Really very difficult. And this phrase came to me, ‘Everything will be taken away,'” Piper says. “I think of it as a way of re-affirming the transience of everything that we don’t anchor in stable relationships of trust.”

She goes on talk about the enduring possibilities of art. “The power of art is unlimited. It is absolutely unlimited and transcendent because it can do what no institution, no structure, can do. It’s purpose is to go beyond structure, to question institutions, to change them,” Piper says. “That’s what it does and defines what an art work is. So the power of art is unlimited for social change.”

THE MOMA EXHIBITION is Piper’s first in an American museum in a decade and will be documented by a few publications—a catalog with contributions by Christophe Cherix, Connie Butler, David Platzker, Enwezor, and Piper; a reader with essays by Diarmuid Costello, Jörg Heiser, Kobena Mercer, Nizan Shaked, Vid Simoniti, and Elvan Zabunyan; and a new autobiographical text by the artist.

In the museum statement about her retrospective, Piper said: “I have been deeply honored and very moved by the curators’ invitation to do this exhibition. It is a pleasure to collaborate with them on it. The Museum of Modern Art is offering me a unique and invaluable opportunity to make a much larger selection of work available to a much larger and more global audience than has ever been possible before. It is a terrific adventure.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
“Adrian Piper: Synthesis of Intuitions 1965-2016,” the catalog accompanying the MoMA exhibition, is forthcoming in April 2018. Earlier publications document her art practice (“Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment” and “Adrian Piper: A Retrospective”) and gather her writings (“Out of Order, Out of Sight, Vol. I: Selected Writings in Meta-Art 1968-1992” and “Out of Order, Out of Sight, Vol. II: Selected Writings in Art Criticism 1967-1992”).

 


Adrian Piper talks about the significance of receiving the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Biennale and the works she presented at the international exhibition. | Video by BiennaleChannel

 

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