Recently, I went to see Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark at Barbican Art Gallery, London. Here is a review and some thoughts on the experimental work of these pioneering artists.
This is an exhibition looking back at the 1970’s New York art scene when artists across disciplines were working in disused warehouses and other spaces in the city at a time of economic recession. The disciplines span visual arts, music, dance, spoken word, architecture, photography and film, and the exhibition creates a real sense of being in touch with a piece of history. Below is Laurie Anderson Institutional Dream series, where she is experimenting with whether her dreams differ according to the places she sleeps.
It is very satisfying to see the sketches, notes and thoughts from each artist being displayed, alongside their larger bodies of work, as the 70’s were well known as a time when artists began to reveal the process and the making of their work. Knowing the artists’ work today and seeing their journey from the beginning, exploring their ideas and concepts, makes a bigger impact than just seeing pictures in a history book.
The dimensions within the multiplicity of forms explored make for a rich and far-reaching look into the ideas of the artists, as well as providing a glimpse into their lives, as they lived and worked in downtown New York. There is a freedom of expression and a playful energy in the work by all the artists, a blurring between the art forms, the community, audiences, and life, as in Food by Matta-Clark, shown below. Food was a place where cooking, eating, gathering, discussing among artists and public alike in the community all took place under one roof, a cafe / meeting place for all.
Trisha Brown’s work spanned installation, performance and film, this piece below Planes has the dancers costumes being white on one side and black the other so they are both visible and invisible in relationship to the projected film. This was incredibly effective and an interesting perspective of seeing the relationships to each discipline.
There are comments made to link 1970’s New York to that of London today. The economic climate is similar, as we face a recession in the UK with funding cuts to the arts. Artists now are working within pockets of communities, building networks from the grassroots, with more work online where they can spread and share ideas to wider audiences across countries creating easily accessible projects. With hope this work will continue, the message can only be to keep supporting your fellow artists so we can grow and build our future together.
With this piece of American history, I would like to ask the question – was the art scene in 1970’s London just as fruitful and pioneering? I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this dynamic and experimental work, and now it would be great to see the work and journeys of radical artists in the UK and Europe up to the present day and beyond!
Katie Keeble, June 2011