In 1964, the year following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, this country witnessed tremendous transformation. The first U.S. bombs fell in North Vietnam. The Beatles played Carnegie Hall and dominated the Billboard music charts. Racial unrest rocked American cities, and the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Fueled by these and other radical shifts in American culture, a range of artistic impulses began to foment and cross-pollinate. The Walker Art Center exhibition
, opening at 5 pm Thursday, March 25, mines the aesthetic innovations and strategies of dissent that artists were pursuing during this brief but extraordinary moment, drawing together disparate works made in or around that year. Often sharing little but a singular moment in time, the 100 works of art on view, assembled primarily from the Walker’s collection, embody the ambivalence, contradictions, and challenges of a not-so-distant era. 1964 remains on view through October 24, 2010.
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable artworks of the mid-1960s are the Pop paintings of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, whose imagery derived from mass-media sources and reflected America’s immersion in a culture of consumerism and spectacle. Similarly, the sculptures of Claes Oldenburg and George Segal transformed everyday objects and scenes of modern life, prompting viewers to experience them in new ways. It was also a time of transition, as the bravura gestures of 1950s Abstract Expressionism were giving way to the distilled forms, pure color fields, and sparse geometries of Minimalism in the work of Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and others.
Meanwhile, George Brecht, Ben Vautier, and other artists in Europe and the United States associated with the loose-knit group known as Fluxus followed a different trajectory. Finding new intersections among visual art, performance, music, film, and graphic design, they challenged the seriousness of art by transforming its context and welcoming audience participation. Fluxus artists and others as diverse as Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns, and Dieter Roth, were forging a more democratic approach to art and its dissemination by experimenting with prints, multiples, and artist’s books, while Ray Johnson distributed his unique collages in the mail. Even more publically, underground filmmakers Jack Smith and Ron Rice as well as performance artists Carolee Schneemann and Yoko Ono flaunted taboos with provocative works that called into question mainstream norms of gender, sexuality, and expression.
The Walker kept pace with the cultural and artistic upheaval of the period through an ambitious program of performances, film screenings, and art exhibitions that often crossed traditional disciplinary boundaries—most notably a 1964 event featuring the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, John Cage, David Tudor, and Robert Rauschenberg. A solo show of “accumulations” by the French artist Arman, an exhibition of paintings curated by influential modernist critic Clement Greenberg called Post Painterly Abstraction, a group show of contemporary American sculpture featuring the work of Segal and Peter Agostini, and a survey of new art from Argentina all appeared in the Walker’s galleries. Regular film screenings showcased the work of Jean Cocteau, Alain Resnais, and Luis Buñuel. That same year, the Walker acquired nearly 50 works of art, among them key pieces by Max Beckmann, Philip Guston, Morris Louis, Frank Stella, and Günther Uecker (all of which are currently on view in the exhibitions Event Horizon and Benches & Binoculars).
By investigating a small slice of time, 1964 underscores the diversity of the Walker’s collection at a signal moment. “The collection mirrors that point in history perfectly,” Walker curator Siri Engberg explains. “Not only is it rich with artworks and ephemera from the mid-1960s, but it also embodies that era’s emergent and hybrid forms. The year 1964 marks a moment in our history when artists vigorously challenged the rules of modernism and transformed popular conceptions of what art could be. In many ways, the work in this exhibition has much to tell us about what contemporary art has become.” Pointing to future developments in performance, video, and conceptual art, while pondering past traditions in modern painting and sculpture, 1964 maps a challenging historical terrain from Pop to Fluxus, Minimalism to avant-garde film, and the many spaces in-between.
A new approach to the traditional gallery guide, Card Catalogue is an evolving publication featuring information on artists, exhibition themes, specific works, and a wealth of facts and artifacts from the Walker’s archives. Many authors and voices are slated to contribute to this experimental project. With a gradual accumulation of data, theories, ideas, and stories, Card Catalogue provides an expanded and amplified history of the Walker and of contemporary art in general. Two cards related to 1964 feature an illustrated timeline that traces significant art-historical and cultural moments of the period as well as highlights of George Segal’s practice of casting from life, with an emphasis on The Tar Roofer, a recent addition to the Walker’s collection.
Opening-Day Gallery Talk
Thursday, March 25, 7 pm, Free
Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6 pm
Revisit the array of artistic developments underway in 1964. The same year that saw the Beatles’ invasion of America, race riots erupting across the nation, the Civil Rights Act signed into law, and the first U.S. bombs dropped on Vietnam. 1964 curator Siri Engberg discusses such defining moments in recent history and ways they are mirrored through artworks—some iconic, some surprising—selected from the Walker’s collections.
Target Free Thursday Nights
Thursday, March 25
Opening-Day Gallery Talk, 7 pm
See listing above.
Thursday, April 1
Sound Bites: Short Talks About Art, 6:30 and 7 pm
This 15- to 20-minute gallery conversation, led by a curator or tour guide, focuses on a featured artist represented in the exhibition.
Target Free Thursday Nights sponsored by Target.
Sunday, April 11, 2 pm
Friday, April 16, 2 pm
Saturday, April 17, 2 pm
Thursday, April 22, 2 pm
Gallery Hours and Admission
$10 adults; $8 seniors (65+); $6 students/teens (with ID)
Free to Walker members and children ages 12 and under.
Free with a paid ticket to a same-day Walker event.
Free to all every Thursday evening (5–9 pm) and on the first Saturday of each month (10 am–5 pm).
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11 am–5 pm
Thursday 11 am–9 pm