August 29, 2016

Conceptual Art @ BAMPFA, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Mind Over Matter: Conceptual Art from the Collection
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)

October 19 - December 23, 2016

Ant Farm
Ant Farm
Media Burn, July 4, 1975
Performance, Cow Palace, San Francisco
BAMPFA collection
Photo: © John F. Turner

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) presents Mind Over Matter: Conceptual Art from the Collection, on view October 19 to December 23, 2016. Showcasing BAMPFA’s considerable holdings of first-generation international Conceptual art, it is one of several shows spotlighting key areas of the collection during the inaugural year in BAMPFA’s new downtown Berkeley building. Mind Over Matter is a lively illustration of the Conceptualist notion, reflected in the exhibition title, that the idea behind an artwork is primary, and its manifestation is secondary. The exhibition is divided between language-based works and performance documentation, in the form photography, film and video, mail art, artists’ books, and ephemera by Ant Farm, James Lee Byars, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lowell Darling, Gilbert & George, Fluxus, and others.

The wide-ranging exhibition offers text-based works by such well-known artists as John Baldessari, Jenny Holzer, Allen Ruppersberg, and Ed Ruscha. Text also figures importantly in objects by Alice Hutchins, and maps in more documentary-like works by Howard Fried, Douglas Huebler, Richard Long, and Robert Smithson. Posters by Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Tom Marioni, and Lawrence Weiner show how ephemera was integrated into Conceptual exhibitions of the late 1960s to the 1980s, while Yoko Ono’s instructional “paintings,” collected in the artist’s book Grapefruit, provide a link to Fluxus’s event scores in which text and object, viewer and performer are inseparable.

Performance documentation was a focus of early video art, and the exhibition features key examples by Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Eleanor Antin, Scott Burton, Terry Fox, and Carolee Schneemann, to name a few. In video art by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Bruce Nauman, Linda Montano, Ant Farm, and Paul Kos we see the various ways artists adopted this new medium.

Not all the artists in Mind Over Matter reject the art object altogether. Among the most intriguing and delightful pieces on view are the various boxes and Fluxkits, including George Maciunas’s Burglary Fluxkit, providing all the keys needed for break-ins, but no addresses.

BAMPFA is one of the world’s leading centers for the study of Conceptual art and related materials. Its collection, housed in the Steven Leiber Conceptual Art Study Center, includes the archives of the Museum of Conceptual Art, the Ant Farm collective, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, as well as significant Fluxus and mail art holdings and extensive materials on James Lee Byars and Lowell Darling. The recently acquired Steven J. Leiber collection added a wide selection of works on paper, posters, mail art, artists’ books, and ephemera by virtually all of the major international Conceptualists.

As part of BAMPFA’s ongoing commitment to engage students with our collections, curator Constance Lewallen invited UC Berkeley professor of art history Julia Bryan-Wilson to bring her students to view Conceptual works from the collection during the planning stages of the exhibition. Twelve undergraduates enrolled in the course Contemporary Art in the Americas were selected to engage withand write about works included in Mind Over Matter. Their essays, as well as contributions by Bryan-Wilson and Lewallen, are presented in an accompanying booklet that will be available for download on the BAMPFA website.

Mind Over Matter: Conceptual Art from the Collection
is organized by BAMPFA Adjunct Curator Constance M. Lewallen. The exhibition is supported in part by Alexandra Bowes and Stephen Williamson, Rena Bransten, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
2155 Center Street Berkeley, CA 94704