MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM PRESENTS
PARTICIPATORY CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION
Show is based on conceptual instructions provided by such artists as
Robert Barry, Louise Bourgeois, Felix Gonzalez-Torres,
Sol LeWitt, and Yoko Ono
Community participation from Girl Scouts, Montclair State University MFA Students,
Yard School of Art students, Succeed2gether, MAM African American Cultural Committee, Hillside Elementary School, and more
September 10–December 31, 2016
MONTCLAIR, NJ, July 5, 2016—Beginning September 10, 2016, Montclair Art Museum (MAM) presents do it, an exhibition unlike any other the Museum has hosted. Rather than an exhibition of objects created by artists, do it is a collection of conceptual instructions provided by renowned artists. A highly participatory contemporary art exhibition, it has brought together the community and Montclair-area organizations to implement these written instructions.
Curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, do it began as a conversation between Obrist and the artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier. Obrist was concerned with how exhibition formats could be rendered more flexible and open-ended. This discussion led to the question of whether a show could take a similar form to musical “scores,” or written instructions by artists as a point of departure, each of which could be interpreted anew every time they were enacted. To mark the 20th anniversary of this landmark project, Obrist collaborated with Independent Curators International (ICI) to create a new version of the exhibition presenting the largest selection of instructional works to date. It is now the longest-running, most far-reaching show ever to take place.
The driving force behind the exhibition is aptly summarized in the words of the revolutionary modern artist Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), who questioned long-held assumptions about what art should be, and how it should be made, declaring himself “interested in ideas—not merely in visual products.” He is only one of several predecessors to have shaped this exhibition, which also draws from Conceptual and Minimalist art of the 1960s and 1970s as well as Fluxus practices, all movements that were highly experimental in nature and sought new ways to think about art.
Each do it exhibition is uniquely site-specific because it engages the local community in a dialogue that responds to a new set of instructions. The Montclair Art Museum has selected 27 instructional works from a list of 250, all of which are featured in the book do it the compendium (2013). Featured artists include Robert Barry, Louise Bourgeois, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Sol LeWitt, and Yoko Ono.
Members of the MAM community and Montclair area organizations were engaged in the planning and implementation of many of these projects before the opening of the exhibition. For one project, SummerART, teen digital photography students and Girl Scouts completed Hreinn Fridfinnson’s “Beauty Marks.” Participants engaged in a discussion about the definition of “beauty” in art and personal life, facilitated by Mary Lysinger from COPE Center, Montclair. The discussion was followed by placing beauty marks on the wall and on their own faces in accordance with Hreinn Fridfinnsson’s instructions. Other instructions have engaged Montclair State University MFA students, Succeed2gether, Hillside Elementary School, MAM’s African American Cultural Committee, Montclair Public Library, and Museum staff.
Several projects will be ongoing and will engage visitors to the museum on a regular basis, especially those of Yuri Aran, Alison Knowles, Yoko Ono, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and RAQ Media Collective. For example, visitors will be invited to draw on a special doodle wall in the Museum’s Learning Lab, as per Aran’s instructions. Internationally renowned artist Yoko Ono’s WISH PEACE (1996) invites visitors to write down their wishes on pieces of paper that they will attach to the branches of a Wish Tree.
Coordinated for the Museum by Leah Fox, Director, Vance Wall Art Education Center and Gail Stavitsky, Chief Curator, this project coincides with the launch of the newly constructed Vance Wall Art Education Center, completed spring 2016.
Image: do it installation photo, Kunsthal Rotterdam, 2015. Courtesy ICI.