Shifts in Materiality: Progressive Art Practices of the Late 1960s
Starting location: Forecourt
About the Program
Many artists in the Dia:Beacon collection were expanding the boundaries of what is considered art, by diminishing the specific content in the works themselves, increasing the scale and specifying exhibition spaces, and using materials that had otherwise been used solely for industrial or domestic applications.
The diminished specific content sought to create an immediate experience for the viewer; no footnotes or art history needed. The act of being with the object was the complete experience; there was typically no specific narrative, and most of the works were untitled. This was art that preferred to ask questions rather than give answers.
There were shifts in scale and material. The sense of scale, most often to equal the size of the viewer, gave a sense of equal physical presence. It becomes possible to have a direct and intimate relationship with the object on view, as an equal participant to the action. The shift in material—from codified art-specific materials to industrial and ordinary materials—establishes a more accessible and democratic position between the works and the audience. There is no magic act or attempt at illusion; the artist shows what the work is using recognized materials and nothing beyond it is suggested. These shifts, in the subject-object relationship and in the accessibility of the works, coincide with shifts in social practices in the US. The passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the escalation the unpopular US military involvement in Vietnam both gave renewed vigor to the pursuit and demand for the rights of the individual, and a suspicion and even disregard of hierarchical structures. While the intention of the artists in making these shifts may not have been overtly political, they very much mirror the social and political shifts going on in US during the time that they were working.
About the guide
Kristian Nammack is an arts administration consultant, activist, and artist based in Brooklyn, New York. He consults to nonprofits, galleries, artists, and patrons on a wide range of business and creative issues, encouraging cascading innovation. He is a founding member of Occupy Sandy, a network of activists responding with mutual aid to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. He also sits on the advisory boards of Momenta Art and Triple Canopy, and spends countless hours wandering through the bounty of New York’s galleries and visiting artist studios. He is a founding member of MOLD, a multidisciplinary arts collective and free school based on the legacy of Black Mountain College. Kristian spent twenty years in investment management working for Skandia Life, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., Inc., and has a formal education background in studio arts, art history, and philosophy.