New York, NY – Dia Art Foundation presents Franz Erhard Walther: Work as Action, opening October 2, 2010, at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries. This major exhibition will comprise more than two dozen works by Walther (German, b. 1939), who is internationally recognized for his five-decade-long investigation into the foundations of action, language, and space. Organized by Dia curator Yasmil Raymond, Franz Erhard Walther: Work as Action will remain on view through February 13, 2012. It is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States since 1990.
While the exhibition will include a diverse selection of works created between 1962 and 1973, it will focus on the artist’s Handlungsstücke (Action Pieces) and Werkstücke (Work Pieces) from the early 1960s. It was in these works that Walther first explored using straightforward physical actions—such as pressing, folding, unfolding, and covering surfaces with malleable materials—as a sculptural principle. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be the complete presentation of a Work Piece from Dia’s collection, titled 1. Werksatz (First Work Set). Dating from 1963–69, this comprises fifty-eight fabric elements, or “instruments for processes,” that are intended to be unfolded, used, and worn by visitors according to the artist’s instructions.
Walther’s provocative meditations on the concept of art as an act of “doing” that is temporal, subjective, and open to interpretation have resulted in an interdisciplinary practice that challenges conventional categories of painting and sculpture. He elaborated on these ideas in First Work Set, which will be shown in its totality for the first time in the United States since 1970, when it was included in the exhibition “Spaces,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This major work, acquired by Dia in 1978, is a pioneering example of installation art, one that reconsiders the space of display as a “storage site” where objects are accessible to visitors and their forms determined by the ways in which they are used. With each of the work’s elements, Walther poses a spatial and temporal challenge for the beholder, whose physical actions and presence become integral parts of the conception and completion of the work. A selection of elements from First Work Set will be made available for interaction with visitors, from 11am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm on days the museum is open, for the duration of the exhibition.
In the early 1960s, Walther trained at the Offenbach School of Applied Art and at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Early influences included the work and manifestos of artists Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, and Piero Manzoni, among others, who together triggered his conviction to, as he once said, “conceive work out of an action.” While at the Kunstakademie, he also became acquainted with Joseph Beuys and befriended fellow students Gerhard Richter and Blinky Palermo, the latter of whom he shared a studio with. Both Beuys and Richter have works on long-term view at Dia:Beacon, and Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964–1977 will be on view at Dia:Beacon from June through October 2011, concurrent with Walther’s exhibition.
Despite the importance of his work, his relationship with many American artists, and the influence of his extensive output on subsequent generations of artists, Walther’s practice remains largely unknown in the United States. Dia’s exhibition recognizes the historical significance of the artist’s First Work Set and his radical conception of the work of art as an experience of uninhibited action.
Conversations at Dia:Beacon
Franz Erhard Walther in conversation with Yasmil Raymond
Sunday, October 3, 2010, 2pm
(Dia:Beacon, 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY)
Artists on Artists Lecture Series at Dia:Chelsea
Peter Halley on Franz Erhard Walther
Monday, October 18, 2010, 6:30pm
(Dia:Chelsea, 535 West 22nd Street, New York, NY)
Gallery Talks at Dia:Beacon
Claire Barliant on Franz Erhard Walther
Saturday, October 30, 2010, 2pm
(Dia:Beacon, 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY)
In 2011, Dia will invite a panel of scholars, critics, and experts to participate in a symposium at Dia:Beacon devoted to Walther’s work. Their presentations will be included in a publication that will join Dia’s series of monographs dedicated to seminal works in its collection. This research will extend the life of this historic installation and broaden existing scholarship on Walther’s innovative and radical practice.
This exhibition is supported in part by Dia’s Board of Trustees, President’s Council, Art Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.
FRANZ ERHARD WALTHER
Franz Erhard Walther was born in Fulda, Germany, in 1939. In 1957, Walther enrolled in the Offenbach School of Applied Art, where he first exhibited his work, and he subsequently studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie from 1962 to 1964, where he began employing material processes and methods of storage as work forms. Walther remained in Düsseldorf until 1967, when he moved to New York, where he lived and worked for six years.
Walther has exhibited extensively throughout Europe including in Documentas 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987); as well as at such venues as Secession, Vienna (1989); Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, (1993); and FRAC Bretagne, Rennes, France (1999). Additionally, he has work on permanent view at Hamburger Kunsthalle; Kunstmuseum Bonn; and Mamco, Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, where a major retrospective of his work was mounted in 2010. 1. Werksatz, the centerpiece of Dia’s installation, was previously shown in exhibitions including “Spaces,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1969–70) and the landmark exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” at Kunsthalle Bern (1969). Walther has been a professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg since 1971, where he has taught John Bock, Martin Kippenberger, and Jonathan Meese, among others.
Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, opened in May 2003 as the home for Dia Art Foundation’s distinguished collection of art from the 1960s to the present. The museum features works by a focused group of some of the most significant artists of the last half century, including Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Imi Knoebel, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Andy Warhol, and Lawrence Weiner.
Situated on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, and easily accessible by train or car, the museum occupies a former Nabisco box-printing facility that Dia renovated with artist Robert Irwin and architect OpenOffice. Dia:Beacon’s expansive galleries comprise 240,000 square feet of exhibition space illuminated by natural light. In addition to its collection, the museum presents temporary exhibitions and diverse public and education programs.
DIA ART FOUNDATION
A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is internationally renowned for enabling artists’ visions by initiating, supporting, and preserving extraordinary art projects. Dia presents public and education programs, exhibitions, and its collection at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries. Commissions and projects by contemporary artists, along with parallel education programs, are presented at The Hispanic Society of America, in Washington Heights, in a partnership that provides an interim venue for Dia’s New York City-based programs while Dia develops a new site for these initiatives in Manhattan. Additionally, Dia maintains a number of long-term, site-specific projects. These include Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) (1988), and Dan Flavin’s untitled (1996), in Manhattan; The Dan Flavin Art Institute, in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), in Kassel, Germany; and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) and De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), in the Western United States. For additional public information, visit www.diaart.org.
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