Art Catalogue Tells All

". . . full of gossip and history . . . "

Art and Technology

As noted in Allison’s post of yesterday, the provenance of James Turrell’s Afrum (White) can be traced back to the Art and Technology exhibition of 1971. We’ve recently made it easy to learn about this fabled show by putting its catalogue online. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound that exciting, but trust me. It’s a different kind of catalogue—candid, original, and often very funny. “I loved the catalogue,” the sculptor Claes Oldenburg once said. “It’s full of gossip and history and time passing and attitudes.”

It was written by then-LACMA curators Maurice Tuchman and Jane Livingston and entitled A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1967–1971. It tells the story of how LACMA, then around two years old, set out to place artists within high-tech corporations to see what would happen. Two exhibitions resulted, one at the Osaka World’s Fair in 1970 and one at LACMA the following year.

James Turrell and Robert Irwin

What makes the catalogue so compelling is its unconventional tendency to disclose everything: who backed the project and who was skeptical, contracts and letters, successes and dead ends, tales of the mutually beneficial interactions that resulted (notably Robert Irwin and James Turrell’s work with the Garrett Corporation) and of the mutually baffling (see John Chamberlain and the Rand Corporation). And all conveyed in a candid, deadpan style that makes the whole thing pretty charming. Here is the last line of an entry about Donald Judd, who exchanged letters (included) with the curators but did not end up participating: “Judd did not contact us while in California in September, 1969 and we could not locate him.”

Tom Drury

3 Responses to Art Catalogue Tells All

  1. Chad says:

    This is excellent. I love the idea of publishing important, out-of-print catalogue online. I’m curious, though: how did you handle image rights? Great work.

  2. Mike Sittenfeld says:

    I agree with Chad–this is a great idea. I have a similar question: Would image rights prohibit my museum from doing the same thing? We have a long-out-of-print, 1970 catalogue that gets requested frequently, but until now we have had no way to make it available to the general public. The book is full of illustrations by twentieth-century artists, some of whom are still active. Since the book is copyrighted by my museum, am I correct in assuming that we could make the whole thing available as a PDF via the Web? Or would we have to clear rights for every image in the book?

  3. [...] Tom Drury’s blog, Unframed, as referenced [...]

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