A Tale of Two Artists: Vito Acconci and Cris Gianakos at SVA, 1977

November 18, 2013

Primary Sources: Documenting SVA and the New York Art World, 1966 – 1985” captures the myriad new ways of making and experiencing art that  found support at SVA over two vital decades. The exhibition brings together documentation from the SVA Archives, including posters, press materials, artist correspondence, installation plans and photographs for exhibitions and events, along with original works shown in the College’s galleries during this period. Among the 21 artists represented by original works as well as documents are Vito Acconci and alumnus Cris Gianakos (1955 Fine Arts).

Acconci-install-1977In 1977, their paths crossed in separate exhibitions. SVA presented “Vito Acconci/Joan Jonas: Video Installations” from February 8 – 25. Curated by Joyce Nereaux, the exhibition included Acconci’s video installation Command Performance, in which the artist appears lying on his back in a trance with the camera gazing down on him, vocalizing a fantasy about a dancing bear to entice the viewer to sit on a stool opposite the monitor. As described in the show’s press release, “[Acconci] began to move away from using live performance/activities and videotapes as a means of self interrogation to deal more directly with the immediate spaces around him.”


A few months later, Gianakos curated “School of Visual Arts: 10 Alumni” along with Barbara Toll. On view from May 27 – June 18, the exhibition included one of his own works, Elevated Horizontal Plane with Ramp, launching a series of sculptures produced over three decades that drew comparisons to Duchamp, Judd and the Pyramids. “The ramps evoke both peacetime functions and war machines, and, to my way of thinking, are worthy successors to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of imagined structures, Giorgio de Chirico’s empty streets, Frank Kline’s black-and-white paintings, and Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International,” wrote John Yau.


Primary Sources” includes Acconci’s Blindfold Catching from 1970 and Gianakos’s Elevated Horizontal Plane with Ramp, along with the posters Gianakos, who is also a designer, created for several other exhibitions. “Primary Sources” is on view from November 19 – December 18 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, 15th floor.

Images:  “Vito Acconci/Joan Jonas: Video Installations,” installation view, 1977, photo Dan Dragan (BFA 1975 Photography), SVA Archives; Vito Acconci, Blindfold Catching from Three Adaptation Studies, Super 8mm film on video, 1970, courtesy EAI; Cris Gianakos, poster design for “Timbuktu: A Window into the Past: Masks from Mali to Nigeria” (April 10 – May 6, 1974).


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