This 1972 issue of Avalanche is totally devoted to Acconci and is the definitive source for his early work. In addition to photographic and written documentation of each performance, there is an interview, a list of exhibitions, and bibliography.
Few will disagree that around 1970 Vito Acconci was one of the art world’s most influential artists. His innovative, attention-grabbing “body art” is today credited with opening the way for new art forms like performance and video art. Equally important however, was his role in reconfiguring the then dominant cerebral approach of “conceptual art” by artists like Sol LeWitt into something more personal and expressive. Although Acconci was not a painter, he can be seen as a forerunner of neo-expressionism as well as other modes of self-centered art prominent in the 1980s.
Gallery 98 is fortunate to have a full collection of announcement cards and other art ephemera covering Acconci’s career. Much of this is connected to the John Gibson Gallery, which sponsored performance art events where admission was charged, and gallery exhibitions featuring video and other methods of documenting performance art.
In the 1980s, Acconci began making furniture, creating installations and experimenting with architecture. Perhaps his highest profile installation was at the Palladium nightclub, already famous for commissioning works by artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Along with Jenny Holzer, Acconci was part of a second wave of commissions. His Garden of Plants and Bodies replaced an earlier installation by Kenny Scharf in an underground area of the club.
The photo used on this announcement card shows Acconci’s performance Learning Piece from 1970. From his description in Avalanche: “Playing on tape, the first two phrases of a song (Leadbelly’s Black Betty). Repeating the two phrases and sing along with them.… Going back and adding two phrases at a time, until the entire song is learned.”
Vito Acconci, Self/Sound/City, Folded Brochure with 7 Xerox Sheets Documenting an Earlier Body Art Work, FACT (England), 2005
Size: 9.5 x 9.5 inches
Thirty-Five Approaches from 1970 transforms a gallery into a “mating ground.” “Each day, a different letter is placed on a shelf—each letter addresses a specific possible visitor to the gallery. ‘You in the blue pants,’ ‘You in the orange sweater’—each letter reads; ‘I want you. I am enclosing a gift, a sample from my body, as an introduction and a token of my availability’—the letter includes a small plastic container with something from my body (hair, fingernail clippings, blood, saliva).”
Produced by John Gibson for New York University, Body, Group Exhibition with Acconci and Others, SIGNED, Poster, 1971
Size: 17 x 22 inches
A photo of Acconci’s 1970 performance Trademarks is featured on this SIGNED and NUMBERED poster advertising four nights of Body works by Acconci and other artists. Acconci’s description of Trademarks: “Biting myself: biting as much of my body as I can reach. Applying printers’ ink to the bites; stamping bite-prints on various surfaces.”
Body (Documentation, Performances, and Films), Group Show with Vito Acconci, Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Michael Snow, Card, John Gibson Gallery, 1971
Size: 9.5 x 9.5 inches
This exhibition announcement features an image from one of the short films that Acconci made in 1970 with titles like Hand and Mouth and Grass and Mouth.
Size: 6 x 4 inches
Prying: Live performance with video; 20 minutes. “Camera focuses on Kathy’s eyes: her goal is to keep her eyes shut—my goal is to force them open.”
Size: 6 x 4.25 inches
The image is from Acconci’s 1970 performance Applications. “ She puts on heavy lipstick, covers my body with kisses. I rub up against his back –my aim is to clear my body of lipstick, to cover him with lipstick.”
From the Kitchen press release: “The concern has been to allow the possibility of making a space, making a meaning (rather than having that space and that meaning fixed and imposed)… Abstract House is a combination house/furniture/model/toy/globe. Use of the structure changes the structure.”
Size: 5.5 x 8 inches (5.5 x 24 inches when open)
In the 1980s Acconci began making installation art which retained his interest in the body. In 1986, he was part of the second group of artists commissioned by the nightclub Palladium. For Palladium’s basement he created Garden of Bodies, a large cave-like seating structure that combined plants with recessed areas and mirrors shaped like human body parts.