Celebrating "Six Years": Critic Lucy Lippard's Seminal Conceptual Art Treatise Will Guide Brooklyn Museum Show

Celebrating "Six Years": Critic Lucy Lippard's Seminal Conceptual Art Treatise Will Guide Brooklyn Museum Show
Lucy Lippard (left) and Elizabeth Sackler
(Photo by Eric Weiss)

NEW YORK — Last month the Brooklyn Museum honored Lucy Lippard as the first feminist art critic during their inaugural Sackler Center First Awards. This week the museum announced that Lippard's book "Six Years" — which has introduced generations of art history students to conceptual art — will be the subject of what may be the first major exhibition structured around a single tome of art scholarship, "Materializing 'Six Years': Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art."

The show will open on September 14 and continue through January 20, 2013. "My co-curator Vincent Bonin and I have been talking about doing this show for years," Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art curator Catherine Morris told ARTINFO, "and I think the fact that it has remained a pertinent idea speaks to the importance and significance of Lippard’s project."

"Materializing 'Six Years'" is a testimant to the suggestive and creative style of Lippard's writing itself. "Lippard’s annotated approach to collecting information about her peers retains a freshness for readers today because she is purposefully not acting as a filter or a guide, or an authority to the information," Morris said, "but was instead simply interested in following the course of an idea that was in the air — an idea about shifting the status quo and really examining the materiality of the art object."

Morris and Bonin selected some 270 works, which will be organized chronologically into six sections, one each for the years between 1966 and 1971, corresponding to the six chapters in Lippard's "Six Years." Works included will parallel the trajectory of the book, chronicling the emergence of conceptual art from the mid-'60s to the early '70s, with an additional focus on the movement's relationship to feminist art.

"This exhibition — which includes a whole lot of male artists who had nothing to do with feminism, per se," Morris said, "is being sponsored by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art because focusing on the important impact of Lippard’s thinking on the historical contextualizing of Conceptual Art is an example of a feminist curatorial methodology, which we are very much interested in exploring in our exhibitions.

The exhibition will open with a section of works from a legendary exhibition Lippard curated in 1968, "Eccentric Abstraction," including pieces by seminal women artists like Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse, as well as male contemporaries like Bruce Nauman and Robert Morris. Further sections track the international spread of conceptual art, and its practitioners' penchant for both institutional critique and anti-Vietnam War commentary. Later galleries will address how crucial documentation and text became to the process of making and experiencing conceptual art, as well as Lippard's work with the radical Art Workers' Coalition and her many experimental exhibition projects around the world. The final section will take on how conceptual art evolved in the 1970s, to and its relation to protest, performance, and feminist art.

After its Brooklyn presentation the exhibition will travel to two other as-yet-undetermined institutions. An accompanying catalogue to be published by the Brooklyn Museum and the M.I.T. Press will include a forward by Lippard.

"Lucy has deliberately not been involved in the curating of the show," Morris noted. "She has told me her biggest concern is that people understand that this is a show about 'Six Years' and not about Lucy Lippard."