“When I state that I am an anarchist, I must also state that I am not an anarchist, to be in keeping with the (....) idea of anarchism. Long live anarchism.”
- Christopher D’Arcangelo
Between 1975 and 1979, the US artist Christopher D’Arcangelo (1955-1979) developed an artistic practice notable for its radicality and critical import concerning the role of the artist, the status of the art object and the institutionalization of art. A desire for a radical democratization of the production and reception of art, motivated D’Arcangelo’s critique of art institutions. His position as an artist was voiced in a statement on anarchism that accompanied, in various stenciled and typewritten forms, the majority of his actions and interventions. The statement, which contains an ellipsis between brackets in the place of an adjectival definition of anarchism, recalls the historical expression “anarchism without adjectives.”
In 1975, D’Arcangelo carried out a series of unauthorized, disruptive actions at New York’s major art museums, followed by similar actions at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (1976) and at the Louvre in Paris (1978). Concurrently, and until his suicide in 1979, D’Arcangelo worked in collaboration with the artist Peter Nadin carrying out construction work in exhibition spaces and downtown loft spaces. Their work became the subject of a series of flyers in which the two artists subtly questioned the separation between their means of subsistence and their artistic practice. Each flyer detailed the amount of labor involved and the materials used, and extended an invitation to view the work.
In September 1978, D’Arcangelo participated in a group exhibition at Artists Space, along with Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman and Adrian Piper. His contribution consisted of exhibiting a series of texts, entitled Four Texts for Artists Space, in which he elucidated on the ideological conditions of the gallery’s status as an independent art space. As a conclusion to his analysis, he chose to withdraw his name from all material promoting the exhibition outside the gallery. A blank space in place of his name in the title and list of exhibiting artists formally indicated this erasure.
To date, no posthumous exhibition or critical evaluation of Christopher D’Arcangelo’s work has been undertaken. The written and visual documents which D’Arcangelo compiled over a five year period, in order to chronicle his practice, have recently been made available at the Fales Library & Special Collections, New York University, following a donation to the library’s “Downtown Collection” in 2009, by Cathy Weiner and the D’Arcangelo Family Partnership.
Testifying to an artist engaged in a critique of the social conditions and repercussions of art, and whose work is accessible in archival form alone, represents a challenge to contemporary art history. It is this challenge, along with the paradoxes and critical complexities that D’Arcangelo’s work and legacy raises, that this exhibition will present and discuss.
Anarchism Without Adjectives: On the Work of Christopher D’Arcangelo (1975-1979) will present a series of specially commissioned video interviews. Intended to form an oral history of the artist’s work and practice, the series includes interviews with artists and critics who worked directly with D’Arcangelo, or have addressed his work in retrospect. Contributors to this series include Stephen Antonakos, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Daniel Buren, Peter Nadin, Naomi Spector and Lawrence Weiner, amongst others. Alongside this oral archive, the exhibition will also include a work by Christopher Williams titled Bouquet, for Bas Jan Ader and Christopher D’Arcangelo (1991), an installation that addresses both the resonances and the contradictions within the historical reception of conceptual art practices.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a program of lectures with contributions from artists, art historians and critics reevaluating the legacy of D’Arcangelo and his work, and the context in which it was produced.
Curated by Dean Inkster and Sébastien Pluot, together with Richard Birkett and Stefan Kalmár of Artists Space.