Rethinking Art: Objects and Ideas from the 1960s and 70s

Judith Bear Isroff Gallery
June 6, 2009 - October 4, 2009

You would not normally associate rock salt, dictionary definitions, fluorescent light tubes or urethane foam with art. But accompanying the social and political upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, American artists began to rethink everything from the process of making art and ways of presenting it to the materials they used. Rethinking Art comprises artworks by 10 artists from the collections of the Akron Art Museum and the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, including several key artistic thinkers of the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition presents a sampling of explorations during that period that changed the future of contemporary art. Moving away from the highly personal, expressive style of predecessors like Jackson Pollock, many artists looked beyond the canvas to the built and natural environment and to industrial materials. They also sought ways to capture ephemeral phenomena such as light and space. The use of such elements allowed artists to physically remove themselves from their art, divorcing it from the tradition of the handmade, emotive work that showcases technical skill and virtuosity. Rethinking Art presents such radical actions as Robert Smithson’s burial of an abandoned woodshed on the Kent State University campus and Christo’s wrapping of walkways in a Kansas City park. Dan Flavin’s store-bought fluorescent light tubes and Joseph Kosuth’s photostats of dictionary definitions of the words “black” and “white” urge us to reconsider familiar objects and meanings. The artists in Rethinking Art offer a new perspective on our environment, changing the way we look at our everyday surroundings. This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by a generous gift from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.