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CalArts

The comprehensive group exhibition "Wo Kunst geschehen kann – Die frühen Jahre des CalArts" presents the legendary founding years (1970-1980) of the American art school "California Institute of the Arts" (CalArts), which produced numerous well-known artists, as Troy Brauntuch, Mike Kelley, Matt Mullican, David Salle and Christopher Williams. The exhibition opens up a multi-perspective view of this school: parallel currents from the fields of Conceptual Art, Feminism and Fluxus as well as the school's radical pedagogical concepts are united for the first time in the exhibition.

In 1970, the CalArts art school founded by Walt Disney opened its doors near Los Angeles. In its early years, CalArts developed a radical, pioneering school model, which in its interdisciplinarity was based on European and US-American predecessor models such as the Bauhaus and the Black Mountain College, equalized the relationship between teachers and students and got along without a grading system.

With the institutional establishment of conceptual and feminist concepts at the chairs "Post Studio" by John Baldessari and "Feminist Art Program" by Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago, CalArts has taken on a pioneering role. Even back then, the artistic debate focused on current social issues such as questioning authorship, making artistic working methods more flexible, or criticizing patriarchal power structures.

The touring exhibition was curated by Philipp Kaiser (freelance curator, Los Angeles) and Christina Végh (director of the Kestner Gesellschaft) and was conceived as a research project in cooperation with the Free University Berlin (Annette Jael Lehmann, Verena Kittel) and metaLAB (at) Harvard, Boston (Jeffrey Schnapp, Kim Albrecht). After a first presentation at Kestnergesellschaft Hannover, the group show was supposed to be shown at Kunsthaus Graz from March to June 2020, where Barbara Steiner and Katrin Bucher Trantow support the curatorial team and show references to Austrian developments. The opening of the show got postponed to a still unknown date, due to the current health situation.

"Wo Kunst geschehen kann – Die frühen Jahre des CalArts" is dedicated to the first 10 years of the art academy and for the first time brings together the represented teaching concepts and the subsequent developed artistic practices. Approximately 100 works by around 40 artists are shown, amongst other by Matt Mullican, who was a student at CalArts. The historically conceived exhibition traces various situations in which art can arise. Entirely in the spirit of John Baldessari, who as one of the formative teachers pursued the view that art cannot be taught, but that it is a matter of creating situations "where art might happen", as he said in an interview in 1992. The exhibition sheds light on key figures such as Allan Kaprow, John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, and Miriam Schapiro and their fundamental ideas of Fluxus, conceptual art, and feminism.

In addition to artworks and archive material, oral history interviews with 13 CalArts artists were filmed especially for the exhibition. As contemporary witnesses, they provide individual insights into the situation at the time. In this way, the teaching methods, the historical context and the interdisciplinary connections between the artistic practices are made visible for the first time in an exhibition. The zeitgeist of the 1970s is also conveyed by stories of legendary pool parties, courses such as "Advanced Drug Research" and the abandonment of grades and curricula in everyday school life. 

Ausstellungsansicht: Matt Mullican, Kestner Geselschaft Hannover, © Raimund Zakowski

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