In the 1970s, the mobility of ideas, artists, and their work intensified. British sculpture was included in the most ambitious exhibitions held abroad, aiming to present the latest international developments in contemporary art. Transnational exchanges are discussed as pivotal in the reshaping of artists’ attitudes to their work and the process of making. Nonetheless, questions are also raised about inclusion and exclusion from the narrative of British art as displayed abroad, at a time when the rubric of sculpture as much as the sense of what was specifically British in the visual arts were verging towards dissolution. As part of this narrative, Lucy R. Lippard’s Art from the British Left (Artists Space, New York, 1979) is discussed as a seminal, if little known, exhibition.




When thinking of the presentation and perception of British sculpture abroad in the 1970s, one cannot fail to note that sculpture was at the time a debated category, increasingly perceived as having “expanded” into innumerable new modes, from Arte Povera and land art to conceptual art and performance.1 As a result, this essay too will have to address the question of the debated status of works that fell under the rubric of “sculpture” at this period. Yet our more particular focus here will relate to transnational exchanges, and the ways in which they reshaped art practice, at a time when art was defined by the acceleration of its dissemination through a growing number of magazines and exhibitions. The mobility of ideas and circulation of works through the mail, in publications, and via instruction-pieces meant that physical travel on the part of the artists was no longer necessarily required. And yet real encounters, then as ever, continued to be important, as they enabled the establishment of close and long-lasting relationships between curators and artists, and were often at the origin of invitations to contribute to publications and mail projects, as well as to realize more ambitious, site-specific works.2 Who were the artists who became part of this continuous and fruitful international exchange? When considering the circulation, distribution, visibility, and critical reception of art at this period, we also need to think about the cultural, socio-political, and economic constraints framing the circulation and reception of people, goods, and ideas. We need to examine who the gatekeepers of those exchanges were; which artists were selected and why; and the ways in which their work was influenced as a result of being introduced into the international arena.


Up to the 1970s, British sculptors had been developing their work as part of a strong, if recent, national tradition. However, by the early years of the decade, Henry Moore’s large public sculpture were starting to feel regressive in its memorializing monumentality, while Anthony Caro’s alignment to American high modernism had turned into a weakness at a time when Greenbergian formalism was being challenged and overturned.3 British sculptors, however, continued by necessity to operate both within and against the path set by these British titans of modern sculpture. Numerous artists who attained international status working in conceptual and performance-based activities had not only trained at the powerhouse of British sculpture, Saint Martin’s School of Art, but continued to define their work in terms of sculpture, as in the case of Gilbert & George, Bruce McLean, and Roelof Louw.4 Nevertheless, the growing rate at which artists were invited to take part in international exchanges, publications, and exhibitions was to play a major role in reshaping their work. It did so on at least two levels. Firstly, the artists were inserted into international discussions and groupings that transcended national specificity, both in terms of the historical development of sculptural practice and the attachment to British values cherished during the Second World War. Secondly, and this will be the focus of this text, the international context fostered an approach to the making of sculpture which both required the planning, pitching, and execution to be deliverable through instruction (when artists could not travel with the work), and also demanded a responsiveness to the specific conditions of a site. As a result, British sculpture acquired some of the characteristics of much international work: process-based and concept-shaped on one side; site specific on the other.


International Exhibitions: Concept and Context


The history of modern art is largely a history of artists’ self-organization against institutional constraints; and of the eventual absorption of the avant-gardes into the institutional sphere. Art & Language, as discussed by Jo Melvin in this section, played a major role in turning self-organization into an international affair, both working and publishing as part of a transatlantic network. While artists continued to organize themselves and plan their own journals and exhibitions, from around 1969 exhibition organizers from around the world also acquired a visibly dominant role, not just in the selection of artworks but as authors of the exhibitions themselves.5 The discursive framework for the organization of exhibitions became more poetic, thematic, and narrative, and there was less reliance on the traditional categories of period, nationality, or medium specificity.


At the turn of the decade there was also a dramatic increase in exhibitions of contemporary art featuring artists from younger generations, who were now frequently invited to travel and create work in situ while becoming part of international conversations with other artists, critics, and curators.6 Two exhibitions in particular signalled this new approach and rapidly became exemplary for subsequent shows: Op Losse Schroeven at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (15 March–27 April 1969) and When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern (22 March–23 April 1969).7Both exhibitions were approached as a process of engaging with both concepts and context.8 In the case of these and many other exhibitions that this essay is concerned with, curators took their cue from the work of conceptual artists, particularly in relation to their procedural and speculative statements. Artists were invited by the curators to send proposals for the execution of new work, or instructions for the making of their work by others. Albeit that many of the “proposals” were more akin to poetic statements or inconsequential gestures than to diligently prepared plans, a clear emphasis was on the pre-conception of the work.


At the same time, a great emphasis was put on the material embodiment and physical presence of the work, with artists invited to respond to the particularities of the location and often using local materials, and working not only within the gallery but also outdoors. Op Losse Schroeven not only took up the hall and main staircase of the museum, but also spilled onto the streets and pavements surrounding it.9 A similar approach was taken by the art critic and curator Lucy R. Lippard in her “number shows”—beginning with 557,087 at the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion (5 September–5 October 1969). As well as including “a few paintings and sculptures in unconventional media” and “a large section of documents, photographs, books and conceptual projects”, Lippard invited artists to contribute “outdoor (or indoor) pieces which can go out into the city and the surrounding landscape or wherever you choose”—ultimately extending the exhibition to an approximately eighty-kilometre radius around the city.10 By adopting the artists’ critical responses to the art institution, curators were agreeing with, if not instigating, the siting of work in locations other than the museum. For instance, at 557,087 in Seattle and at 955,000 in Vancouver in 1970, Keith Arnatt presented Mirror Plug (1969). In Vancouver, it was recreated in the lawn outside Vancouver Art Gallery. By digging and mirror-lining two identical pits in the turf, the work disrupted the outdoor green by a concrete act of removal, and yet it also mimetically attempted to conceal itself while generating confusion if explored closely. Roelof Louw’s Wood Piece (1969), which involved scattering approximately three hundred wooden slats at irregular intervals over an extensive outdoor area, was also shown at both 557,087 and 955,000. The nature of the artists’ involvement resulted in works that were at once conceptually framed but also specific to the site. Sometimes this was further reflected in the doubling up of exhibition catalogues—one would be available at the opening of the exhibition and include the artists’ proposals, the other, documenting the work in situ, would be published on a later date.11 Through the publication of correspondence and artists’ notes and proposals, exhibition catalogues also became testaments to the exchanges between artists and curators, and to the way in which artists were thinking about the best way to develop or adapt their work to different contexts of presentation.12


A similar emphasis on site specificity and local materials characterized the 10th Tokyo Biennale in 1970, titled Between Man and Matter, which toured to Kyoto and Nagoya. The curator Yusuke Nakahara emphasized the notions of process, experience, and place. He selected artists making work about the relationship, and the experience of the relationship, between man and matter, as if “they were a part included in the whole.”13 Although Nakahara stipulated that the work had to be sited in the museum, it was nonetheless site-specific as it responded to the specific constraints of the building and often used locally sourced materials.14


Barry Flanagan had created site-specific work for the first time the year before, spending weeks installing his first institutional solo exhibition at the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld in 1969. The installation he realized at the Tokyo Biennale included a work made of cardboard, wood shavings, and sand (fig. 1 and fig. 2). Its title—may 1’70 —reflected the contingent nature of a sculpture which was only precariously balanced and destined to change its configuration over the course of the exhibition.15 Overall, Flanagan’s emphasis was on an aesthetic rooted in its embodiment—its mass, ponderability, and occupation of space—somehow a victory of Herbert Read’s discussion of sculpture in terms of tactility over Clement Greenberg’s emphasis on opticality.16 This was not only true of artists like Flanagan but also of “Postminimalist” artists such as Eva Hesse, whose work was included in Lippard’s number shows, and Richard Serra, who also exhibited at the Tokyo Biennale—both artists whose works’ formal qualities and structure depended on the type of materials and the effect of gravity, while fully implicating the viewer as co-habitant. Artists were pushed to create artworks that responded to particular contexts, while the procedural quality of the assemblage of the work guaranteed its movement and visibility independently from the presence of the artist.

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 1970, showing Barry Flanagan, <i>may 1 '70</i>, 1970, sand, wood, cardboard, wood shavings, sand

    Figure 1.

    Installation View, Between Man and Matter (10th Tokyo Biennale), Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 1970, showing Barry Flanagan, may 1 '70, 1970, sand, wood, cardboard, wood shavings, sand

    Digital image courtesy of The Estate of Barry Flanagan, courtesy Plubronze Ltd. / Photo: Kiyoji Otsuji

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 1970, showing Barry Flanagan, <i>may 1 '70</i>, 1970, sand, wood, cardboard, wood shavings, sand

    Figure 2.

    Installation View, Between Man and Matter (10th Tokyo Biennale), Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 1970, showing Barry Flanagan, may 1 '70, 1970, sand, wood, cardboard, wood shavings, sand

    Digital image courtesy of The Estate of Barry Flanagan, courtesy Plubronze Ltd. / Photo: Shiego Anzai


Similarly to the exhibitions discussed above, Wim Beeren’s selection criteria for Sonsbeek 71 at Arnhem (19 June–15 August 1971), two years after his Op Losse Schroeven, was “the degree of involvement of a work with the given properties of the park architecture”, with artists asked to conceive a work responding to a particular location of their own choosing.17 Following the principle of “making” rather than selecting and arranging, the exhibition acquired the theme of “spatial relations”.18 Because for some artists the park was an “unnatural environment” rather than a natural context, Beeren and his team worked with them to identify locations across the country, forging relationships and collaborations with institutions, government departments, and individuals.18 This allowed Richard Long, for example, to realize his Celtic Sign (1971; fig. 3), made by arranging rods in order to create a large spiralling form in the dunes of the remote island of Schiermonnikoog. Other works were created in non-urban environments (as in the case of Michael Heizer in Limburg and Robert Morris in Noord-Holland), as well as at venues in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht.20

Schiermonnikoog, 1971

Figure 3.
Richard Long, Celtic Sign, Schiermonnikoog, 1971

Digital image courtesy of the artist


Beyond National Frameworks and Interpretative Models


1969, 16 mm colour film DOI Barry Flanagan’s exhibit at Sonsbeek 71 was a hole in the sea (1969; fig. 4), a 16mm colour film showing a hole being created through the insertion of a transparent, plastic cylinder into the seashore. The work had been filmed and produced by Gerry Schum in Scheveningen, the Netherlands, in February 1969 for the Land Art TV exhibition which went on to tour as part of a number of other international exhibitions. Schum had played a key role in inviting artists who mostly worked in sculpture to produce film work as a way of exploring their sculptural concerns: that is, the physical properties of the work, its relation to its surroundings and to light, and the way it is perceived.21 While in Arnhem Flanagan showed an existing work, the curators of Sonsbeek 71 spent a considerable proportion of their funds to give other artists the opportunity, over several weeks, to experiment with audio-visual equipment.22 This was not incidental, as it was felt that communication media had fostered a broader conception and understanding of space, so that sculpture was inevitably linked to audio-visual works in a contemporary engagement with site and experience.23 The role of foreign institutions and of Gerry Schum in particular, in instigating the adoption of moving images among British artists, cannot be underestimated. A key example is Gilbert & George, who between 1970 and 1972 made four videos with him, and went on to write and direct their own feature-length film, The World of Gilbert & George, in 1981.


Flanagan and Long were among those British artists who most often took part in the new type of transnational, temporary exhibition, which primarily featured artists from Europe and the US but at times extended to include artists from Japan and Latin America. The art exhibited was often still seen as having a particular relation to sculpture in view of its engagement with the site, light, and the artist’s body. As suggested by Jo Melvin, invitations to artists to work in new and unusual places from 1969 onwards, and increasingly after 1970, whereby materials were mostly sourced locally, enhanced what was already manifest in Flanagan’s approach: work that was itinerant, contingent, and responsive to the specificities of the site.24 If Long’s way of working since at least 1967 already involved a reliance on the specificity of the site visited, invitations from institutions outside Britain now also enabled the making of projects in unusual and remote locations. Sonsbeek 71 is a case in point, acting as an example for the future behaviour of art institutions acting as commissioning bodies who were prepared to see work realized away from the museum itself.


Participation in many international exhibitions meant that there was a fluid exchange of ideas between artists in Europe, the US, South America, Japan, and beyond. By the early 1970s, artists—either of their own accord or in response to curators’ and editors’ invitations—were taking ownership of the discussion and presentation of their work through their writings and through their contributions to catalogues and art magazines, as well as putting forward their propositions for the work to be exhibited.25 As remarked by art historian Sabeth Buchmann, “Turning away from traditional notions of art towards practice oriented towards exchange and distribution affected the self-understanding of everyone participating in art activities.”26 Additionally, the work could be assessed and discussed beyond national references—such as the traditional subject of the British landscape in the case of Richard Long, for example, who in the early 1970s worked in the most disparate locations and with highly diverse materials, from realizing A Straight Hundred Mile Walk in Japan by walking across a mountainside on Honshu (1976), to creating Stone Line (1977), for which he took over a large gallery at the Art Gallery of South Wales, Sydney. The work of British artists could also be related to other international developments such as process art and Arte Povera, as in the case of Flanagan. The Italian art critic Lorenza Trucchi highlighted this relationship, describing Flanagan’s supple sculpture in terms of his use of “povere” ropes and other materials such as felt.27 Artists were thinking of themselves as part of an international rather than solely British sphere—and one that went beyond the transatlantic connection that had dominated the 1960s.


International Discourse and Vernacular Assertion


Nevertheless, this was not always an exchange marked by cooperation and mutual recognition. The stakes were high, as history was being drafted through artists represented in shows organized by the most powerful curators, their catalogue essays, and the critical response to them. Already, in 1969, Flanagan had compiled a “documentary exhibition” of practices that foregrounded new developments in the form of a portfolio of large sheets of photographs of works and artists’ statements by Bruce McLean, Richard Long, Roelof Louw, John Latham, Event Structure Research Group, as well as himself.28 The sheets were shown at the Fischbach Gallery and at Lucy R. Lippard’s loft in Prince Street, New York, in 1969. Flanagan intended them as a response to American critics who identified the new conceptual, earthwork, and process-based practices with developments in America, and to a lesser extent with Brazil and Continental Europe, while failing to recognize the role played by British artists as part of an international exchange.29 Similarly, Art & Language were later to openly condemn “the authoritative account of the art of our generation” produced by writers associated with the American journal October, which belittled the British contribution to  conceptual art.30


It may seem paradoxical that while British artists such as Flanagan, Long, Art & Language, McLean, and Gilbert & George had an extraordinary presence in international galleries and exhibitions, their work was not necessarily recognized as playing a leading role in the development of new practices in the late 1960s and 1970s. Some critics and curators claimed their work remained quintessentially British rather than representative of major transnational developments. This was true even of curators who were involved in international curatorial trends. For example, in the catalogue introduction for The New Art (Hayward Gallery, London, August–September 1972), Anne Seymour argued that a presentation of the contemporary work of British artists in an international context would have been preferable, as “it would have thrown into relief precisely how these manifestations of a world-wide upheaval are very specifically British.”31 Guy Brett discussed this attitude as part of a general malaise that affected the antiquated British art establishment, whereby it systematically failed to recognize the value of experimental and transnational contributions.32 It may therefore not seem so peculiar that the reputation of Long’s work in his native country came to be indissolubly connected to a British tradition of landscape painting and to a sense of nostalgia for the uniqueness of the British countryside—one indissolubly connected to the First and Second World Wars, war propaganda, and the paintings of the “Neo-romantics”. This is despite the fact that Long’s work has been made in all sorts of landscapes and with all sorts of materials, extracted from the most disparate sites across the globe, and equally relates to land art—as an international development— in terms of his inscription of gesture, movement, and time into the surface of planet Earth.


This is not, however, a conundrum peculiar to British artists. From the Italian artists associated with Arte Povera to most of the Japanese artists represented in Between Man and Matter, few have been recognized for their part in reshaping the international avant-garde. This is, of course, related to the dominance and prescriptive power of the American art market and American art criticism, in a way that remains unmatched anywhere else. One could also argue that the work produced by most British artists remained too scarce, too provisional, and not monumental enough to be able to compete with the work of Moore or with that of their American counterparts, who capitalized on the combined economic and cultural capital of the monumental—from Claus Oldenburg to Richard Serra and Lawrence Weiner.


Institutional Narratives versus Socially Engaged Practices


Writing in 1980, the artist Margaret Harrison was critical of an exhibition of British art shown that year at the Guggenheim Museum in New York: British Art Now: An American Perspective, 1980.33 Harrison complained that the exhibition gave little indication of the exciting work made in Britain in the previous decade, as British artists “forgot to apologise for not being American”.34 She went on to summarize:

 A myth has been perpetuated that the 60’s was a period of flowering for British Art and the 70’s never matched up to it, producing little of consequence. This is difficult to comprehend when one considers that there have been three flourishing fields of activity, feminist art practice, performance art, and work with a socio-political content and all three fed each other and interpenetrated.35

Nonetheless, as Harrison did not fail to note, much of this type of work was officially ignored in Britain as much as it was abroad. Women, black artists, and artists in general who wanted to address and make visible forms of social and political struggle remained at the fringes of institutional acceptability. If artists who were fully part of the international scene and regularly exhibited abroad felt at least partially neglected, under-represented, or written out from historical readings of contemporary artistic developments, this was even more painfully the case for those artists who remained at the fringes of institutional acceptability—notably women and non-white artists—whose work was not included in important international exhibitions and who were mostly ignored by major art institutions; from Alexis Hunter, Jo Spence, and Marie Yates to Rasheed Araeen, Donald Locke, and David Medalla, as well as many others.36 Their exclusion, as argued by Jean Fisher, was indeed what gave coherence to an institutional view of art with a precise genealogy, whereby only the work of white male artists could claim legitimacy.37


As well as a loss of interest in the specific properties of sculpture as a historically shaped category and the rapid institutionalization of conceptual practices, the 1970s witnessed the rise on an international level of a radical consciousness that ended up defining the work of many artists even further away from formal and medium-specific concerns. In Britain, numerous female artists attempted to embody an alternative voice, challenging rather than adapting to the traditional and discursive framework of the dominant art institutions; working collectively, and seeking alternative spaces in which to exhibit their work. Crucially, they often also resisted the language or “condition” of sculpture, which had become synonymous with a conservative and chauvinist tradition associated with the work of white male artists.38 Primavera Boman, Shelagh Cluett, and Margaret Organ are just a few of the artists who between the late 1960s and the 1970s embraced performance or adopted materials and approaches to the making and installation of their sculpture that were purposely fragile or precarious.


Additionally, following a period of economic stagnation and growing social frustration in Britain, racist politicians and police forces were failing to curb intolerant views or the abuse of stop and search procedures on immigrants from the former colonies.39 Towards the second half of the 1970s, these issues were addressed and made visible in the work of a number of black artists who had moved to London in the 1950s and 1960s. They mostly did so by seeking new forms of expression that could channel their concerns while eschewing a history of art and medium specificity they felt disconnected from and been badly served by. In the case of Araeen, as Courtney Martin has observed, the geometric, Minimalist sculpture he had been pursuing had become subsumed in the very modernist ethos that had turned him—as an artist who had moved to Britain from Pakistan—into an undesirable non-citizen.40


Oblivious to, or perhaps disapproving of these developments, the British Council played a key role in promoting abroad a more traditionally acceptable, white, male, and often medium-bound type of art through a number of solo presentations (including the biennial presentations in Venice and São Paulo) and large-scale group exhibitions. These contexts prioritized traditional forms of object-based sculpture, particularly those with a strong history and still healthy life. A case in point was the seminal exhibition, Arte Inglese Oggi, which opened in Milan in 1976. In a short essay in this same issue I discuss who was included in the exhibition in the “Sculpture” category: it is also revealing to note who was excluded. Only two female artists appeared in the “Painting” category: Rita Donagh and Bridget Riley. No women were represented in the “Sculpture” category, nor in the more progressively titled “Alternative Developments” section. In addition, no artists from the former empire or others who had come to England from overseas seemed to have made a significant enough impact to be selected for these sections (the only exception was the American, R. B. Kitaj).41


A similar scenario can be identified in the selection for the exhibition Un Certain Art Anglais: Sélection d’artistes britanniques 1970–1979, Paris (19 January–12 March 1979), which is discussed in this issue in an essay by Lucy Reynolds.42 Despite the overall younger age of the selectors—whom one might have thought would be more in touch with contemporary developments and keener to broaden representation—the remit of the artists selected was not much more diverse than those shown in Arte Inglese Oggi.43The only women included were Phillippa Ecobichon, Alexis Hunter, and Mary Kelly.44 While one of the selectors, Richard Cork, had dedicated an issue of Studio International (which at the time he edited) to “Women’s Art” in 1977, he seems to have been unable to push for more equal representation in major state-sponsored exhibitions.45In terms of gender and multiculturalism, not much progress was made when it came to the large-scale exhibitions curated internationally by the now ubiquitous exhibition organizers, as in the cases discussed above.46This is understandable given the limited channels through which art could be made visible and validated, through a tight network of a few dealers, exhibition organizers, and keepers, in Britain as well as abroad; and also given that the work of female artists was not taken seriously; much as the work of artists from the former colonies was not even seen as British, and its value was mostly perceived in relation to preconceived ideas about what indigenous art should look like.47


Art from the British Left


One exhibition that, taking place abroad, defied what was unquestioningly seen as the pinnacle of contemporary British art—and one that was nearly exclusively white and male—was Lucy Lippard’s Art from the British Left, which took place at Artists Space, New York (16 June–14 July 1979). The exhibiting artists were Rasheed Araeen, Conrad Atkinson, Margaret Harrison, Alexis Hunter, Mary Kelly, Tony Rickaby, and Marie Yates. From 1977 to 1978, Lippard and her son lived on a farm in Devon, making occasional trips to London. Over this period she met all the artists whom she subsequently invited to take part in the show, developing a close relationship with a number of them. Lippard’s desire to present their work in New York was prompted by their active engagement in current social issues. As she noted later in 1981, British artists were, in her view, ahead of Americans in their recognition of “artists’ loss of the confidence to use their communicative tools for social impact” and their “recognition of the necessity to act on it, not just comment on it”.48


Unsurprisingly, given that Lippard was a socialist feminist, the exhibition included four women out of seven artists—an exceptional ratio for the time.49 All the artists included had been directly addressing socio-political issues and understood the subjects they tackled—be it the representation of gender, sexuality, division of labour, race, power, or civil conflict—as constructed within specific discourses. Since 1977 Atkinson had been addressing the problems in Northern Ireland, because of the lack of a public debate in Britain, both in terms of national political institutions and the media. Rickaby had been making watercolours representing the London headquarters of some of the right-wing organizations that proliferated in Britain in the late 1970s, depicting the material quality of ideology.50 In the series For Bakunin (referring to the Russian socialist anarchist), from which he showed one work in Lippard’s show, he pursued this theme using performance and photography, inserting staged, angry gestures as well as traces of politicized artistic endeavours––symbolized by a red monochrome painting—which ultimately failed to have any impact on society (fig. 5). Hunter showed two of her photographic series, which visualize stereotypes and assumptions about the way women are represented and the role they should play in society (fig. 6).51 Harrison exhibited Homeworkers: Woman’s Work (1977–78; fig. 7). It includes a series of photographic documentations of homeworkers accompanied by texts which reveal the lives of a community of underpaid and invisible workers, most of whom are women bound to their homes, largely due to the demands of childcare. Kelly presented Post Partum Document: Document I (1974), the first in a series of works realized between 1973 and 1979 in which the artist displays feeding charts and her child’s faecal stains to explore the complex and subjective relationship between mother and son, while also addressing its larger social and psychological dynamics.

  • Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing Tony Rickaby, <i>For Bakunin</i>, 1979, black-and-white photographs on board, 101.6 × 50.8 cm

    Figure 5.

    Installation View, Art from the British Left, Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing Tony Rickaby, For Bakunin, 1979, black-and-white photographs on board, 101.6 × 50.8 cm

    Digital image courtesy of Tony Rickaby and Artists Space, New York

  • Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing on the back wall, Alexis Hunter, <i>For Every Witch</i>, 1969, black-and-white photographs mounted on five boards, 64.8 × 28.6 cm each; and Alexis Hunter, <i>War</i>, circa 1978, colour Xeroxes mounted on three board, 64.8 × 28.6 cm each. On the wall on the right, Tony Rickaby, <i>For Bakunin</i>, 1979

    Figure 6.

    Installation View, Art from the British Left, Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing on the back wall, Alexis Hunter, For Every Witch, 1969, black-and-white photographs mounted on five boards, 64.8 × 28.6 cm each; and Alexis Hunter, War, circa 1978, colour Xeroxes mounted on three board, 64.8 × 28.6 cm each. On the wall on the right, Tony Rickaby, For Bakunin, 1979

    Digital image courtesy of Artists Space, New York

  • Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing Margaret Harrison, <i>Homeworkers: Woman's Work</i>, 1977–78

    Figure 7.

    Installation View, Art from the British Left, Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing Margaret Harrison, Homeworkers: Woman's Work, 1977–78

    Digital image courtesy of Margaret Harrison and Artists Space, New York.


A table with chairs, in the middle of the exhibition space, presented an “archival section” including, for example, documentation of the current dispute between Atkinson and Rickaby relating to “the censorship controversy with the Arts Council of Great Britain”.52 Works by the two artists had been selected by Derek Boshier, who had been invited by the Arts Council to purchase works for its permanent collection, which were to be exhibited in Lives: An Exhibition of Artists whose Work is Based on Other Peoples Lives at the Serpentine Gallery (1979–80). The works by Atkinson and Rickaby were withdrawn by the Arts Council because of fear of “legal consequences”.53 The same reading area made available other documents and books, including publications by Araeen and Yates. In fact many of the artists included in Art from the British Left also addressed their social concerns through writing and editing. Araeen, with the writer Mahmood Jamal, started the journal Black Phoenix, which was published in three issues between January 1978 and the spring of 1979, copies of which were available in the exhibition for reading and purchase. In the case of Araeen, the need to publish was particularly urgent given the lack of journals addressing the struggle of black artists, and also as a way to document his performance work in an attempt to save it from oblivion.54


As part of the exhibition, Yates presented Text Piece 1977 (fig. 8), a text-based work on seven panels that she had developed into her book A Critical Re-evaluation of a Proposed Publication (1978; fig. 9), also on view with the other publications and supporting material.55 Each page of the publication reproduces a page of an earlier book, conceived in 1977. As stated on the cover, this reworking addresses the inscription into the landscape and the perpetration, through cultural and social norms, of the perceived dichotomous relationship between nature and culture. In the 1978 critical re-evaluation of the book, as per its title, a new paragraph was added underneath the representation of each page of the original book, in the gained awareness that the initial work denied “the possibility of struggle, as well as positing a unified ideology”. Yates was at least partially rejecting typical conceptual approaches in favour of the polyphonic layering of pluralistic and changing voices that was defining some feminist art at the time; a refusal to adopt binary oppositions or to reduce “a multi-dimensional phase-space to a single linear dimension”.56 The work by Kelly, Harrison, Hunter, and Yates included in British Art from the Left was then sent on by Lippard to Chicago, to be shown in the last exhibition held at the Artemisia Gallery, which she also selected, entitled Both Sides Now: An International Exhibition Integrating Feminism and Leftist Politics (1979).57


As well as making available issues of Black Phoenix among the other reading material, the exhibition also included documentation of Araeen’s performance Paki Bastard (Portrait of the Artist as a Black Person) (1977), while one panel in the changing configuration of For Oluwale (1971–73; fig. 10) was recreated by Lippard using Xeroxes of the original material.58 The work was made of news clippings documenting the treatment of black people by the police, and it was dedicated to David Oluwale, a British Nigerian who had been subjected to systematic and brutal violence by police officers and who was murdered in Leeds in 1969. Araeen’s work was also adapted for the invitation card to Art from the British Left, using one of two postcards that the artist had made and widely distributed earlier that year in order to denounce the fact that black artists in Britain had been ignored in the selection for both Arte Inglese Oggi and Un Certain Art Anglais.59 The card Lippard chose to use for the invitation to British Art from the Left (fig. 11) combined text and photography. The photographic image, showing two policemen assaulting a black man, their arms around his neck, choking him from behind, was a cropped and degraded reproduction of a picture taken by photographer Peter Marlow. It was one of many images documenting anti-racism protesters who halted a National Front march in Lewisham, south London, on 13 April 1977, only for over two hundred of them to be clubbed, dragged away, and arrested by the police.60 At the top, across the image and in capital letters, is written “UN CERTAIN ART ANGLAIS!”61 The eponymous exhibition had opened in Paris only five months earlier. This work by Araeen, reproduced on the invitation card and circulated through the mail, simultaneously hit back at the rise of racism withiin police forces in the mid-1970s, as well as the ostracizing of “third-world” artists from British culture.62

  • Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing recreation of Rasheed Araeen, <i>For Oluwale</i>, third out of four collage panels, 1971–73, dimensions unknown

    Figure 10.

    Installation View, Art from the British Left, Artists Space, New York, 1979, showing recreation of Rasheed Araeen, For Oluwale, third out of four collage panels, 1971–73, dimensions unknown

    Digital image courtesy of Rasheed Araeen and Artists Space, New York

  • Artists Space, New York, 1979

    Figure 11.

    Invitation card, recto and verso, British Art from the Left,, Artists Space, New York, 1979

    Digital image courtesy of Artists Space, New York


Sculpture, Body, Struggle


If the category of sculpture had been contested at least since the 1960s—both preserved along the lines that it could be “extended”, and discarded as unhelpful when looked at in terms of contemporary art production—a relationship to sculpture continued to be perceived in the photographic documentation of earthworks and performance, because of a sense of a bodily and spatial encounter—which had its origin in sculpture—being mediated.63 There is no doubt that this insistence on a bodily encounter with the site and with other people resonated with the cultural climate at the time, in which, on an international level, young people were pressing for social change that would break these traditional moulds whereby individuals were being cast into normative behaviours. And this is also the way in which we can understand Araeen’s work, reproduced on the invitation card of the New York show, as an expression of the sheer physical frustration of the body trapped and restricted by others, in discursive at least as much as in physical terms.64 This is also the case with Hunter’s powerful work, which Lippard convincingly discussed in terms more akin to performance and body art than conceptual photography, in recognition of its capacity to convey “an almost sexual sense of anticipation, of a potential attack or caress”, performed by the hands ubiquitously present in the work from 1973 to 1979.65


In the past, curators have been condemned for aestheticizing and reducing, if not trivializing, the impetus of art whose anti-aesthetic is a means whereby it can dissociate itself from the mainstream of production and distribution in order to foreground its ethical and political intent.66 In Art from the British Left Lippard was doing the opposite—which is unsurprising given that the exhibition was announced as the first in a series of presentations of “socially concerned art” at Artists Space and elsewhere, “intended to expand international communication and to form an archive of political art”.67In 1980 this led to the first meetings towards the formation of PAD (Political Art Documentation), and then of PAD/D (Political Art Documentation/Distribution).68 PAD/D emerged from the desire to establish an archive for the “documentation of politically aware and socially concerned artworks” from around the world, “at a time when politically-charged art was still very much hidden and never appeared in art magazines”.69 Its conception at least partly derived from Lippard’s feeling of being energized by the impressive “activist art” she experienced when she spent a year in England, shortly before the organization of Art from the British Left, and her realization of how little known the work was in the US.70 Araeen’s work used on the invitation card, as much as that by the other artists in the exhibition, was also in tune with the expressed aims of PAD/D: “to encourage the fearless use of objects and encourage and support disenfranchised people in making their own uncolonized art”.71


What did it mean for the exhibiting artists to have their work displayed in New York and in some cases in Chicago? Atkinson and Rickaby had already exhibited in New York and Kelly’s Post Partum Document had already acquired wide visibility and recognition.72 Yet for some of the other artists, as in the case of Yates and Araeen, the fact that Artists Space could not afford to pay for their travel to New York, and that the artists themselves were unable to afford the fare, meant that exchanges with and their presence in the American context did not readily materialize. Additionally, as John A. Walker has pointed out, the acceptability and visibility gained by socially and politically inflected work in the late 1970s suffered a blow with the long Tory administrations in the UK from 1979 to 1997, as well as the Republican administrations in the USA between 1981 and 1993.73 Nevertheless, in 1979 Art from the British Left did succeed in giving visibility to the variety of socially engaged work being produced in the UK. The magazine Village Voice reviewed the exhibition on two occasions. First, Jane Bell stressed the activist nature of much of the work, describing it as a political manifestation of social struggle.74 Then, Peter Frank, without failing to remark on “the wearying task of standing and reading the visual library” that made up the exhibition, noted the frequent brilliance of the material on display, particularly praising Yates’s book, in its bridging of political and philosophical concerns.75 With Art from the British Left, Lippard brought together and legitimized different ways of engaging with socialism and feminism, both in a form more akin to agitprop, with the aim of raising awareness, as much as through a more conceptual endeavour relating to theory. She was giving visibility to the fact that social and political struggle, despite local specificities, had a more global dimension, as women, black citizens, freedom fighters, and the economically disadvantaged shared the same political and economic struggle across the world—something that will ultimately be documented in PAD/D.




Looking at British sculpture abroad in the 1970s highlights the fact that conceptually framed site-specific practices and those open to new media were relatively quickly endorsed by the major art institutions and had a great visibility. In contrast with this, however, work by women artists, artists from the former British colonies and the Commonwealth, and art with a socio-political commitment only had a marginal, if seminal, presence. It also highlights the fact that British art was part of an international discourse, and artists felt less attached to national schools. Nevertheless, the struggle to raise the funding to pay for artists’ travel on the part of curators and institutions foregrounding socio-political concerns, meant that more often than not the relationships rarely materialized in terms of real encounters or exchanges. In the meantime, the category of sculpture had, at least momentarily, been dissolved. By the 1970s, sculpture was felt by many artists to be a rigid structure whose discourse and context of production needed to be deflated, taken out of the museum, punched through; and this often involved a performative embodiment on the part of the artist, at times documented through photography and film. Furthermore, sculpture proper was to be avoided because it was deemed to be mostly incompatible with what Lippard defined as the feminist “collage aesthetic”—an “art of separations” which, like collage, “is born out of interruption and the healing instinct to use political consciousness as a glue with which to get the pieces into some sort of new order”, and which yet does not form a new unity, but a combination of fragmented, not fully compatible parts.76




I am highly indebted to Conrad Atkinson, Lucy R. Lippard, Marie Yates, Tony Rickaby, Richard Birkett, Gil Lavi, and Clive Phillpot for their generous help in beginning to put together the history of this exhibition, sharing memories, documents and references, and providing copies of archival material.

About the author

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Elena Crippa

    Elena Crippa is Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate, London. Her role focuses on the research, display, exhibition, and acquisition of artworks from the period 1940–80. She has recently organized exhibitions and displays of the work of Frank Auerbach, Bruce McLean, Tracey Emin, and Jo Spence. She conducted her doctorate research working as part of the Tate Research project “Art School Educated” (2009–13), investigating the relationship between new approaches to art teaching and art making as they emerged in the British art school in the 1950s and 1960s. She has recently co-edited and contributed to Exhibition, Design, Participation: “an Exhibit” 1957 and Related Projects (Afterall Books, 2016), has published essays on the relationship between sculpture and performance art in the 1960–70s, and on the work of Art & Language, Manon de Boer, and Victor Pasmore. 


  1. Despite this, many critics continued to nominate new developments as sculpture. The art historian Rosalind E. Krauss, in a number of key texts on sculpture she produced in the 1970s—particularly Passages in Modern Sculpture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977), and the essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field”, October 8 (Spring 1979): 30–44, argued for the creation of new taxonomies rather than the incorporation of new modes of practice within the realm of sculpture. Nonetheless, she did defend new typologies of works—such as earthwork, installation, and anti-form—as logical extensions of the medium of sculpture.

  2. On this point, between the 1950s and 1970s, artists consistently refer to their first trip to the United States as a major event in terms of the artists and curators they met and the working relationships they established. This was the case for Art & Language and the numerous collaborations that followed Michael Baldwin and Terry Atkinson’s visits to New York between 1966 and 1969. See Charles Harrison and Fred Orton, A Provisional History of Art & Language (Paris: Eric Fabre, 1982), 19–20, and Art & Language, “Voices off: Reflections on Conceptual Art”, Critical Inquiry 33, no. 1 (Autumn 2006): 113–35 (113).

  3. On the role of Moore’s sculpture in memorializing the British landscape in the wake of the Second World War, see Penelope Curtis and Fiona Russell, “Henry Moore and the Post-War British Landscape: Monuments Ancient and Modern”, in Henry Moore: Critical Essays, ed. Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 125–41. On Caro’s changing reception in New York in the early 1970s, see Alex Potts, “Caro in the 1960s and the Persistent Object of Sculpture”, Sculpture Journal 21, no. 2 (2012): 54–55.

  4. Gilbert & George first performed Singing Sculpture (with the title Our New Sculpture) in 1969. They also made postcard sculpture and magazine sculpture. See Gilbert & George, “A Magazine Sculpture”, Studio International 179, no. 922 (May 1970): 218–19.

  5. Writing in the catalogue of Documenta 5 (1972), curated by Harald Szeemann, Daniel Buren lamented that the exhibition itself had become a work of art, authored by the exhibition organizer. Daniel Buren, “Exposition d’une exposition”, in Documenta 5, exh. cat. (Kassel: C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1972), 29.

  6. On the early history of this development, see Jo Melvin, “The New Climate, 1969–72”, in Conceptual Art in Britain, 1964–1979, ed. Andrew Wilson, exh. cat. (London: Tate Publishing, 2016), 116–23.

  7. The latter went on tour to the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.

  8. On a comparative history of the two exhibition, see Christian Rattemeyer and others, Exhibiting the New Art:Op Losse Schroeven” and “When Attitudes Become Form”, 1969 (London: Afterall Books, 2010).

  9. A number of these works are documented in Rattemeyer and others, Exhibiting the New Art, 68–105.

  10. Lucy R. Lippard, letter of invitation to artists, 13 Dec. 1968, quoted in Cornelia Butler, “Women—Concept—Art: Lucy R. Lippard’s Number Shows”, in Butler and others, From Conceptualism to Feminism: Lucy Lippard’s Numbers Shows, 1969–74 (London: Afterall Books, 2012), 31. 557,087 is the first of Lippard’s number shows, followed by 955,000, Vancouver Art Gallery, 13 Jan.–8 Feb. 1970; and 2,972,453, Centro de Arte y Communicación (CAYC), Buenos Aires, 4–23 Dec. 1970.

  11. For example, this was the case for the two-volume catalogue of the exhibition Sonsbeek 71, Park Sonsbeek, 1971, discussed later.

  12. For example, in the case of some of the artists in When Attitudes Become Form, the exhibition catalogue reproduced hand-written or typed notes sent to the curator outlining their projects, or publishing examples of previous ones. This was the case for Walter De Maria’s Art by Telephone for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1968, which was then re-presented in Bern; or Roelof Louw’s description of a project he realized in the Park Lane area of London, where he positioned twenty wedge-shaped cast-iron blocks around three blocks of buildings.

  13. Yosuke Nakahara, “Between Man and Matter”, in Between Man and Matter, exh. cat. (10th Tokyo Biennale, 1970), n.p.

  14. Nakahara, “Between Man and Matter”.

  15. In Barry Flanagan: Object Sculptures at Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, 7 Sept.—12 Oct. 1969, the works were considered to be in dialogue with the architecture. See Jo Melvin, “No Thing to Say”, in Barry Flanagan: Early Works, 1965–1982, ed. Clarrie Wallis and Andrew Wilson, exh. cat. (London: Tate Publishing, 2011), 62–63.

  16. On the heated debate between Read and Greenberg in relation to the aesthetic roots of sculpture, see David J. Getsy, “Tactility or Opticality, Henry Moore or David Smith: Herbert Read and Clement Greenberg on The Art of Sculpture, 1956”, Sculpture Journal 17, no. 2 (Dec. 2008): 75–88.

  17. Wim Beeren, “From Exhibition to Activity”, in Sonsbeek 71, ed. Geert van Beijeren and Coosje Kapteyn, exh. cat., 2 vols. (Arnhem: Sonsbeek Foundation, 1971), 1: 11.

  18. Beeren, “From Exhibition to Activity”.

  19. Beeren, “From Exhibition to Activity”.

  20. See volume 2 of Sonsbeek 71 (exh. cat.), published after the exhibition had opened, with documentation of the works on site.

  21. See Ulrike Groos, Barbara Hess, and Ursula Wevers, eds., Ready to Shoot: Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum, Videogalerie Schum, exh. cat. (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Cologne: Snoeck, 2004).

  22. Prof. P. Sanders, “This Time Sonsbeek is Different”, in Sonsbeek 71 (exh. cat.), 1: 6. The moving image was to become the elected medium of another large-scale exhibition that took place in 1971, bringing together a larger cohort of artists, in Prospect 71: Projection, Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, 8–17 Oct. 1971, organized by Konrad Fischer, Jürgen Harten, and Hans Strelow.

  23. Beeren, “From Exhibition to Activity”, 11.

  24. Melvin, “No Thing to Say”, 63.

  25. While artists had traditionally been involved in teaching, writing, the discussion of their work, and the production of students’ publications, and increasingly so from the 1950s, this became more of a routine practice from the late 1960s. Artists started editing their own journals, as in the case of Art–Language (first published in May 1969). At a similar time, Seth Siegelaub experimented with exhibitions-as-books, famously with Xerox Book of 1968 (for which seven artists were invited to create a twenty-five-page work), and March 1969, also known as One Month (with artists contributing one work each for the day of the month that had been assigned to them). Lucy Lippard’s catalogues for the number shows (1969–70) were each a set of index cards that followed a similar principle: artists were sent and asked to return an index card after having included their details and those of the exhibited work, a drawing or photograph of their work, and any other information they wished to provide. This became a regular practice in exhibition catalogues, as in the case of Between Man and Matter and Sonsbeek 71, among many others.

  26. Sabeth Buchmann, “Introduction: From Conceptualism to Feminism”, in Cornelia Butler and others, From Conceptualism to Feminism, 10.

  27. See Lorenza Trucchi, “Arte Inglese Oggi 1960–76”, Momento Sera, 12 March 1976.

  28. The portfolio of large photographic sheets had been compiled by Flanagan the previous year and produced and published by Alan Power. See Melvin, “No Thing to Say”, 61–62. The sheets are archived at Tate, Conceptual Art Collection, TGA 747. During repeated visits to New York in 1969, Flanagan also gave a number of lectures at American university galleries and again at Lippard’s loft.

  29. See Melvin, “No Thing to Say”, 61–62.

  30. Art & Language, “Voices Off”, 113–14. Art & Language more specifically refer to Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Conceptual Art, 1962–1969: From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions”, October 55 (Winter 1990): 105–43; and the writing of Hal Foster, Rosalind E. Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, and Buchloh in Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (London: Thames and Hudson, 2004).

  31. Anne Seymour, “Introduction”, in The New Art, exh. cat. (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1972), 5.

  32. Guy Brett, “Internationalism Among Artists in the 60s and 70s”, in The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, ed. Rasheed Araeen, exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery, 1989), 111.

  33. British Art Now: An American Perspective, 1980: Exxon International Exhibition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 18 Jan.–9 March 1980. Exhibiting artists were John Edwards, Alan Green, Tim Head, Keith Milow, David Nash, Hugh O’Donnell, Nicholas Pope, and Simon Read. For an overview of the critical reception of the exhibition, see Julian Andrews, The Sculpture of David Nash (Leeds: Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries and University of California Press, 1996), 131.

  34. Margaret Harrison, “Statement”, in Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists, exh. cat. (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1980), n.p.

  35. Harrison, “Statement”.

  36. In the case of Medalla, apart from being included in Harald Szeemann’s When Attitudes Become Form, Kunsthalle Bern, and Documenta 5, Kassel, 30 June–8 Oct. 1972, most of his frequent travelling and projects remained self-initiated. He was later included in The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain at the Hayward Gallery, London, 29 Nov. 1989–4 Feb. 1990. Conceived and selected by Rasheed Araeen, the exhibition brought together the work of twenty-four artists of Asian, African, and Caribbean cultural heritage who had lived and worked for a significant part of their professional lives in postwar Britain but had lacked institutional support and visibility and whose contribution was not discussed as part of British art.

  37. See Jean Fisher, “The Other Story and the Past Imperfect”, Tate Papers 12 (Autumn 2009), (accessed 6 June 2016).

  38. In William Tucker’s terms, the condition of sculpture was dictated by its own physicality as its natural and necessary trait, as “subject to gravity and revealed by light”, in its persistence “in face of avant-garde theory”. See William Tucker, “Introduction”, in The Condition of Sculpture: A Selection of Recent Sculpture by Younger British and Foreign Artists, exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery, 1975), 6–7.

  39. These were the subject of a special issue of Camerawork 8 (Nov. 1977), “Lewisham: What are you Taking Pictures for?”

  40. Courtney J. Martin, “Rasheed Araeen, Live Art, and Radical Politics in Britain”, Getty Research Journal 2 (2010): 111.

  41. The only other women appeared in the more progressive and inclusive sections, “The Artists Film/ Avant Garde Film” (Annabel Nicolson and Liz Rhodes) and “Performance Art” (Shirley Cameron with Roland Miller—as Miller & Cameron) or as part of Coum. Peter Gidal was also included in the moving image section.

  42. Selectors of  Un Certain Art Anglais were Suzanne Pagé (ARC; Animation/Research/Confrontation) at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) with Michael Compton, Richard Cork, Sandy Nairne, and Muriel Wilson.

  43. Selectors of Arte Inglese Oggi were Guido Ballo, Richard Cork, Norbert Lynton, Norbert Reid, Franco Russoli, and David Thompson.

  44. As well as Barbara Steveni as part of APG (Artist Placement Group).

  45. Studio International 193, no. 987 (1977). Lippard and Linda Nochlin both contributed an article to this issue, while Margaret Harrison compiled the chronology, “Notes on Feminist Art in Britain, 1970–77”.

  46. For example, in the first presentation of When Attitudes Become Form in Bern, out of around seventy exhibiting artists, only two were women.

  47. In relation to the tight networks of curators and museum directors who shaped their collections and exhibitions, see Sophie Richard, Unconcealed, The International Network of Conceptual Artists, 1967–77: Dealers, Exhibitions and Public Collections, ed. Lynda Morris (London: Ridinghouse, 2009). Mary Kelly stated that “women were not taken seriously” in relation to the context of Britain, where she moved in 1968 to study at Saint Martin’s School of Art. See Mary Kelly/Tate Shot, 18 June 2015, (accessed 2 April 2016).

  48. Lucy R. Lippard, “The Continuing Education of a Public Artist”, in Conrad Atkinson: Picturing the System, ed. Sandy Nairne and Caroline Tisdall (London: Pluto Press and Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1981), 77.

  49. “Lucy R. Lippard in Conversation with Antony Hudek”, in Butler and others, From Conceptualism to Feminism, 71.

  50. The names of the buildings represented in these works, from the series “Fascade” (1978), provided the titles to the works, and included: the Economic League, Monday Club, Institute for the Study of Conflict, and the Institute of Economic Affairs. Derek Boshier selected works from this series for his exhibition Lives: An Exhibition of Artists whose Work is Based on Other People’s Lives, Serpentine Gallery, London, 29 Dec. 1979–1 Feb. 1980, discussed below. See John A. Walker, Left Shift: Radical Art in 1970s Britain (London and New York: I. B. Taurus, 2002), 239.

  51. For Every Witch: black-and-white photograph mounted on board, five pieces, 25.5 x 11.25 inches (64.8 x 28.5 cm) each (1979); War: colour Xerox mounted on board, three pieces, 25.5 x 11.25 inches (64.8 x 28.5 cm) each (c. 1978).

  52. See the draft of the press release, Art from the British Left, 1979, Artists Space Archive, 1973–2009; MSS 291; series I: Exhibition Files, Box 8, Folder 6. MSS 291. The Downtown Collection, Fales Library and Special Collections, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University Libraries.[fn]See the draft of the press release, Art from the British Left, 1979, Artists Space Archive, 1973–2009; MSS 291; series I: Exhibition Files, Box 8, Folder 6. MSS 291. The Downtown Collection, Fales Library and Special Collections, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University Libraries.

  53. See Walker, Left Shift, 239.

  54. Martin, “Rasheed Araeen”, 116.

  55. The book was published by Robert Self in 1978.

  56. From a quote attributed to the social theorist Anthony Wilden in the last page of the book.

  57. The exhibition presented work by Betsy Damon, Margaret Harrison, Donna Henes, Alexis Hunter, Mary Kelly, Leslie Labowitz, Suzanne Lacy, Adrian Piper, Martha Rosler, and Marie Yates. For an account of the exhibition, see Joanna Gardner-Huggett, “The Women Artists’ Cooperative Space as a Site for Social Change: Artemisia Gallery, Chicago (1973–1979)”, in Entering the Picture: Judy Chicago, The Fresno Feminist Art Program, and the Collective Visions of Women Artists, ed. Jill Fields (New York: Routledge, 2012), 177–80.

  58. It is not certain whether documentation of Paki Bastard (Portrait of the Artist as a Black Person) (1977) was displayed as part of the exhibition or presented as an event, but its inclusion is mentioned in the draft of the press release (details of works were cut in the final, reduced press release), and in hand-written notes on the return of works to the artists, which, under “Rasheed Araeen”, states that “slides” were sent back by “Lucy”. Photographic documentation of the exhibition includes a photograph of the performance. See Artists Space Archive 1973–2009 MSS 291; series I: Exhibition Files, Box 8, Folder 6. For Oluwale (1971–73) used different news clippings, rearranged over time on the same board. The work, in its different configurations, is reproduced in Rasheed Araeen, Making Myself Visible (London: Kala Press, 1984), 58–59.

  59. See Rasheed Araeen and David Medalla, “An Open Letter to the British Council”, 1 Feb. 1979, reprinted in Araeen, Making Myself Visible, 164. The other postcard produced by Rasheed is reproduced at p.165 of the same publication.

  60. These events were covered, with images captured by different photographers, in Camerawork no. 8 (Nov. 1977), “Lewisham, What are you Taking Pictures for?”

  61. Invitation card, Art from the British Left (1979), private archive.

  62. The expression “third world”, common at the time, was used in the press release of the exhibition. See Artists Space Archive 1973–2009 MSS 291; series I: Exhibition Files, Box 8, Folder 6. The journal Third Text, founded in 1987 by Rasheed Araeen, was subtitled “Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art”. See Walker, Left Shift, 195. In terms of public collections, until the mid-1990s Araeen’s work was only included in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, following his award of a John Moores prize in 1969; and the Arts Council Collection, which purchased two works under a special scheme towards the acquisition of work by black artists. See Paul Overy, “The New Works of Rasheed Araeen”, in Rasheed Araeen, exh. cat. (London: South London Gallery, 1994), 5.

  63. For example, arguing for an element of continuity of the work of Rodin and Brancusi with contemporary sculpture, Krauss wrote that “our bodies and our experience of our bodies continue to be the subject of this sculpture—even when a work is made of several hundred tons of earth.” See Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture, 279.

  64. This was also the case with Araeen’s Paki Bastard (Portrait of the Artist as a Black Person) (1977), documented in the second issue of Black Phoenix: a performance incorporating sound and slide projection and embodying the racism and street and police violence he experienced as a Pakistani immigrant in London. See Martin, “Rasheed Araeen”, 111–15.

  65. See Lucy R. Lippard, “Hands On”, in Alexis Hunter/ Photographic Narrative Sequences, exh. cat. (London: Edward Totah Gallery, 1981), reprinted in Alexis Hunter: Radical Feminism in the 1970s, ed. Lynda Morris, exh. cat. (Norwich: Norwich School of Art and Design, 2007), n.p.

  66. See, for example, Dorian Ker, “Britain Does Not Exist: ‘Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965–75’”, Third Text 14, no. 50 (2000): 120–21.

  67. Art from the British Left, invitation card.

  68. PAD/D (Political Art Documentation and Distribution) organized exhibitions, window installations, performances, panels, and demonstrations. It also had a magazine called Upfront, which evolved from a newsletter called First Issue, first published in February 1981. Several years after the last meeting of the political artists’ group, Clive Phillpot, who had attended the early meetings of PAD/D, facilitated its gift into the Library of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. On the history of PAD/D, see Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (London and New York: Pluto Press, 2011), 25–26.

  69. Barbara Moore and Mimi Smith, “The Other Side of the Coin: On Being Documentalists in an Activist Organization”, in The Museum of Modern Art Library Bulletin 86 (Winter 1993–94): 7 and 8.

  70. See Lucy R. Lippard, “Archival Activism”, in The Museum of Modern Art Library Bulletin 86 (Winter 1993–94): 4. See also “Lucy R. Lippard in Conversation with Antony Hudek”, 72.

  71. Statement by Lippard and Jerry Kearns in the first issue of Upfront (Feb. 1981), as quoted in Lippard, “Archival Activism”, 6.

  72. Earlier that year, for example, Kelly’s work had also been included in Un Certain Art Anglais, Paris, 1979.

  73. Walker, Left Shift, 253.

  74. Jane Bell, “Hybrid Art”, Village Voice, 2 July 1979, 62.

  75. Peter Frank, “Storytelling”, Village Voice, 9 July 1979, 65.

  76. Lucy R. Lippard, The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Feminist Essays on Art (New York: New Press, 1995), 168.



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Elena Crippa
18 July 2016
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Peer Reviewed (Editorial Group)
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Elena Crippa, "1970s: Out of Sculpture", British Art Studies, Issue 3,