Colloquium: Franz Erhard Walther’s First Work Set: Actions, Instructions, and Presence, 1963–1969

Saturday, September 17, 2011, 11am–5pm    add to my calendar

<p>Franz Erhard Walther, <i>Kopf Leib Glieder</i>, 1967. "Franz Erhard Walther: Work<br>  
as Action," Beacon, NY. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, NY. Photo: Paula Court.
</p>

Franz Erhard Walther, Kopf Leib Glieder, 1967. "Franz Erhard Walther: Work
as Action," Beacon, NY. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, NY. Photo: Paula Court.

 
 
 

Stimulated by a desire to provoke new English-language scholarship on and inquiry into Franz Erhard Walther’s oeuvre, this colloquium takes the exhibition "Work As Action" as an opportunity to invite writers, curators, scholars, fellow artists, and the public to respond directly to the landmark 58-element work First Work Set—exhibited for the first time in its totality in the United States since 1969.

 

Press Release

DIA ART FOUNDATION COLLOQUIUM
“Franz Erhard Walther's First Work Set: Objects, Instructions, and Actions, 1963–1969”


Saturday, September 17, 2011, 11 am—5 pm
Colloquium at Dia:Beacon

Monday, September 19, 2011, 6:30 pm
Franz Erhard Walther and Jennifer Winkworth in conversation at Dia:Chelsea

New York, NY — Dia Art Foundation is pleased to announce the colloquium Franz Erhard Walther's First Work Set: Objects, Instructions, and Actions, 1963–1969. The event includes a daylong colloquium at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, in Beacon, New York, on Saturday, September 17, 2011 which is free with museum admission. A conversation between the artist and independent curator Jennifer Winkworth will subsequently be held at Dia:Chelsea, in New York City, on Monday, September 19, 2011. RSVP for both events at www.diaart.org/walther.

Saturday’s event brings together scholars, artists, and writers to examine and discuss the historical significance of Walther’s 1. Werksatz (First Work Set) (1963–69), the centerpiece of the exhibition Work as Action, which is on view at Dia:Beacon through February 13, 2012.

In 1963 while a student at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Walther began fabricating simple forms made from muslin and Styrofoam, which were stacked, folded, and wrapped. In so doing, he signaled his move away from conventional notions of sculpture and thus initiated a more open-ended investigation into “object” and “action.” As he has argued: “This moment of manipulation, and then action as a component of the work, or as the work itself, became the main theme. The decisive fundamental idea was to build up an œuvre from action.”

The highly ambitious First Work Set demonstrates the complexity of his inquiry. Assuming a radical approach that directly recruited the body of the spectator in the activation of the work, Walther underscored the spatiotemporal experience of sculpture. Consisting of 58 fabric elements or “instruments for process” (the artist’s term) or props made from thick cotton in an array of earth tones, this multipart sculpture, which Walther began in 1963 in Düsseldorf and completed in 1969 in New York City, was eventually fabricated in an edition of ten. The work can be displayed in two configurations, either as “demonstrations” or as “storage” installations. As the artist explained: “These objects are instruments, they have little perceptual significance. The objects are important only through the possibilities originating from their use.”

Walther’s use of malleable materials and ephemeral “actions” as the basis for his sculptures, his understanding of the role of language, and the continued presence of drawing as integral to his conception of space are topics to be explored during the course of the colloquium. Participants are offered an unprecedented opportunity to study Walther’s First Work Set first-hand at Dia:Beacon, in relation to the earlier works included in this exhibition, as well as in proximity to Dia’s collection, which includes the work of many of Walther’s peers and colleagues in both Germany and New York.

This colloquium represents the start of a research inquiry on Walther’s work that will culminate in a forthcoming book on Walther’s First Work Set, which Dia plans to publish in 2014. This book will be part of the institution’s collection series, which focuses on single works in Dia’s collection and includes Blinky Palermo: To the People of New York City, Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon, and Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty, among other publications.

Saturday, September 17, 2011, 11 am–5 pm
Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries
3 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY 12508
Free with museum admission; RSVP at www.diaart.org/walther

11 am
Keynote & Introduction

Yasmil Raymond, Dia curator

11:30 am
Panel Discussion

Gregory H. Williams, professor of art history, Boston University
Anne Rorimer, independent art historian and curator
Erik Verhagen, lecturer in contemporary art history at the University of Valenciennes
Karen Kelly, Dia director of publications and special programs, Moderator

The morning panel will focus on the German and American contexts for Franz Erhard Walther’s work, following its early development as well as its influences and reception, artistic and critical.

2 pm
Panel Discussion

Rachel Haidu, associate professor of art history, University of Rochester
Barbara Clausen, independent curator and art historian, currently guest professor, Université du Québec
Ulrike Müller, artist
Barbara Schröder, Dia publications associate, Moderator

The afternoon panel will address various deep-seated convictions embedded in Walther’s artistic practice and the diverse forms in which they play out.

Monday, September 19, 2011, 6:30 pm
Conversation between Franz Erhard Walther and Jennifer Winkworth

Dia:Chelsea
535 West 22nd Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10011
$6 General admission; $3 Dia members, students, seniors

Click here to make a reservation.

Curator Jennifer Winkworth included Walther’s First Work Set in her seminal exhibition, “Spaces,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1969–1970. Winkworth is currently Vice President at the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice, France.

Funding

Support for this colloquium was provided by Marieluise Hessel and the Franz Erhard Walther Foundation. Additional support was provided by Peter Freeman, Inc., New York, and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff.

Franz Erhard Walther

Franz Erhard Walther was born in 1939 in Fulda, Germany, where he lives and works. He studied at the Offenbach School of Applied Art and at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the early 1960s and lived in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Walther has exhibited extensively since 1967, participating in Documentas 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987), and his work was included in the landmark 1969 exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” at the Kunsthalle Bern. A major retrospective of his work was recently mounted at Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, and he had a solo show at Peter Freeman, New York, in Spring 2010. Walther was a professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1971 until 2009, where he taught Martin Kippenberger, John Bock, and Jonathan Meese, among others. Dia’s exhibition marks Walther’s first solo museum show in the United States since 1990.

Dia Art Foundation

A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects. Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, opened in May 2003 as the home for Dia’s distinguished collection of art from the 1960s to the present, and features major installations of works by artists including Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Imi Knoebel, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner. Alongside the collection, special exhibitions, commissions, and diverse public and education programs take place at Dia:Beacon throughout the year. Dia also maintains long-term, site-specific projects across New York State, in New Mexico, and in Utah, and is developing a new location for commissions, exhibitions, and programs in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood. For additional public information, visit www.diaart.org.

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