Landmark presentation of Work as Action, closes Monday, February 13, 2012

Jan 30, 2012

Franz Erhard Walther

NEW YORK, NY-Dia Art Foundation's historic exhibition, Franz Erhard Walther, Work as Action, is the artist's first solo museum exhibition in the United States since 1990. It comprises more than two dozen works by Walther (German, b. 1939), who is internationally recognized for his five-decade-long investigation into the foundations of action, language, and space. Organized by Dia curator Yasmil Raymond, Franz Erhard Walther, Work as Action will remain on view through February 13, 2012.

While the exhibition includes a diverse selection of works created between 1962 and 1973, it focuses on the artist's Handlungsstücke (Action Pieces) and Werkstücke (Work Pieces) from the early 1960s. It was in these works that Walther first explored using straightforward physical actions-such as pressing, folding, unfolding, and covering surfaces with malleable materials-as a sculptural principle. The centerpiece of the exhibition is the complete presentation of a Work Piece from Dia's collection, titled 1. Werksatz (First Work Set). Dating from 1963-1969, it is comprised of fifty-eight fabric elements, or "instruments for processes," that are intended to be unfolded, used, and worn by visitors according to the artist's instructions.

Walther's provocative meditations on the concept of art as an act of "doing" that is temporal, subjective, and open to interpretation have resulted in an interdisciplinary practice that challenges conventional categories of painting and sculpture. He elaborated on these ideas in First Work Set, which is shown in its totality for the first time in the United States since 1970, when it was included in the exhibition "Spaces," at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This major work, acquired by Dia in 1978, is a pioneering example of installation art, one that reconsiders the space of display as a "storage site" where objects are accessible to visitors and their forms determined by the ways in which they are used. With each of the work's elements, Walther poses a spatial and temporal challenge for the beholder, whose physical actions and presence become integral parts of the conception and completion of the work. A selection of elements from First Work Set will be made available for interaction with visitors, from 11am-1pm and 2-4pm on days the museum is open.

In the early 1960s, Walther trained at the Offenbach School of Applied Art and at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Early influences included the work and manifestos of artists Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, and Piero Manzoni, among others, who together triggered his conviction to, as he once said, "conceive work out of an action." While at the Kunstakademie, he also became acquainted with Joseph Beuys and befriended fellow students Gerhard Richter and Blinky Palermo, the latter of whom he shared a studio with.

Despite the importance of his work, his relationship with many American artists, and the influence of his extensive output on subsequent generations of artists, Walther's practice remains largely unknown in the United States. Dia's exhibition recognizes the historical significance of the artist's First Work Set and his radical conception of the work of art as an experience of uninhibited action.

Gallery Talk at Dia:Beacon
Christian Rattemeyer on Franz Erhard Walther
Sunday, February 12, 2012, 2 pm
Dia:Beacon, 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY

This exhibition is supported in part by Dia's Board of Trustees, Director's Council, Art Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.

About Franz Erhard Walther
Franz Erhard Walther was born in Fulda, Germany, in 1939. In 1957, Walther enrolled in the Offenbach School of Applied Art, where he first exhibited his work, and he subsequently studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie from 1962 to 1964, where he began employing material processes and methods of storage as work forms. Walther remained in Düsseldorf until 1967, when he moved to New York, where he lived and worked for six years.

Walther has exhibited extensively throughout Europe including in Documentas 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987); as well as at such venues as Secession, Vienna (1989); Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, (1993); and FRAC Bretagne, Rennes, France (1999). Additionally, he has work on permanent view at Hamburger Kunsthalle; Kunstmuseum Bonn; and Mamco, Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, where a major retrospective of his work was mounted in 2010. 1. Werksatz, the centerpiece of Dia's installation, was previously shown in exhibitions including "Spaces," at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1969-70) and the landmark exhibition "When Attitudes Become Form" at Kunsthalle Bern (1969). Walther has been a professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg since 1971, where he has taught John Bock, Martin Kippenberger, and Jonathan Meese, among others.

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 in Beacon, New York, on the banks of the Hudson River as the home for Dia's distinguished collection of art from the 1960s to the present. The museum, which occupies a former Nabisco printing factory, features major installations of works by a focused group of some of the most significant artists of the last half century, as well as special exhibitions, new commissions, and diverse public and education programs. Dia:Chelsea is located on West 22nd Street in the heart of New York City's gallery district, which it helped to pioneer. Currently open for artist lectures and readings, Dia is developing plans to expand its presence in Chelsea.

Dia also maintains long-term, site-specific projects. These include Walter De Maria's The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus's Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys's 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) (1988), and Dan Flavin's untitled (1996), in Manhattan; The Dan Flavin Art Institute, in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria's Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), in Kassel, Germany; Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970), in the Great Salt Lake, Utah; and De Maria's The Lightning Field (1977), in Quemado, New Mexico. For additional public information, visit

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, or 212 293 5518

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