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Weekly Alibi Relentlessly Unpretentious

By Brendan Doherty

APRIL 27, 1998: 

The "Non-Collection" of Lucy Lippard Goes on Display at the MFA

"Objects and spaces together define memory," says Lucy R. Lippard. "This show is sort of a memorial to a still living space, the loft in Lower Manhattan where I spent 26 emotionally, aesthetically and politically exhilarating years."

Lippard, a writer, art critic, political activist and Galisteo, N.M., resident, donated a large number of significant artworks to the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe. Most of the pieces were given to her by the artists themselves. Her show, opening April 24 in the Museum off the Plaza, is as sprawling and awe-inspiring as a life and as staunchly anti-elite as Lippard herself. The show is an exercise in creative definition. Lippard refuses to call it a collection and has been adamant about both what is printed about the show and the way the museum has handled the work.

"I've written 18 books about art, and I still don't know about the philosophy of art, so you can forget about that," she says.

"She dislikes that term, 'collector,'" says Aline Brandauer, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts. "These objects were given to her. It's a very important group of objects in several ways: As a historical entity, it's great to have all of the works that belonged to a certain period, and especially an activist and writer like Lippard. It is significant that future scholars can see the shape of the art world through a certain lens--hers. It's over 200 pieces, and it's an important representation of cultural production spanning 35 years."

The show features objects from Judy Chicago, Jimmie Durham, Luis Jimenez, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, among many others. It is the inaugural show at the newly renovated and re-opened "New Wing." The pieces are fitted with 11,500 words of text from many of Lippard's 18 books, including Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object (1973), Changing: Essays on Art Criticism (1971) and The Pink Glass Swan (1995). Curated by the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies and Neery Melkonian, a former curator at the CCA in Santa Fe, it is strictly top-drawer presentation. It illustrates the life and the objects that surrounded and gravitated toward this enigmatic, strong woman.

"What I find most impressive about her is that she has always been willing to speak her mind," says Brandauer. "When her point of view changes, she acknowledges it and she moves on. She is relentlessly unpretentious."

"I didn't choose most of the objects on the walls of the Sniper's Nest (the home in New York)," Lippard says. "I resist calling this 'stuff' a collection, not out of any disrespect for the artists, but because I deserve no credit. All of these came because it was found or was given as a token of friendship."

It is in that same generous spirit that the work may be viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts beginning this Friday.

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