Exhibitions

The Gregory Battcock Archive

Joseph Grigely

03/05 – 05/06/16

Joseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016, Photo: Fred Dott
Joseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016, Photo: Fred DottJoseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016, Photo: Fred DottJoseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016, Photo: Fred DottJoseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016, Photo: Fred DottJoseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016, Photo: Fred Dott

The Kunstverein in Hamburg is delighted to be the first German institution to present the project The Gregory Battcock Archive by the US-American artist Joseph Grigely (*1956 in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts). Gregory Battcock was a critic and key figure of the New York art scene of the 1960s and 70s. He wrote on Minimal Art, Concept Art, video and performance art, and championed artists who newly defined the borders of contemporary art. By chance, Grigely discovered the collected estate of Battcock abandoned in a warehouse in 1992. Prompted by this fortunate find, Grigely began academically and artistically engaging with the life and work of Battcock, an endeavor lasting until today. Grigely presents the results of his research in constantly changing displays vacillating between objective reappraisal and subjective narration. By selecting and arranging in the form of tableaus, Grigely expands the narrative levels of the historical material. He is not only interested in drawing a portrait of a person and his times, but also in raising the awareness for interconnections and context-related readings.

In a time in which digital archiving is predominantly used, The Gregory Battcock Archive offers an important contribution to examining artistic processes and dealing with archives. The digital capture makes it increasingly difficult to recognize the actual author and the process of selection—but that is precisely what characterizes this work and becomes the focus of Grigely’s project.

Gregory Battcock (*1937 in New York, †1980 in San Juan, Puerto Rico) was originally a painter, before he turned to mainly working as an art critic. He supported artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Martha Rosler, and Lawrence Weiner, and wrote essays on Minimal Art, Concept Art, video and performance art. His many anthologies, particularly Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (1968), record these art movements and remain important documents of the times. He published further seminal essays on, among others, the political role of gender politics in New York. He was found dead - his body had 102 stab wounds - in 1980 during one of his regular vacations in Puerto Rico. The presumed murder background remains unresolved until today. 

Grigely gave a large portion of his find to the National Archives of American Art, but has been working with the estate in exhibitions since 2010. He constructs variously designed wooden showcases for his presentations that are arranged in different ways depending on the venue and their interconnected narratives. This modular principle is also applied to the content of the showcases. The primary and secondary sources, as well as the collected image material and other memorabilia of Battcock, are not subjected to a static order. By repeatedly recontextualizing the display, Grigely extracts the estate’s diversity of meaning and simultaneously questions its information value. He operates between subjectivity and objectivity in a systematic way. 

The exhibition in the foyer forms an intellectual bridge to the group show FLUIDITY on view at the same time on the upper floor. On the one hand, Battcock’s writings deal with the then newly emerging understanding of art that freed itself from the notions of Modernism and grasped the artwork primarily as a metaphor or sign of further-going ideas. On the other, Grigely’s artistic practice itself stands in the tradition of conceptual strategies. Therefore, The Gregory Battcock Archive documents the historical background as well as the present of an influential art movement.

The first comprehensive publication will be issued in conjunction with the exhibition by Verlag Walther König. The show is a cooperation project with the Grazer Kunstverein.

With friendly support of the Ministry of Culture of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the U.S. Consulate General Hamburg.