Mixed media installation with wooden bars, locks, bunk beds, moving blankets, bed pans, sinks, overhead LED lighting, and video
Greene Naftali is pleased to announce WiP, an exhibition of work by New York-based artist Tony Conrad. This will be the artist’s second solo show at the gallery.
Tony Conrad is a pioneering avant-garde filmmaker, musician/composer and artist. Conrad has long been employing a range of methods to investigate authoritarian boundaries in art – from his early 60’s anti-art demonstrations with Jack Smith and Henry Flynt, to his Yellow Movies series of paintings and works on paper with central squares of white paint yellowing over decades, thus creating a film whose plot outlasts a lifetime.
In this exhibition, Conrad calls attention to power structures embedded in film by foregrounding an underground genre – Women in Prison, or WiP. “WiP,” starring artists such as Tony Oursler and the late Mike Kelley, explores the peripheral possibilities of film not just as a medium but as an industry, highlighting a second tier of actors, a low budget aspect, and subversive subject matter. Moreover, the relationship of jailor to prisoner takes a central role, broadening Conrad’s study of authority. Shot in 1982 and 1983, the video work on view is converted from 16mm film. Six hours of footage is condensed into a raw, unedited, hour-long selection.
The first ever screening of these excerpts is accompanied by Conrad’s installation of jail cells, a set within the gallery, creating an immersive experience of a seedy genre, and further upending traditions of film through a transparency of process. Tucked away from natural light, the set that Conrad has created for the gallery is at once campy and sinister, much like the exploitation genre itself. The pastel shades of pink and yellow painted on the jail’s walls and bars provide a cynical nod to the gender of the prisoners, while the trappings of the cells are otherwise scant and dismal – narrow bunk beds, bedpans and sinks. Overhead are relentlessly blinking LED lights, further adding to the menacing component of the installation.
Tony Conrad’s recent solo exhibition at 80WSE, his first institutional survey in over twenty years, featured his media-based social critiques. Holland Cotter, in a New York Times review of the show, noted that the multi-faceted practice of Conrad “still looks radical and prescient a half-century after it began.” His work has also been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, Documenta, Venice Biennale, Tate Modern, LA Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Whitney Museum of American Art.