Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne
February 15 – May 3, 2020
Tony Conrad (1940-2016) is an experimental artist and a key figure for media artists such as Tony Oursler or Mike Kelley. As a violinist, he was one of the co-founders of Minimal Music and a pioneer of drone music, together with La Monte Young and John Cale. As a central figure of the avant-garde and with a career lasting over six decades, his work radiates beyond America. With this exhibition it will be presented to the European audience, in all its complexity, after his participation at documenta 5. With his first movie “The Flicker” (1966) he created an icon of structural film. His musical work—in composition, performances, and self-made musical instruments—is inevitably associated with his work as a visual artist.
The Kölnischer Kunstverein is realizing the first large-scale exhibition, performance and music series in Germany honoring Tony Conrad’s artistic work. It succeeds a retrospective at the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, and the MIT List Visual Arts Center and Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (2018/19). As a central figure of the avant-garde, Conrad didn‘t only gain recognition for his contribution to minimalist music and structural film in the 1960s, due to his pioneering role as violinist. Instead he also set the tone for various cultural fields, including rock music and public television. Conrad’s first film, “The Flicker” (1966), a stroboscopic experiment well-known for his assault on the cinematic medium and the senses of his audience, soon led to the projects in which he treated film as sculptural and performative material. In “Sukiyaki Film” (1973) for example Conrad brought shortly fried film on the screen and in in his “Yellow Movies” from 1972/73 he painted paper surfaces with cheap paint and presented them as slowly changing films. He paved the way for drone music and influenced the founding of Velvet Underground. At the same time, Conrad was a combative critic of the media and their monitoring tools. In the eighties, his ambitious films about power relations in the army and in prisons critisized what he would call emerging culture of surveillance, control and containment. His collaborative programs, created for public television in the 1990s, made him an influential voice within society (as can be seen in the installation “Panopticon” from 1988 or “WiP”, with films by Tony Oursler and Mike Kelley, 2013). Conrad was a master of “crossover”, the bridging and connection of various disciplines, making it seem impossible to think about the interdependence between art, film, music, and performance in contemporary art without including him. He also was a passionate pedagogue—his 40 years as professor at the Media Department at the University of Buffalo provoked and inspired generations of students until today.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, and MAMCO, Geneva, and is based on the touring retrospective organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2018/19).
More information is available at www.koelnischerkunstverein.de