Press Release

Open Systems: Rethinking Art c1970

Tate Modern  Level 4 East
1 June – 18 September 2005

Open Systems: Rethinking Art c1970 brings together the work of over twenty-five artists from Britain, Central and Eastern Europe, South America, and the United States to examine how artists rethought the art object in the 1960s and early 1970s. Moving away from the aesthetic concerns of Minimalism, the late-Sixties saw a radical departure from art’s traditional focus on the object, to wide-ranging experiments with media that included installation, photography, performance, film and video.

With the emergence of computers and binary code theory, ‘systems’ and the concept of organised knowledge were becoming commonplace in the 1960s. Reacting to the growing social and political upheaval of the time, artists began to view systems with distrust and created art which questioned the contemporary belief that the world would be a better place if ordered. One characteristic of the artists who emerged in this period is their adoption of experimental aesthetic ‘systems’ to generate their work. Gordon Matta-Clark’s collaborative work, Anarchitecture, which has not been seen since its creation in 1974, systematically presents seventy photographs and sketches of the arbitrary and incidental aspects of the urban landscape.

The exhibition begins by considering the shift from Minimalist structures to more textured forms that directly reference the organic and material world. The breaking down and opening out of the Minimalist cube will be revealed in works including Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube 1963-65 in which droplets of water form condensation according to the environment in which it is presented. Robert Smithson’s floor sculpture Vortex 1967 entices the viewer to look within the fragmented mirrored structure to see themselves and the world around them reflected.

Open Systems includes sculpture by Lygia Clark, Donald Judd, Cildo Meireles, Dimitrije Mangelos and Robert Filliou; paintings by John Baldessari; intricate textile works by Alighiero Boetti; film and video by Bas Jan Ader and Joan Jonas; photography by Valie Export, Martha Rosler, Braco Dimitrijevic, Sanja Ivekovic, Adrian Piper and Richard Long; installations by Charles Ray and Dan Graham; and large scale print works including Andy Warhol’s portraits of Mao and Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits 1972.

Connecting with the increasingly unsettling political developments of the decade, reflected in the Paris riots in 1968 and the political assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, artists began to make their work more responsive to the world around them. Hans Haacke’s research into New York gallery visitors led him to examine systems relating to living conditions in that city and ultimately to a controversial and confrontational study of the real estate industry in Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social Systems, as of May 1, 1971. Helio Oiticica’s Projeto Filtro – Para Vergara New York 1972, consists of a large maze-like structure of exotic colours and textures, that challenges the pure space of modernism while referencing the slum clearance of Rio.

The exhibition is curated by Donna De Salvo, Associate Director for Programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and previously Senior Curator at Tate Modern, assisted by Victoria Walsh. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.