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In Sickness and in Art: Obamacare, General Idea, and a Kleenex Box

Access to affordable healthcare is not the most glamorous subject. Unsurprisingly, it has also not proven to be the most fertile ground for artists. With the insurance mandate coming upon us soon, it seems that, regardless of where we stand on the new law, insurance will continue to dictate what we choose to do with […]

General Idea, AIDS Wallpaper (1989), Installation view of This Will Have Been: Art, Love and Politics in the 1980’s at the Walker Art Center

General Idea, AIDS Wallpaper (1989), installation view of This Will Have Been: Art, Love and Politics in the 1980s at the Walker Art Center

Access to affordable healthcare is not the most glamorous subject. Unsurprisingly, it has also not proven to be the most fertile ground for artists. With the insurance mandate coming upon us soon, it seems that, regardless of where we stand on the new law, insurance will continue to dictate what we choose to do with our lives. For me, the topic scarcely leaves my mind. I am on the precipice of turning 26, a graduate student, an intern, and sometimes food service employee. I am both the reason the mandate exists — to get healthy young people to buy insurance — and on somewhat unsure footing financially. In spite of the interminable discussions of the new healthcare law, there seems to have been a failure, among many, to unite around the simple truth that at some point we all get sick. The healthcare mandate pushes this inevitability to the forefront in a way that seems new and provocative. The art world may appear aloof to these everyday struggles with common bureaucracy, monthly budgeting, and automated voice-messaging systems, however, I believe that certain works from the late 1980s and early 90s made in response to the AIDS crisis can serve as a model for how artists and the art world can tackle these very personal, but not very glamorous, issues. Perhaps the result of reflecting on these works done at a time when health was also a passionate political issue — in admittedly a very different way — could be projects that have the potential to speak to a broader audience united around something as simple as the common cold.

To me, this tension between the glamor of art and the common experience of illness seems to manifest through the later projects by the Canadian art collective General Idea. Formed in 1969 in Toronto, General Idea was a collective of three artists, under the pseudonyms AA Bronson, Jorge Zontal, and Felix Partz. Their first 15 years revolved around “Miss General Idea,” a concocted fantasy, both woman and muse. They staged beauty pageants, set up boutiques, and created cocktail lounges, languishing in artifice and deifying glamor. From 1972 to 1984 they theoretically constructed the labyrinthine Miss General Idea 1984 Pavilion, which was then destroyed and carefully excavated and presented through relics and remnants of a mythical disaster. Much of their work was created in editions or multiples to be sold in the various boutiques and lounges accompanying their gallery installations. Within the Walker’s collection, both the Nazi Milk Glass (1980) and The Getting into the Spirits Cocktail Book (1980) are representative of this period. For years they created and constructed, piling layer upon layer cultivating their image, until, as has been noted by others, Miss General Idea and glamor, her faithful companion, were practically members of the group.

    Partial grouping of General Idea’s Editions in the Walker Art Center’s collection

Partial grouping of General Idea’s Editions in the Walker Art Center’s collection

In the 1980’s two of the group’s members, Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz, contracted HIV. Their work took a definite turn and became more overtly political, particularly with the inauguration of the AIDS Project. Through various public commissions, this project, also known as Imagevirus, involved plastering billboards, buses, and subways with a distortion of Robert Indiana’s LOVE design manipulated to read AIDS. Later, in the early 1990s, General Idea began integrating pharmaceutical imagery, in the form of large multi-colored pills in a series of exhibitions titled PLA©EBO and Pharma©opia. In the installation Magi© Bullet (1994) the ceiling in a sparse white gallery was filled with silver Mylar balloons resembling both some sort of sterile fungal infestation and a thick cloud of pills. Although these installations seem to take an unsentimental view at the medical industry and illness itself, they mark an attempt to work through overwhelming personal trauma while maintaining their illusive image. While General Idea raised awareness of the proliferation of AIDS, they also, I think, forced an objective confrontation with the inevitable fact that we all get sick.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Aids, General Idea 1991

Wolfgang Tillmans, Aids, General Idea, 1991

During this later period General Idea continued to create the editions that were sold alongside the installations. They made AIDS Stamps (1988) and AIDS Wallpaper (1989), recently on view at the Walker during This Will Have Been: Art Love and Politics in the 1980s, and small PLA©EBO pins. They also stayed true to their “image”-centered practice; they referenced heroes of the European avant-garde, purportedly in an attempt to gain recognition for European artists in North America, which they saw as lacking. These playful nods can be seen in the edition Infe©ted Rietveld (1994), a reproduction of Gerrit Rietveld’s quintessentially Modern Red/Blue Chair (1918), painted in the colors of the AIDS logo, thus “infected” with the disease. In the Walker’s collection of General Idea’s editions, I was drawn to what appeared to be a simple object with an apparently heady title, Gesundheit: Why not sneeze Lucio Fontana? (1991), partly because it seems a perfect combination of these two impulses I just described, the ethereal presence of the avant-garde and the earthly reality of illness, and also because “Gesundheit” is just an excellent word.

The edition is itself a familiar object to anyone who has spent time in a wintry classroom — a distant memory which gets closer by the day — the constant sound of sniffles, sneezing, and maybe a quiet uncontrollable cough, and the constant movement towards the necessary box of tissues in the back of the class. It is a small box, usefully clear, so you can see the short stack of tissues conveniently pulled through the top, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. This box of tissues, however, is rather different than those to which we have become accustom. Although stamped with corporate label of our regular brand, Kleenex, this box has three slits cut into the top with three tissues tufting through them. These two extra slits reference what are now iconic triumphs of the avant-garde, informally known as Lucio Fontana’s cut pieces. Atop and below the small stack of tissues are two postcards picturing two of Fontana’s green pieces with three gashes from the collection at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.

General Idea, Gesundheit: Why Not Sneeze Lucio Fontana? (1991). Two found post cards, one cut, Kleenex-brand packaged tissue, in plastic box, 4.3 x 5.9 x .78 inches. Photo: Blackwood Gallery

General Idea, Gesundheit: Why Not Sneeze Lucio Fontana? (1991). Two found post cards, one cut, Kleenex-brand packaged tissue, in plastic box. Photo: Blackwood Gallery

Fontana’s cut pieces are monochromatic paintings with thin gashes cutting through the surface exposing the supporting wall, many such works were exhibited at the Walker’s landmark exhibition in 1966, Fontana’s first solo show in the United States. Dated to 1964-65, the piece Concetta-Spaziale: Attessa or Spatial-Concept: Expectation in the Walker’s collection is a great example. Painted in white, the canvas has just one long cut right down the middle. This piece in particular, with its white surface mimicking the “pure” white standard of the gallery wall, plays with the painting’s relationship to its environmental space. The cut, a seemingly violent act, serves to both distinguish the canvas from the blank white walls while purporting to offer a small view into the institutional supports.

Fontana 1998.113

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale – Attesa (1964-65)

General Idea’s Kleenex box manipulates the voids created by Fontana’s cuts by filling them with soft white tufts of tissues, certainly more comforting and banal than the dramatic gesture from which they originated. The reproduction of Fontana’s work in the edition is both an homage to his almost industrial creation of the cut pieces and a mocking jab at the high-minded principles with which they are associated. The title seems to ask Fontana to perhaps take a break, perhaps falter, at least stop to sneeze for heaven’s sake. Although the relation to health and illness is subtler than if the box had been covered with word AIDS or red, blue, and green pills, the simplicity of the Kleenex box is possibly the best reminder of the inevitability of illness. We carry them with us even when we don’t need them, and there is nothing worse than being caught without them in a time of nasal need. So, in these discussions of who’s to pay for whose medicine, who should take care of whom, it is important to be open and honest with yourself: someday at some point, you will be sick, it’s why there should always be a box of Kleenexes at the back of the class.

Yesterday’s Newspaper: November 8, 2012

For the past two days–Election Day 2012 and the day after–we’ve been posting images of Dave McKenzie’s work Yesterday’s Newspaper as it appears in the exhibition The Living Years: Art after 1989. Changing daily, the work, as senior curator Clara Kim has written, “bridges the distance between events and times—between what is happening now and […]

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Photo: Gene Pittman

For the past two days–Election Day 2012 and the day after–we’ve been posting images of Dave McKenzie’s work Yesterday’s Newspaper as it appears in the exhibition The Living Years: Art after 1989. Changing daily, the work, as senior curator Clara Kim has written, “bridges the distance between events and times—between what is happening now and what happened yesterday—to reinforce how yesterday’s news may still live within the present moment and how the present may affect the future.” Above, the piece as it stands in the galleries right now.

Hear McKenzie discuss his work tonight at 7 during a free talk as part of Target Free Thursday Nights.

Yesterday’s Newspaper: November 7, 2012

Here’s how Dave McKenzie’s ever-changing artwork Yesterday’s Newspaper, part of The Living Years: Art after 1989, looks in the galleries today, the day after a historic election, and here’s how it looked yesterday. Hear McKenzie discuss his work at the Walker on November 8, 2012.

Yesterday’s Newspaper: Election Day

Dave McKenzie’s Yesterday’s Newspaper, now on view in The Living Years: Art after 1989, is so simple it runs the risk of being overlooked. A copy of yesterday’s local paper lays on a walnut slab the way it might sit on your front doorstep. But the humble work captures a monumental gap: between news that’s […]

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Photo: Gene Pittman

Dave McKenzie’s Yesterday’s Newspaper, now on view in The Living Years: Art after 1989, is so simple it runs the risk of being overlooked. A copy of yesterday’s local paper lays on a walnut slab the way it might sit on your front doorstep. But the humble work captures a monumental gap: between news that’s happened and news that hasn’t, what we know and what we don’t, yet. For the next two days, we’ll present images of this ever-changing work. Here’s how the piece—featuring the November 5 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune–looks today, the day before we find out the results of another historic election.

Hear McKenzie discuss his work at the Walker on November 8, 2012.

Artists in Conversation

Holy Bible: New Testament

In every work of art, there is a hidden set of influences that the audience may never see: conversations the artist had with peers, exhibitions he or she saw while creating the work, expectations for the medium that were established by predecessors. Throughout The Living Years: Art After 1989, you can see the different ways artists bring other artists, both contemporary and historical, into their work. The dialog between artists is made explicit – the influences no longer need to be guessed at because, for example, the work might be a blatant recreation of an iconic sculpture or it might state flat-out who was involved. In doing so, the artists explore the types of exchanges that occur in the art community and how these define artistic identity.

Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy’s Fresh Acconci (1995) is fresh in that it is new, with the pair remaking seminal 1970s video pieces by Vito Acconci. But it is also fresh in the way we might refer to a back-talking child. Kelley and McCarthy restage these once intimate videos, placing them in the context of Hollywood and the porn industry. While Acconci’s videos are sparingly staged and naturally lit, this updated version features naked models in a sun-streaked Hollywood hills mansion. The original stand-alone pieces, now sandwiched together into one cyclical 45-minute video work, become a nightmarish playhouse that the performers cannot escape. In choosing to cast glamorous models to play the actors (unlike previous collaborations between the pair where they themselves performed), Kelley and McCarthy are commenting on their own feelings of entrapment by Acconci’s legacy. Yet at the same time, the artists are making an Oedipal attempt to break free of it. In an earlier collaboration, Family Tyranny (1987), recently shown at This Will Have Been: Art, Love, & Politics in the 1980s, the two artists explore the relationship between an abusive father and his son (performed by McCarthy and Kelley, respectively). That video begins with the text, “The father begat the son. The son begat the father.” With Fresh Acconci exploring and criticizing the idea of artistic patrilineage, it could have opened with the very same lines.

Anonymous II

Kris Martin. Anonymous II (2009). buried human skeleton, certificate accompanying burial. overall 16 x 16 inches. Image: Walker Art Center

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The Sculpture is Never Finished: An Interview with Vincent Fecteau

  It’s unlikely that Vincent Fecteau’s Untitled (2010) sculpture is seen the same way twice. It hangs on a peg in the gallery’s wall so that the two-sided work can be shown as occasionally reversed and rotated. With each adjustment to its display, the viewer’s discovery of the object is slightly different, exposed to new […]

 

Vincent Fecteau. Untitled, 2010, Walker Art Center

It’s unlikely that Vincent Fecteau’s Untitled (2010) sculpture is seen the same way twice. It hangs on a peg in the gallery’s wall so that the two-sided work can be shown as occasionally reversed and rotated. With each adjustment to its display, the viewer’s discovery of the object is slightly different, exposed to new aspects of its variegated surface, imperfect acrylic paint layers of uneasy hues, traces of papier mâché infrastructure, and range of casted shadows on the flat wall behind it. While Fecteau worked on this series of what he’s referred to as “360-degree sculptures,” each awkward wall-mounted shape consisted of an arduous exercise in not only confronting the limitations of sculpture but also in determining the state of completion for these challenging and indefinitive works.

In a recent interview, Fecteau discusses his sculptural practice. He talks about the development of his work in the Walker’s collection, what he’s working on now (an exhibition of his newest pieces just opened at Galerie Buchholz in Berlin), and the exciting impossibility of making art.

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Remembering Rosemary Furtak, Champion of Artists’ Books

On July 8, we lost a dear friend when Walker Librarian Rosemary Furtak passed away. Dedicating 29 years to the Walker Art Center, Rosemary was a leader in her field, building our library into one of the primary repositories for contemporary art research in the country. She knew that as an institution powered by the […]

Rosemary Furtak in the Walker Library, 2006. Photo: Gene Pittman

On July 8, we lost a dear friend when Walker Librarian Rosemary Furtak passed away. Dedicating 29 years to the Walker Art Center, Rosemary was a leader in her field, building our library into one of the primary repositories for contemporary art research in the country. She knew that as an institution powered by the work of living artists, the library too must be a living, breathing organism, one that deepened not only our understanding of the artists in the Walker’s collection, but also in the world at large. Under her care, the library demonstrated that contemporary art was fast-paced and exciting. She made sure the right exhibition catalogues, periodicals, and offbeat ephemera were brought in to provide crucial context to the work of the many artists, performers, and filmmakers shown here. Her view was that a library of this nature must be both a repository and a space for active exploration.

Rosemary had many passions: edgy fashion, the Minnesota Twins, the hills of northern Italy, and concerts at Orchestra Hall, where she was an usher for years. But her greatest love was the field of artists’ books—volumes conceived as original works of art rather than reproductions or mass-produced publications. The art form took hold in the mid-1960s as many artists began to embrace the book as a uniquely democratic vehicle for presenting visual information, and has today grown into a vibrant area of artistic production. When it came to artists’ books, Rosemary was omnivorous, whether she was seeking out key historical examples, befriending rare book dealers here and abroad, or acquiring publications by talented young artists from the Twin Cities. In this arena Rosemary was a trailblazer, a distinction she wore with pride on her well-tailored sleeve.

Rosemary Furtak, 1986 Photo: Glenn Halvorson

Rosemary began her tenure at the Walker as librarian in 1983. Upon her arrival, the library owned 20,000 volumes, and only a handful of books made by artists, many of which had been inadvertently rubber-stamped and stored with exhibition catalogues and artist monographs. Seeing its potential value to the Walker’s collection, Rosemary proceeded to “rescue” this material and devote a special section to it. Her efforts were recognized by artist Sol LeWitt, who, while here installing his wall drawing Four Geometric Figures in a Room (1984; currently on view on the Walker’s 8th floor), paid a visit to the library and perused its holdings. He proceeded to hand Rosemary a check for $500, instructing her to officially launch a collection of books by artists. At the time, the sum went a long way and gave root to this now significant trove: today, the Walker’s library and permanent collections have grown to include more than 2,000 examples. All told, the library’s holdings doubled under her watch.

A selection of books made by artists from the Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library.

Rosemary created a unique community. Those who worked with her throughout the years came to know her as a friend, indispensable colleague, and mentor. The many artists, students, and book enthusiasts who visited her domain encountered a person whose passion for her work was contagious, and whose capacity for sharing her enthusiasms seemingly boundless. Though the Walker’s library occupies a quiet corner of the building, she made it a nerve center, often buzzing with curators, researchers, and tour guides. Always accommodating, Rosemary delighted in assisting visitors with their research, more often than not pointing them toward resources only available at the Walker, including her meticulously assembled artist files filled with clippings, uncatalogued ephemera, and sometimes unclassifiable oddities.

Books by Lawrence Weiner from the Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library

Each year, alongside her general acquisitions to the library, Rosemary earmarked funds to be used on artists’ books, making an effort to have representation of all artists in the Walker’s collection who had made books as part of their practice. In this way, important volumes were acquired in depth by LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Richard Tuttle, Dieter Roth, Lawrence Weiner, and others for whom books were a central activity beginning in the 1960s. She also began to collect publications by local and regional artists, emerging artists expanding notions of the book’s aesthetic possibilities, and to fill in historical gaps in the collection by Surrealists, Futurists, and others, such as Marcel Duchamp, essential to the development of contemporary art.

Beyond her acquisitive zeal, however, it was Rosemary’s desire for sharing the collection that was the most inspiring aspect of a visit to Walker’s library. Rosemary was always at the ready to provide the essential piece of information you never knew you needed. She was more than happy to pull out her most recent treasures, sometimes unsolicited. From innocuous storage boxes on the shelves came books lavishly illustrated with original etchings and lithographs, shaped books, books without words, books that pop up to become sculpture, books that unfold or unfurl to astounding lengths, and books made from unconventional and often seductive materials. We curators were instructed to never throw mail away, but to send it to the library, in case something merited safekeeping. Rosemary collected important ephemera, correspondence from artists and galleries, rare exhibition catalogues, and multiples. Occasionally, one might open a storage box and find in it not only an artist’s book, but also its sales prospectus, a clipping of a review, or a letter from the artist.

Books by Richard Tuttle from the Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library.

The Walker’s curators have frequently drawn upon the library’s collection for works to include in exhibitions, such as Duchamp’s Leg (1997), which examined the ripple effect of Duchamp and his legacy throughout contemporary art, or Edward Ruscha: Editions (1999), a show that took the library’s complete collection of the artists’ books as a point of departure for a full retrospective and catalogue raisonné of this material. In 2007, I had the pleasure of working with Rosemary as a co-curator on Text/Messages: Books by Artists, which marked the first time that the material had been featured as such in an exhibition. The show was as much a celebration of Rosemary and her work as it was of the extraordinary collection she assembled.

In her field, Rosemary was a quiet but formidable force. Her advocacy made her a model for other art librarians grappling with ever-shifting definitions of what a book can be. She was a strong proponent for intermuseum exchange programs, whereby institutions with increasingly limited resources can continue to grow their libraries through the trading of catalogues and other publications. She was involved with the book arts community locally, lecturing about artists who make books and teaching classes to students who visited the Walker’s library. During the period when the Walker was closed for expansion, Rosemary curated an engaging satellite exhibition of artist’s books at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, which featured highlights from the Walker’s holdings.

On the occasion of her retirement earlier this year, and as a tribute to her enduring contributions here, the Walker named her hidden cache the Rosemary Furtak Collection. This institution and the community at large owe much to Rosemary’s keen and adventurous eye, generous spirit, and scholarly care. She will be greatly missed as her legacy continues to inspire those who seek to open a book’s cover, encounter the truly unexpected, and realize they have found art.

Books by Dieter Roth from the Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library.

Interview with Robert Bechtle

Robert Bechtle has been painting his surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1950s. When I went to interview him the other day, it was a bit like being inside one of his photorealist works. On my way to his place in Potrero Hill I walked up some steep hills flanked by rows […]

Robert Bechtle in his studio.

Robert Bechtle has been painting his surroundings in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1950s. When I went to interview him the other day, it was a bit like being inside one of his photorealist works. On my way to his place in Potrero Hill I walked up some steep hills flanked by rows of sunlit flat-front houses, under crisscrosses of power lines, and in and out of morning street shadows I recognized from his paintings and drawings. I crossed the streets in 20th and Mississippi Night (2001) and a few blocks over to the east is the corner in Covered Car – Missouri Street (2001)—both charcoal on paper drawings in the Walker’s collection. He would say later, “They’re all things that I’ve noticed just living here. Things that I see on my walk in the morning, or I’m driving by and something jumps out and says, ‘Photograph me.’” He may be the most familiar with San Francisco’s architecture over the past 60 years. Sometimes he’d draw and paint the same scene several times. (more…)

“The Quiet Revolutionary”: Honoring Librarian Rosemary Furtak

A beloved member of the Walker family and the book arts community, Rosemary Furtak, the Walker’s librarian for 29 years, passed away Sunday, July 8, 2012, at age 69.

Rosemary Furtak, 1986

A beloved member of the Walker family and the book arts community, Rosemary Furtak passed away Sunday, July 8, 2012, at age 69. She was a great colleague and friend, and one who will be sorely missed.

Last week we celebrated a beloved colleague, Rosemary Furtak, who retired recently after a 29-year career at the Walker. Countless curators, scholars, writers, artists, designers, and others—both inside and outside the art center—have a special fondness for the Walker Library, which houses more than 35,000 publications in a wonderfully hushed, secluded underground space. This is thanks largely to Rosemary and the infectious enthusiasm she brought to her profession as a librarian–and, more to the point, to her role in establishing and building the library’s collection of some 1,600 artist’s books.

It was for her work in both of those capacities that she received a Distinguished Service Award from the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS) at its 2012 conference, held last March in Toronto. “In the early 1980s, Rosemary was among the few art museum librarians who recognized a fundamental difference between artists’ books and others, and who segregated them into special collections areas that would eventually become known as ‘Artists’ Book Collections’,” noted Janice Lea Lurie, head librarian at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in presenting the award. “The idea that artists’ books are different, or as Rosemary stated, they are ‘books that refuse to behave like other books’, was a visionary step, as no well-defined precedents in the early 1980s existed for establishing artists’ book collections. Consequently, Rosemary was a pioneer in this area, which later became part of the “collection development” mainstream of the late 1980s and early ’90s.”

In their nomination letter, Lurie and a host of other ARLIS colleagues wrote of the ongoing impact of Rosemary’s “early and visionary leadership” not just in art museum librarianship, but also in the books arts community and “the strongly rooted ‘book-scene’ culture of the Twin Cities.” They cited her as both a “well-known local personality in the art, library, and book arts circles” and “a highly respected and beloved figure internationally”; and, finally, noting her “very quiet way” and “great modesty”—something that endeared her to so many—they proposed for her the title of “The Quiet Revolutionary.” More than 30 of Furtak’s fellow art librarians and other colleagues in book arts and museums supported the nomination.

Many of us at the Walker already miss Rosemary’s sharp insights and vast knowledge, not to mention her connoisseurship of chocolate and her sartorial flair (on any given day she could easily take the award for best-dressed Walker staffer). We will also sorely miss her miniature exhibitions of artists’ books, an ongoing series presented in a specially built display case right outside the library. Fortunately, all of these exhibitions dating back to 2005 have been documented in photos–click here to see the full collection on Flickr.

For more on Rosemary and the artists’ book collection – including 13 great examples of works—see this interview from 2008, conducted as she was co-curating the exhibition Text/Messages with Walker curator Siri Engberg; and her article, “Adventures in Collecting, originally published in Walker magazine.

Recent artist's book display, organized by Rosemary Furtak

 

 

 

 

From the Archives: Jud Nelson’s Hefty 2-Ply

On view through May 27 as a part of Lifelike, the 1,500-pound Hefty 2-Ply made quite a splash when it first landed at the Walker in 1981.  The Walker commissioned Jud Nelson in 1979 to make a piece for its permanent collection; it took nearly two years to carve it from marble. Known for his depictions of everyday […]

On view through May 27 as a part of Lifelike, the 1,500-pound Hefty 2-Ply made quite a splash when it first landed at the Walker in 1981. 

"Hefty 2-Ply" on view as part of "Lifelike" (with Rudolph Stingel’s oil painting "Untitled (after Sam)," from 2006.

The Walker commissioned Jud Nelson in 1979 to make a piece for its permanent collection; it took nearly two years to carve it from marble. Known for his depictions of everyday items — Shirts IV: Van Heusen and Chair are also part of the Walker collection – the artist opted to make a garbage bag bursting with familiar throwaways from the latter half of the 20th century.

Nelson at work on "Hefty 2-ply" in his New York Studio, 1980.

He started by roughing out its form from Italian Carrera marble, using a hammer and chisel, then refined the piece with rotary grinders and finished the details with dental drills fitted with diamond bits. Several items, including products from Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Kitty Klean, date the sculpture to a distinct period and are all identifiable — by the artist, at least — within its bulges and wrinkles.

The artist installing his work in July, 1981.

Nelson, an alumnus of Bethel College and the University of Minnesota, was on hand to install Hefty 2-Ply in Gallery 7 (now the Medtronic Gallery), and the sculpture was unveiled in a special ceremony as part of the Walker’s 10th  anniversary celebration of its Barnes building on July 12, 1981.

Cartoon from the "Minneapolis Star," July 16, 1981

More than 12,000 people showed up for the festivities — some 8,000 more than were anticipated – and Hefty 2-Ply‘s debut stirred up further press and interest, such as this cartoon from the Minneapolis Star.

At the Walker's 10th anniversary celebration

As with so many of the painstaking replicas in Lifelike, the realism of Hefty 2-Ply has a special kind of allure. And while it’s tempting to touch – alas, the the usual museum rules apply to this favorite Walker artwork. 

 

 

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