The big wave of Pacific Standard Time shows that opened in September are starting to close, so the game is on to see the ones you want to see before they're gone. "Now Dig This!," for example, was totally packed with eager visitors this past Saturday, its second to last day at the Hammer Museum. And yesterday, I made the trek out to the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University to see "Everyman's Infinite Art," a true gem of a little show, tucked deep behind the orange curtain, and filled with whimsy, history, and delight.
The last day of the exhibition is this Saturday, Jan. 14. But theoretically speaking, you don't actually have to go see it. "Everyman's Infinite Art," originally mounted at Chapman in 1966 by artist and then-art department chair Harold Gregor, was a charming early entry in the language-based conceptual art sweepstakes. It primarily consisted of a published set of instructions for making the exhibition out of commonly available materials such as masking tape, ping-pong balls, juice cans, and boxes of envelopes. The instructions were clear and simple but could be installed in a number of ways, for example: "Ten yardsticks lined end to end. A stack of twenty-four white styrofoam coffee cups, open end down." And so on.
The original exhibition was realized, but could not be viewed; it took place during Christmas break, behind locked doors. This took attention away from the finished product, and refocused it on the idea that art could be made by anyone, anywhere, at any time, using inexpensive and readily available materials. As Gregor wrote in his manifesto/instructions: "This kind of work promotes a literary and cerebral art form knowable through verbal or written description. It permits instant packaged exhibitions and immediate comprehension. In short... EVERYMAN'S INFINITE ART."
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Fast forward to the present day, and Guggenheim Gallery curator Alexandro Segade makes the wonderful decision to physically realize the exhibition -- following Gregor's original instructions, and enlisting the help of Chapman students -- and open it for viewing to the public. The result is a show that is both deeply historic and utterly contemporary. Segade is absolutely faithful to the conceit of the show, but he also opens it up and makes it accessible to a new audience.
Though some instructions are written out, the curators did have to make certain choices. The soup cans were placed in this corner. The red stripe was painted under this window. It's nicely done and a fun show to see, if you happen to be near Orange this week. But it's also a great show not to see, knowing that you could in fact, get a hold of Gregor's instructions and make it yourself. Or that, according to Gregor's logic, by reading this summary account, you've already seen part of the show. True to its title, the show is now and was then an infinite exercise in the joy of art-making for every person, for any person.
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