press release

The Santa Monica Museum of Art presents Allen Ruppersberg: You and Me or The Art of Give and Take. Among the first generation of American conceptual artists that also includes John Baldessari, Douglas Huebler, and Bruce Nauman who redefined artistic practice during the 1970s, this exhibition features two new major interactive installations created especially for the occasion. Allen Ruppersberg: You and Me or The Art of Give and Take opens on September 12 and continues through December 19, 2009.

“We are delighted to present this exhibition at SMMoA,” states Elsa Longhauser, Executive Director. “Al is a ‘vernacular anthropologist’ whose artistic interests and sensibilities have been indelibly shaped by the spirit and ethos of Southern California.”

Ruppersberg’s vast oeuvre includes paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, installations and books that explore the intersection of art, literature, and life. His work is often participatory, like that of Allan Kaprow and others, and he finds source material in the everyday. Ruppersberg’s vast collection of early to mid-twentieth-century cultural ephemera–which includes calendars, snapshots, magazines, comic books, newspaper clippings, postcards, posters, and instructional films–form the basis of much of his recent work.

As a teacher and artist, Ruppersberg has also influenced several Los Angeles artists of the generation following his, including, most notably, Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley, whose works also deal with the American vernacular. East Coast artist Rachel Harrison, who incorporates a deluge of cultural debris in her sculptures–celebrity magazines, costume jewelry, canned goods, and wigs–has acknowledged Ruppersberg's importance in the development of her own work. Ruppersberg has always had a strong, independent vision shaped first by growing up in America's heartland and also by spending months and years living and working in New York and Europe, where his work has been shown in an array of major museums.

Two new large-scale installations in this exhibition continue to expand Ruppersberg’s use of imagery culled from his vast archive of twentieth-century ephemera. The Never Ending Book Part 2/Art and Therefore Ourselves (2009), is a selection of more than 15,000 pages of Xeroxed images from the artist’s book collection, installed in a stage-like environment made of theatrical props and early twentieth-century mural-sized vintage posters. The pages are stacked in approximately fifty small cardboard boxes designed by the artist. These duplicated pages are free for the taking. In this way, Ruppersberg makes his library available to each audience member who can subsequently create his or her own unique “book” to take home. As part of this project, Ruppersberg has created a 33 RPM vinyl LP record, which functions as an oral analog to the books on view. The record includes old songs and hymns, spoken word recordings, recipes read by poet Bill Berkson, and people singing around the piano, all dating from the early to mid-20th century.

For the second installation, The Sound and the Story/The Hugo Ball Award for 20th Century Graphics (2009), photocopied and laminated items of everyday ephemera from Ruppersberg’s extensive collection are suspended from a wall of pegboards. Viewers are invited to rearrange the materials on the pegboard to create their own narrative. During the run of the exhibition, Ruppersberg will periodically respond to these arrangements by reorganizing the items himself, thus creating a visual conversation with his audience “co-producers.”

The exhibition also includes a selection of earlier collages and drawings–two-dimensional works from important series The Gift and the Inheritance (1989), and Cover Art (1985); both of which provide an historical backdrop to the new installations.

Ruppersberg’s work is held in major collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and lives and works in Los Angeles and New York.

Allen Ruppersberg: You and Me or The Art of Give and Take is organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Guest curator of the exhibition is Constance Lewallen, Adjunct Curator at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

The publication that accompanies the exhibition was conceived by Ruppersberg as an artwork in itself, and is a cross between a traditional catalog and an artist’s book. Based on a 1956 edition of travel guide The Guest Informant, it is spiral-bound and cardboard-covered. The publication contains essays by renowned author and cultural critic, Greil Marcus, and guest curator Constance Lewallen, along with an interview with and commentary on the artist, random ephemera, and exhibition information. It is co-published by JRP|Ringier, Switzerland.

Allen Ruppersberg
You and Me or The Art of Give and Take
Kurator: Constance Lewallen