full catalogue available as a pdf: http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mweb/archives/artandtechnology/PDFs/AandT_Report_1971.pdf
"The Art and Technology exhibition began as a “brave experiment.”2 The show, on view at LACMA from May 16 to August 29, 1971, was almost a by-product, and not the initial goal, of the project developed by the museum’s staff beginning in 1967, when senior curator of modern art Maurice Tuchman posed these questions: What if artists had access to the materials, expertise, and manufacturing processes of the day’s most advanced technologies? What if they were free to experiment with these materials and processes, and what if they could collaborate with the engineers and corporations who had developed them?
Over the next four years, Tuchman and other LACMA staff members followed up on these questions by identifying corporations and artists they wished to pair. They made the arrangements, shepherded the projects, and mediated occasional disagreements between artists and organizations. They hastily rearranged the exhibition schedule so they could present eight works of art at the Expo 70 world’s fair in Osaka, Japan, before bringing them back to Los Angeles for the LACMA show. Tuchman and his staff—drawing heavily on notes and correspondence from the artists and corporations—wrote their catalogue entries and published the catalogue, which was available by the time the exhibition opened in May 1971. (The catalogue is available in its entirety on this website; 87.16Mb PDF format.) In one of his articles about the exhibition (cited above), Henry J. Seldis of the Los Angeles Times noted that the serene work by Robert Irwin served as a counterpoint to “the basically tumultuous nature of Tuchman’s long heralded ‘A&T’ exhibition and the frenzy of its creation.” It must have been an exhausting—and exhilarating—four years.
In the Art and Technology catalogue, Tuchman acknowledges that the collaboration of artist and industry was not a new impulse in art history; he noted “a collective will to gain access to modern industry underlies the programs of the Italian Futurists, Russian Constructivists, and many of the German Bauhaus artists.... A need to reform commercial industrial products, to create public monuments for a new society, to express fresh artistic ideas with the materials that only industry could provide—such were the concerns of these schools of artists...”.3
“The White Hygienic Mills of Southern California”4
In 1967, Southern California was booming, and Los Angeles was an exciting city aspiring to challenge New York as a center of the art world. Tuchman invited “artists of calibre”5 to take part in the experiment, approaching East Coast luminaries such as Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as Californian Robert Irwin, who worked in New York. He also approached corporations, inviting them to become “Patron Sponsors” of the project; they would not only fund the artists’ work but also provide onsite professional assistance and materials for the collaborations.
Los Angeles might not have been the center of the art world, but it was a locus for the development of new technologies. Since World War II, Los Angeles had been home to scores of aerospace and defense contractors. Local corporations developed and manufactured everything from lunar probes, as well as components used on the Apollo lunar lander, to Cold War weapons systems. The city was also the home, of course, to the entertainment industry and its associated technologies, and both WED Enterprises (Disney) and Universal took part in collaborations.
With the support of LACMA’s Board of Trustees, and special assistance from Marilyn “Missy” Chandler, more than thirty corporations were invited to take part. Tuchman and some members of his staff—Jane Livingston, Gail Scott, James Monte, and Hal Glicksman—paired the artists with organizations and began to tour shop floors, laboratories, and engineers’ offices, often with Dr. Richard Feynman, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) physicist.
“Temples of Capitalism”
By the late 1960s, Tuchman had invited seventy-six artists to participate in Art and Technology. While Tuchman had expected some artists to decline,on moral grounds to work within “temples of Capitalism” or, more particularly, with militarily involved industries, none did.6 Some artists, however, submitted proposals that LACMA deemed insufficiently innovative. “If anything,” Tuchman wrote, “we may have been prejudiced against those artists who had been deliberately employing the tools of new technology for its own sake, because so many recent exhibitions centered on this notion had been of little interest artistically.”7
Of the initial seventy-six who were approached, twenty-three artists ultimately engaged in collaborations with corporations; in fact, some worked with several organizations, depending on how their work proceeded. There was definitely a culture clash between artists and organizations: Wrote Tuchman: “Les Levine’s somewhat casual, free-wheeling manner, for example, did not ingratiate him to the people at Ampex.... IBM personnel were perhaps offended by Jackson MacLow’s unconventional appearance and dress, and possibly by his politics, but another computer company (Information International) found him entirely acceptable.”8
“Progress and Harmony for Mankind”9
“It takes not one iota of chauvinism to state categorically that Maurice Tuchman’s contribution to Expo 70 is the most significant and forward-looking cultural project in a fair replete with superior examples of art and architecture.”—Henry J. Seldis, Los Angeles Times10
Art and Technology was scheduled to open at LACMA in 1970. The project, however, caught the attention of the United States Information Agency. Its director asked: Could LACMA pack up the exhibition, send it to Osaka, Japan, and install it in the U.S. Pavilion at the 1970 world’s fair?
The museum postponed its own exhibition for a year and hustled to arrange for some of the works of art to be sent to Japan for the Expo opening in March 1970. Wrote Tuchman: “We had six months’ time in which to deliver eight ‘rooms’ of art.... those six months were crisis-fraught.”11 The works of art were shipped in eighty crates and took ten weeks to install.
Only Claes Oldenburg’s Giant Icebag had been completed and tested before the Expo 70 opening; the other seven works were assembled for the first time onsite in Osaka. Somehow, everything worked. And even though the works of art competed for attention in the Pavilion with a moon rock collected in 1969 by the Apollo 11 astronauts, the installation was a huge success.
“The Show Is a Revelation”
In May 1971, Art and Technology opened in LACMA’s Hammer wing. Of the twenty-three collaborations that had been approved to go forward, the work of fifteen artists appeared in the LACMA exhibition. The other projects foundered: the proposals were not feasible, collaborations failed, or artists’ interests drew them elsewhere.
Some reviews were glowing. The Los Angeles Times called the exhibition “mind-boggling” and “magical.” Time magazine wrote: “The show is a revelation.... ‘Art and Technology’s’ real importance is as a catalyst of a possible future. No Jerusalem has been founded among the white hygienic mills of Southern California, but the practical experience of ‘Art and Technology’ may very well point the way to future, and much-easier collaborations.”12 However, Hilton Kramer, art critic for the New York Times, had a somewhat sour assessment: “The new technology provides some dazzling visual sensation, but little in the way of really new visual forms.”13
Controversy and Criticism
“A prominent curator of modern art and the organizer of this show claims in the show’s catalogue that he sought “as wide a range of artists as possible.” But in fact they invited no Blacks, no Chicanos, no Asians, and no women.”—Los Angeles Free Press14
While Art and Technology was a revelation to many of its viewers, the exhibition did have its critics. One criticism was that no female artists had been invited to participate in the project. In the summer of 1971, the newly formed Los Angeles Council of Women Artists protested the exclusion of women artists not only from Art and Technology but from most of the museum galleries throughout the city. The council published a declaration in the Los Angeles Free Press shortly after the exhibition opening: “The Art and Technology show has been heralded as ‘the wave of the future.’ If this is so, then we are most distressed to observe that there are no women in it….Sixteen artists are represented in this invitational show—NONE are women.”15
In Insurgent Muse, a memoir of the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, writer and performance artist Terry Wolverton cites the protest of Art and Technology as essential to the development of the feminist artist movement in Los Angeles.16
“One of the Key Documents in Recent American Art”
“When [the show] closes, it will have left behind one of the key documents in recent American art: the catalogue compiled by Maurice Tuchman in which all the ambitions, negotiations, blocks and frustrations involved in this immense project are set down, without fear or favor.”—Time17
“I loved the catalogue.... It’s full of gossip and history and time passing and attitudes.” —Claes Oldenburg18
The Art and Technology catalogue is a frank report on the collaborative processes between artists and corporations, and it does not shy away from discussing the failures. It notes that established artists were often reluctant to change the way they thought and worked, and that many looked on the corporations only as a means for fabricating works that they had envisioned before the project began. Also, because the art emphasized “transient images and evanescent phenomena,”19 it was sometimes difficult for corporations to understand the objects or environments that were being proposed or developed in collaboration with their staff. All was documented without prejudice in the catalogue.
Since its inception approximately four decades ago, the Art and Technology program has become one of the foundational initiatives between art and advanced technology. Its legacy can be seen in the transformations of the work and working style of artists such as Richard Serra, Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Claes Oldenburg, and William Harrison.20 In 2002, the catalogue was recognized by the digital arts journal Leonardo as one of the ten key texts in digital art.
Project Manager and Editor
3. Maurice Tuchman, Art and Technology: A Report on the Art and Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1967 - 1971 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), p. 9 (hereafter cited as Art and Technology).
20. Christopher R. De Fay, “Art, Enterprise and Collaboration: Richard Serra, Robert Irwin, James Turrell, and Claes Oldenburg at the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1967 - 1971.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2005."