Series Description

 
The Feminist Origins:
VDB’s On Art and Artists Interview Collection
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | Total program runtime: 50:47

Marcia Tucker 1974: An Interview
Video Details
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | 11:09 | B&W

In this interview, conducted prior to her departure from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Tucker speaks with Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield about her burgeoning career. At the time of the interview, Tucker was known for organizing major surveys of ephemeral and post-minimalist work, including that of Bruce Nauman, Lee Krasner, James Rosenquist, Joan Mitchell, and Richard Tuttle. In the video, Tucker talks about embracing the freedom of her thirties, her participation in the Redstocking feminist women’s group, and her realization that her original curatorial vision had been conditioned by masculine assumptions. “The best work that any human being does in the world is the work he or she is most interested in,” she observes.

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Marcia Tucker 1974: An Interview
Video Details
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | 11:09 | B&W

In this interview, conducted prior to her departure from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Tucker speaks with Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield about her burgeoning career. At the time of the interview, Tucker was known for organizing major surveys of ephemeral and post-minimalist work, including that of Bruce Nauman, Lee Krasner, James Rosenquist, Joan Mitchell, and Richard Tuttle. In the video, Tucker talks about embracing the freedom of her thirties, her participation in the Redstocking feminist women’s group, and her realization that her original curatorial vision had been conditioned by masculine assumptions. “The best work that any human being does in the world is the work he or she is most interested in,” she observes.

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Lucy Lippard 1974: An Interview
Video Details
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | 10:06 excerpted from 25:00 | B&W

In this interview, art critic Lucy Lippard (b. 1937) speaks with Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield about her engagement with women’s art, and her struggles to articulate a female — as opposed to feminist — art practice. She describes her founding of the Women’s Art Registry and WEB (West East Bag), an international liaison network for women artists. Lippard also articulates the problematic role of criticism, which holds real power, but does not offer a creative force.

“I’ve always followed the art," she notes. “Criticism doesn’t create the art.”

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Joan Mitchell: An Interview
Video Details
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | 00:11:10 excerpted from 30:00 | B&W

Mitchell's wry personality and self-confidence are at the forefront of this dialogue as she resists clear feminist interpretations of her trajectory, and maintains her objections to defined "schools" of painting and art historical categorization.  In this interview, Mitchell describes learning from deKooing and Klein in her early years. 

The artist is most forthcoming when describing her deep commitment to painting and her varied sources of inspiration. "I will use anything if it will inspire me, anything at all," she notes. "Music does, a crossword puzzle might, mystery stories, very good poetry like Frank O'Hara. I might have a scotch. I might talk to one of my six dogs who paint with me."

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Ree Morton: An Interview
Video Details
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | 8:40 exceprted from 25:37 | B&W

In this interview, Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield speak with artist Ree Morton (1933-1977) about her work in sculpture and mixed media. Morton, who began her career at age 30, shares her initial reluctance to call herself an artist. “I was a homemaker,” she notes. “It was a long time before I could use that other word. Artist had a lot of implications… It was a lifestyle I didn’t think had anything to do with me.” Morton goes on to discuss the important influence of critic Marcia Tucker on her career and her desire to differentiate her work from the “women’s art” of her professors. (“They were all making bean collages.”) She speaks about her affinity for material exploration and the choices involved in her 1973 installation at the Whitney Museum. “You can’t see it wrong,” she says of her sculpture. “I want any tactile, sensual or emotional response you may have.”

This rare interview is one of the few video documents of Ree Morton, who passed away tragically in 1977, leaving a tremendously influential body of work after only a decade of artistic practice.

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Agnes Martin 1974: An Interview
Video Details
Lyn Blumenthal/Kate Horsfield | 1974 | 09:42 excerpted from 41:00 | B&W

In this inspiring interview, Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield speak with painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004) in the Cuba, New Mexico log cabin she designed as her retreat from the New York art establishment.

Canadian-born Martin was influential in the development of Minimalism in the United States, and an active participant in the Abstract Expressionist movement.  Deeply influenced by Buddhism, Martin shares her philosophy of life and art in this conversation. "Painting is not making painting, it is the development of awareness," she notes.  Martin focuses on art as investigation into inner truth, and explains the work of painting as one of slow self-discovery. "An inspiration is really the next perception that you are allowed to make," she says.  "The artist waits for perception with patience and readiness, waking as if from sleep."

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Program Notes

In April 1974, Video Data Bank co-founders Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield conducted their first interview, an in-depth conversation with art historian and curator Marcia Tucker. During the remainder of that year, Blumenthal and Horsfield went on to interview four more notable art world women: Joan Mitchell, Lucy Lippard, Agnes Martin and Ree Morton.

Seen together, these five interviews mark a seminal moment in the history of 20th Century art, a moment in which women artists were increasingly being asked to define and position their practice within the growing feminist movement. Blumenthal and Horsfield’s interviews with these remarkable women each touch on the question of gender and the role it played in shaping their aesthetics and career trajectories in a male dominated art world. Through these conversations, Lippard, Mitchell, Morton, Tucker, and Martin each personally define their experience as women artists, and talk about the influence of feminism on their own life. With self-awareness and considerable thought, these artists each embrace (or dismiss) an artistic vision aligned with femininity. Four decades later, these important conversations shed light on an exceptional period in which a new awareness of oppressive social constraints and gender inequality was matched by an exuberant sense of excitement and potential about what “women’s work” in the field of art might truly be.

 


 

These historical interviews were edited with the support of the Lyn Blumenthal Memorial Fund.

Lyn Blumenthal has been recognized as a leading and innovative experimental feminist media artist and teacher. Her multi-disciplinary body of work included videos, sculpture, drawings and critical essays.  She forged new directions and objectives for the field of independent video—not only creating important video pieces, but also envisioning alternative video as a critical voice within the culture. read more »

Kate Horsfield received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1976 and in the same year co-founded the Video Data Bank with the late Lyn Blumenthal. Horsfield was Executive Director of the Video Data Bank from 1988 to 2006.  Horsfield and Blumenthal began their research in contemporary art in video by producing over 200 video interviews with contemporary artists, photographers and critics. read more »

Featured titles

Marcia Tucker 1974: An Interview

Marcia Tucker (1940-2006) was a curator, writer and art historian, known for founding the New Museum of Contemporary Art after her dismissal from her curatorial post at the Whitney Museum of American Art, due to creative disagreements.  Tucker served as the visionary director of the New Museum from 1977 to 1999, during which time she organized major exhibitions like The Time of Our Lives (1999), A Labor of Love (1996), and Bad Girls (1994), and edited the series Documentary Sources in Contemporary Art.

Lucy Lippard 1974: An Interview

Lucy Lippard (b. 1937) earned degrees from Smith College and New York University before beginning her career as an art critic in 1962, when she began contributing to publications such as Art International and later, Artforum. In 1966, she organized an exhibition entitled Eccentric Abstraction at the Fischbach Gallery in New York City.  

Joan Mitchell: An Interview

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) was a "second generation" abstract expressionist painter and printmaker.  She was an essential member of the American Abstract expressionist movement, and one of the few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim in the era.

Video Data Bank, Ree Morton: An Interview

Ree Morton (1936-77) was an American artist working with large-scale mixed media installations.  Her mature career was brief, extending from 1971 to 1977.  However, her output and growth during these years was unusually large.  This was the first of two interviews Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield conducted with Morton; the second was for the journal Heresies in 1977.

Agnes Martin 1974: An Interview

Originally from Canada, Agnes Martin (1912-2004) moved to the U.S. in 1931. Martin lived in Taos, New Mexico from 1954 to 1957, and then moved to New York, where she established her name as an important minimalist painter.

Resources

This isn't Charlie Rose: The Making of On Art and Artists and the Politics of Information Distribution

Faye Gleisser, Northwestern University, PhD Candidate Department of Art History

Commissioned by Video Data Bank, 2014


Faye Gleisser's essay argues for a fresh approach to Video Data Bank's On Art and Artists interview collection, one that delves into the social and political mechanics of the “artist interview,” considering it as both an object and a form integral to the history of art.  Gleisser goes on to investigate the historically specific decision by Blumenthal and Horsfield to distribute the taped interviews to universities, museum libraries, and art festivals in the 1970s and 1980s. The author advances the idea that the videotaping of interviews with artists during this early period of VDB’s development was itself a unique and important act, contributing to the understanding of artistic labor as a vehicle for ethical engagement.