Roberta Allen: Works from the 1970s

Roberta Allen, MINUS SPACE

Roberta Allen, Negation (detail), 1976
26 individual gelatin silver print photographs with ink drawings mounted on museum board
14 x 11 inches each, overall dimensions variable

April 4 – May 10, 2014
Reading & Conversation with Roberta Allen & Claudia La Rocco: Saturday, May 3, 3-5pm

MINUS SPACE is honored to present the exhibition Roberta Allen: Works from the 1970s. This is the New York City-based artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and it will feature select works on paper, photo-based works, and sculpture from the artist’s personal archive spanning the early to late-1970s.

For nearly five decades, Roberta Allen has produced conceptually-driven work in a variety of media, including drawing, collage, photography, printmaking, artist books and installation. Her work produced during the 1970s often merged performance, photography and language, revealing wholly unique forms that hybridized and advanced the discourse of Post-Minimalism, Conceptual, Feminist, and Performance Art in downtown NYC.

Allen’s exhibition at the gallery will highlight several distinct bodies of work, including her petite early box sculptures (1971), Pointless Arrow collages (c. 1972-1975) – both inspired by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s writings – Negation series (1976), and Pointless Acts series (1976), among others. Her early sculpture consists of small wooden frames with canvas on opposing sides, cut holes, and grids drawn in ballpoint pen. Her Pointless Arrow works, a conjunction of image and text, are intimately-scaled collages made of ink on graph paper with handwritten text descriptions. About her Pointless Arrow works, Allen states, “Arrows indicate direction or placement. Pointless arrows, lines without arrowheads, indicate directional loss or states prior to direction…Pointless arrows represent suspended states between being as ascent and being as fall”.

Her Negation and Pointless Acts series, both produced in 1976, consist of individual gelatin silver print photographs and handwritten text in ink on museum board. To make these series, Allen performed an array of predetermined poses and gestures in a Photomat booth in her Chelsea neighborhood. She drew lines and marks in ink on the small printed photographs, which she then re-photographed and printed as larger-format gelatin silver prints. She then mounted the larger prints onto matboard and handwrote descriptions of the performed actions in cursive script below each of the photographs. Using the implied spatial concerns of photography, combined with drawing and text, Allen intentionally presents the viewer with paradoxical information that confounds two and three dimensions through the use of visual image and verbal description.

Roberta Allen (b. 1945, New York, NY) is a New York-based visual artist and writer. Allen has travelled widely throughout her career. She lived and worked in Europe, and later travelled in Central and South America and West Africa. Since the late 1960s, Allen has mounted more than two dozen solo exhibitions, including two at MoMA/PS1 and four at the legendary John Weber Gallery (both NYC), where she was represented during the 1970s and early 1980s. She has also mounted one-person exhibitions at Franklin Furnace, Hal Bromm Gallery (both NYC); Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (Munich, Germany); and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (Perth, Australia), among others in the United States and abroad.

Her work has been included in countless group exhibitions at museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum (all NYC); Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY); Islip Art Museum (Islip, NY); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art (Ridgefield, CT); Worcester Art Museum (Worcester, MA); Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD); Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France); Wiener Secession (Vienna, Austria); Museo de Arte Contemporanea (Sao Paulo, Brazil); Museo Nacional de Artes Plasticas (Montevideo, Uruguay); and National Art Gallery (Wellington, New Zealand), among many others.

Her work is included in collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (both NYC); Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, CT); Yale University (New Haven, CT); Worchester Art Museum (Worchester, MA); Cincinnati Art Museum (Cincinnati, OH); Contemporary Arts Museum (Houston, TX); Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France); Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (Munich, Germany); and Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth, Australia).

In addition to her visual work, Allen is an accomplished writer who has been widely published since the 1980s. This includes three short story collections, (The Traveling Woman, The Daughter, Certain People), a novel (The Dreaming Girl), a memoir (Amazon Dream), and three writing guides (Fast Fiction, The Playful Way to Serious Writing, The Playful Way to Knowing Yourself). Her short stories, memoirs, essays, and articles have been included in more than a dozen anthologies and more than a hundred magazines and journals. Allen has received writing awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Arts Council, Yaddo, and MacDowell Colony, among others.

Best of 2014: Our Top 10 Brooklyn Art Shows, Hyperallergic, December 23, 2014