Jeff Elrod

The Conditions of Being Art: Pat Hearn Gallery & American Fine Arts, Co. (1983-2004) (group show)
Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
23 June – 14 December 2018

The Conditions of Being Art: Pat Hearn Gallery & American Fine Arts, Co. (1983-2004) will be the first exhibition in the United States to examine the shared histories, art, and programming activities of Pat Hearn Gallery (PHG) and American Fine Arts, Co., Colin de Land Fine Art. (AFA), whose archives are held at CCS Bard, and which have been the focus of an ongoing research program within the curatorial graduate program, that has included three semester-long courses on the histories of both galleries and involved visits from artists, friends and colleagues of Pat Hearn and Colin de Land. The exhibition will be held from June 23-December 14, 2018 and includes works of art shown at or associated with these galleries by over 40 artists. The exhibition draws upon the archives of each gallery to illuminate their distinctive curatorial practices, significant exhibitions, daily business activities, social worlds, and relationships of artists to art dealers and gallery founders Pat Hearn (1955-2000) and Colin de Land (1955-2003).

The exhibition begins with the opening of the Pat Hearn Gallery in 1983 and concludes with the closure of American Fine Arts, Co. in 2004. The galleries began independently of one another in 1983 and 1986 respectively, and are often discussed and historicized separately. While initially acclaimed for her support of transformations in painting in the 1980s, Hearn was also known for her commitment to queer, feminist politics, and AIDS activism, and valued by artists as a dealer who was an enthusiastic participant and collaborator in their work. Hearn subsequently supported work in video, computing, and practices engaging both exhibition and performing arts contexts, creating new ways of understanding artists’ work. De Land was recognized as both a dealer and an artist working under such collaborative pseudonyms as John Dogg and J. St. Bernard. His gallery simultaneously afforded an experimental space for presenting ideas as well as providing a social venue for artists, writers, collectors to interact and debate, his openness coupled with a critical approach, questioning the grounds on which taste, value, and judgment materialize.

The Conditions of Being Art foregrounds the changing operations of artistic labor: in how artists produced art, and what support this required from a gallery and dealer. The exhibition focuses on work by artists who were formally represented by the galleries, artists who received prominent one-person exhibitions at these galleries, and privileges those works of art or art practices that required conspicuous support, collaboration, and advocacy on the part of Hearn and de Land. Works of art previously shown at Hearn and de Land’s galleries—or that were made by them, with them, about or for them—are brought together with selections of archival material from their gallery records and related collections. The exhibition includes major installations of art supported by Hearn or de Land, such as Alex Bag’s The Van (2001), and art rarely exhibited in the U.S. but originally exhibited by PHG and AFA such as J. St. Bernard’s Rex (1990), Mary Heilmann’s Rosebud (1983) in addition to selections of art from such notable exhibitions as Renée Green’s Taste Venue exhibition (PHG 1994), Julia Scher, I’ll Be Gentle (PHG 1991), Peter Fend, Rapid Response (AFA 2000). Archival materials related to the production of site-specific works—such as Christian Philipp-Müller’s A Sense of Friendliness, Mellowness and Permanence (AFA 1992), John Knight’s Identity Capital (AFA 1998) and Art Club 2000, Commingle (AFA, 1993)—are also included. In doing so, the exhibition indicates how artists reflected upon, intervened into and collaboratively shaped the very operations of PHG and AFA.

While maintaining distinct programs and separate gallery operations, Hearn and de Land’s life partnership formed a third space devoted to shared ideas, artistic kinships, and overlapping communities that moved back and forth between their galleries. As art dealers, Hearn and de Land did not create rosters of individual artistic geniuses, but instead created – in dissimilar ways – markets for forms of institutional critique, research and project-based art not avidly collected at the time.

Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson