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Of the Moment: A Video Sampler from the Archives of American Art

In the late 20th century, some artists—and others in the art world—began using film and video to document their lives and work. Many of the Archives of American Art’s collections from this period contain audiovisual documents alongside traditional archival documents such as letters, diaries, and photographs.

Film and video have obvious advantages for portraying visual art and artists’ processes, and each audiovisual format has its own intrinsic visual qualities that help evoke a particular period of recent history, such as kinescopes from early television, or black-and-white Portapak videos and Super8 films from the 1960s and 1970s. Audiovisual recordings also convey details that traditional documents cannot, such as their subject’s gestures and attitudes, the changing light in a studio, and the buzz of excitement in a room.


Most of the video clips in this exhibition are currently not available online.

"George Tsutakawa: An Artist’s Pilgrimage," 1990
Archives of American Art video production
U-Matic video

Sculptor George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) reminisces about his friend, fellow Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).

News Report, 1985
Tokyo Broadcasting Corporation
Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States
General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987
VHS video

Richard Serra (b. 1939) fights back at a federal hearing about his controversial sculpture Tilted Arc, a gently curved wall of rusting steel that bisected Federal Plaza in New York City. The work was removed under public pressure.

"Baltimore Federal," 1977
Film by Mark Mikolas
George Sugarman papers, 1912-2001
U-Matic video copy with commentary of original Super8 film

On-the-street interviews and commentary by artist George Sugarman (1912-1999) about the attempt by federal judges to prevent the installation of his sculpture Baltimore Federal, outside the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. Sugarman won the battle, and the sculpture stands today.

"Women Artists Here and Now," 1976
Video by Gloria Kaufman, CK Video Productions
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Portapak video reel

Artists Alice Neel (1900-1984) and Mary Miss (b. 1944) challenge students at a feminist artists’ workshop at Notre Dame University.

Untitled, 1973
Video by Rene Metsch
Stable Gallery records, 1916-1999 (bulk 1953-1970)
Portapak video reel

Art dealer Eleanor Ward (1912-1984) speculates about Andy Warhol (1928-1987) at a 1973 auction of the Robert Scull collection.

"Fundraiser," circa 1980
Education Department, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Duane Hanson papers, 1969-2006
U-Matic video

Mary Wallace, the model for a sculpture by Duane Hanson (1925-1996) called Fundraiser, makes an appearance with her double.

"State of the Arts," circa 1979
Lawrence P. Fraiberg Productions
State of the Arts videotape collection, circa 1970-1980
U-Matic video

Sculptor George Segal (1924-2000) talks about the first time he tried body-casting--on himself.

Roger Brown Interview, circa 1980
Education Department, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art interviews, 1979-1983
U-Matic video

Artist Roger Brown (1941-1998) leafs through his sketchbooks and talks about his creative process.

Bob Sperry in Studio, 1987 
Video by Donna Mitchell
Robert Sperry papers, 1951-2002
VHS video

Ceramicist Robert Sperry (1927-1998) reveals his unique toolkit.

"The Jazz Arts," circa 1961
A Frank Parr Production
Louis Bunce papers, circa 1902-1983

Artist Louis Bunce (1907-1983) creates a painting to jazz music with bandleader Jim Smith live on Portland, Oregon, television.

"State of the Arts," circa 1979
Lawrence Fraiberg Productions, Inc.
State of the Arts videotape collection, circa 1970-1980
U-Matic video

A look inside the studios of sound artist Liz Philips (b. 1951) and video artist Nam June Paik (1932-2006) as they collaborate on a new work. Dancer Robert Kovich (1950-1991) also participates in the project.

What's Cooking?, 1974
Video by David Salle
Janet Kardon papers, 1975-1990
Portapak video reel

Painter David Salle (b. 1952) asks Chris Burden (b. 1946) "What’s cooking?" and follows up with a question about death.

April 4 - July 27, 2009