Gregory Battcock (1937–1980) was a New York–based artist who gave up his practice as a painter to become an art critic; he wrote on Minimalism, Conceptual art, video art, and performance, and generally championed artists pushing the boundaries and definitions of contemporary art. His Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (1968) is considered an important touchstone documenting that movement as it was still forming. He also published decisive essays on art in underground publications like Gay, the New York Review of Sex and Politics, and the New York Free Press. On Christmas day 1980, while on one of his regular vacations to Puerto Rico, Battcock was stabbed to death in his apartment. His murder remains unsolved.
In 1992, Joseph Grigely was exploring the recently abandoned facilities of a storage company in the same building as his studio when he found Battcock’s archive of manuscripts, photographs, and correspondence strewn throughout the space. After making copies of some of the material, he donated a bulk of the collection to the Archives of American Art. Grigely has researched and worked with the archive in various ways over the years. He first exhibited The Gregory Battcock Archive in 2010, and he has revised and expanded it for the present iteration on view in the 2014 Biennial, including new discoveries such as Battcock’s only known surviving painting. Selecting and arranging the archive through a methodology that is both subjective and historically considered, writing explanatory texts, and designing the vitrines, Grigely has organized the archive into a modular sculpture that is also a form of storytelling. In the end, this work becomes as much about how one constructs a narrative as it is about the narrative itself.
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