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Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980

Oct 31, 2013–Feb 2, 2014

Jared Bark (b. 1944), LIGHTS: on/off, performance at The Clocktower, June 21, 1974. Photograph by Babette Mangolte; © 1974. All reproduction rights reserved

Jared Bark (b. 1944), LIGHTS: on/off, performance at The Clocktower, June 21, 1974. Photograph by Babette Mangolte; © 1974. All reproduction rights reserved

This exhibition illuminates a radical period of 1970s performance art that flourished in downtown Manhattan, or what filmmaker and performance artist Jack Smith called “Rented Island,” and still remains largely unknown today. Working in lofts, storefronts, and alternative spaces, this group of artists, with backgrounds in theater, dance, music, and visual art, created complex new forms of performance to embody and address contemporary media, commercial culture, and high art.

Rituals of Rented Island includes: Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Jared Bark, Ericka Beckman, Ralston Farina, Richard Foreman/Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Julia Heyward, Ken Jacobs Apparition Theater of New York, Mike Kelley, Kipper Kids, Jill Kroesen, Sylvia Palacios Whitman, Yvonne Rainer and Babette Mangolte, Stuart Sherman, Theodora Skipitares, Jack Smith, Michael Smith, Squat Theatre, Robert Wilson/Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds, and John Zorn/Theatre of Musical Optics. As part of the exhibition, performances will take place both within and outside the exhibition’s galleries, including reinvestigations of groundbreaking 1970s performances by Laurie Anderson, Jared Bark, Julia Heyward, Sylvia Palacios Whitman, and others. 

Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980 is organized by Jay Sanders, Curator and Curator of Performance.

Significant support for this exhibition is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Works from the Exhibition

Sylvia Palacios Whitman (b. 1941), Passing Through, performance at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, May 20, 1977. Courtesy the artist.  Photograph by Babette Mangolte; © 1977 All reproduction rights reserved
Michael Smith, Busman’s Holiday Retreat Revue, performance at The Performing Garage, May 1981. Courtesy the artist. Photograph by Kevin Noble
Ericka Beckman, still from We Imitate; We Break Up, 1978. Super 8 film, color, sound; 28 minutes. Courtesy the artist
Theodora Skipitares, Skysaver, performance at Galerie ak, Frankfurt, November 8–16, 1980. Courtesy the artist. Photograph by Christian Hanussek
Theodora Skipitares, The Venus Café, performance at Byrd Hoffman Studio, June 1977. Courtesy the artist. Photograph by Richard A. Heinrich
Julia Heyward, performance at Franklin Furnace, April 6, 1977. Courtesy the artist. Image courtesy Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.
Michael Smith, Mike’s House, performance at Whitney Museum of American Art, February 19–March 11, 1982. Courtesy the artist
Michael Smith, Down in the Rec Room, Kansas City Art Institute, February 22, 1979. Courtesy the artist
Jack Smith, Irrational Landlordism of Bagdad (a.k.a. Material Landlordism of Bagdad, a.k.a. The Secret of the Brassiere Factory), Cologne Art Fair, Germany, October 26–31, 1977. All images © Jack Smith Archive, courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Squat Theatre, Andy Warhol’s Last Love, performance at 256 West 23rd Street, New York, June 2-September 15, 1978; January-April 1979; and November 1982. Courtesy of the artist
Squat Theatre, Andy Warhol’s Last Love, performance at 256 West 23rd Street, New York, June 2-September 15, 1978; January-April 1979; and November 1982. Courtesy of the artist
Squat Theatre, Andy Warhol’s Last Love, performance at 256 West 23rd Street, New York, June 2-September 15, 1978; January-April 1979; and November 1982. Courtesy of the artist
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Installation Photography

Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970-1980 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 31, 2013–February 2, 2014). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
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Film Series: Further Rituals of Rented Island

At Anthology Film Archives

In conjunction with Rituals of Rented Island, join us at Anthology Film Archives for a film series co-curated by J. Hoberman, Andrew Lampert, and Jay Sanders. The series includes videos, films, and documentation and features many pieces not on view in the exhibition. All screenings take place at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003.

Related Events

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In this important volume, Jay Sanders and J. Hoberman explore the vibrant underground performance art scene of 1970s New York. Focusing on little-known and long-forgotten works, which were often performed in live/work lofts, storefronts, and alternative spaces of the city’s SoHo district, often for an audience comprising a handful of fellow artists, this catalogue makes newly visible a critical period in the development of performance art. 

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In the News

Interview: “Rituals of Rented Island: Babette Mangolte”
Performa

“Like a time capsule, the show takes you back to the recent past in New York art history. But with enough patience, it becomes clear that work is as relevant today as it was then, defiantly edgy and challenging.”
Time Out

Rituals of Rented Island is an essential show.”
Gallerist

“A walk-in Wunderkammer whose curiosities include electrified costumes and glow-in-the-dark props as well as film footage, photographs, and ephemera.”
The New Yorker

“Mr. Sanders is doing the right curatorial thing in bringing [certain figures] back to the spotlight.”
The New York Times

“Those ’70s Shows: An Interview with Jay Sanders”
Art in America

Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan 1970–1980 . . . promises to revisit an era in New York when performance art was still a daringly ephemeral, market-challenging medium, not the big-ticket, deluxe, staged and restaged thing it has become.
The New York Times

“I Remember Ralston: J. Hoberman on the Art of Ralston Farina”
Artforum

“8 Museum Shows You Need to See This Fall”
The L Magazine

“The radical performance-art period of the 1970s gets a multimedia rewind.”
Newsday