Over the course researching our recent exhibition, Primary Sources, we got in touch with some wonderful artists and curators who shared with us their experiences of making and selecting art for the early exhibitions at SVA. One of those artists was Cris Gianakos, also an SVA alumnus and long-time faculty member, who loaned Elevated Horizontal Plane with Ramp, one of his earliest ramp works in a series of sculptures and installations created over the course of thirty years.
Gianakos is also a designer, and for years I’ve been noticing his name in the corners of many of my favorite pieces in our collection. Gianakos graciously donated to the Archives four exhibition posters he designed for SVA in 1969 and 1970; I had never seen these in their final form and had thought they’d never resurface.
Black Artists (May 7 – 24, 1970), which was curated by Warren L. Harris, featured the work of Abdullah Aziz, Romare Bearden, Ernest Chrichlow, Nicholas Davis, Elton C. Fax, Tom Feelings, Sallie Fleming, Warren L. Harris, Bill Howell, Archie Jefferson, Raymond Miles, Otto Neals, Ademola Olugebefola, Elwood White, Hale Woodruff, and Clarence E. Young. Gianakos told me an alternate version of the poster (at top) was printed on silver paper.
Lucy Lippard’s Groups (November 11 – December 3, 1969) brought together professional artists and students from Lippard’s SVA seminar class to work with the same instructions: photograph a group of five or more people once a day for a week, and then write a detailed description of each photo; both the photos and the descriptions became part of the exhibition, which was intended to explore artists’ “seeing” styles. The participating artists were Robert Barry, Iain Baxter, Mel Bochner, Jon Borofsky, Martin Bressler, Frazer Dougherty, Stylianos Gianakos, Gloria Greenberg, Alex Hay, Douglas Huebler, Robert Huot, Alex Katz, Joseph Kosuth, Christine Kozlov, June Leaf, Sol LeWitt, Sylvia Mangold, Henry Pearson, Adrian Piper, Alejandro Puente, Harry Savage, Michael Snow, Keith Sonnier, Peter Tangen, Joyce Wieland, Lawrence Weiner, and Kestutis Zapkus.
Series Photographs (December 3, 1969 – January 7, 1970), curated by Bob Fiore, was built around an Eadweard Muybridge photo, and included Robert Smithson’s collage from a Non-Site, Richard Serra’s photo of a film strip from the outtakes of “Hand Catching Lead”, Michael Heizer’s poster-size photo of his circular dirt bike tracks, and one of Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles books. The exhibition also featured Billy Adler, Arvin Bryant, Billy Bryant Copley, Bob Fiore, Cris Gianakos, Dan Graham, Al Hansen, Peter Kolsky, Dick Landry, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, Charles Ross, and Van Schley.
An exhibition of sequential dance photographs by Hollis Frampton and Michael Snow (January 12 – 29, 1970) was curated by Sol LeWitt.
In the case of certain early exhibitions at SVA, the poster is the sole surviving documentation, providing the only way to confirm the exhibiting artists, so these posters filled in some important blanks. But beyond that, we were thrilled to add four more examples of Gianakos’ spare and elegant work, which consistently distills conceptual subjects to their most potent visual elements.