Lucy Lippard / NY Correspondence School
Lucy Lippard / NY Correspondence School
Lucy Lippard / NY Correspondence School
Lucy Lippard / NY Correspondence School
Lucy Lippard / NY Correspondence School

Lucy Lippard / NY Correspondence School

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Lucy Lippard (born April 14, 1937) is an American writer, art critic, activist and curator. Lippard was among the first writers to recognize the "dematerialization" at work in conceptual art and was an early champion of feminist art. She is the author of 21 books on contemporary art and has received numerous awards and accolades from literary critics and art associations.

A 2012 exhibition on her seminal book, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object at the Brooklyn Museum, titled "Six Years": Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art", cites Lippard's scholarship as its point of entry into a discussion about conceptual art during its era of emergence, demonstrating her crucial role in the contemporary understanding of this period of art production and criticism. Her research on the move toward Dematerialization in art making has formed a cornerstone of contemporary art scholarship and discourse.

Lucy Lippard was a member of the populist political artist group known as the Art Workers Coalition, or AWC. Her involvement in the AWC as well as a trip she took to Argentina—such trips bolstered the political motivations of many feminists of the time—influenced a change in the focus of her criticism, from formalist subjects to more feministic ones.

Co-founder of Printed Matter, the Heresies Collective, Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D), Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, and other artists' organizations, she has also curated over 50 exhibitions, done performances, comics, guerrilla theater, and edited several independent publications the latest of which is the decidedly local La Puente de Galisteo in her home community in Galisteo, New Mexico. She has infused aesthetics with politics, and disdained disinterestedness for ethical activism.

Throughout her life, Lucy surmounted a large archive of materials from the 1930s to 2007, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1960s to the 1990s. Her collections includes reviews, letters, postcards, manuscripts, questionnaires, notes, announcements, mail art, business cards, and exhibition pamphlets which document Lippard's professional relationships with artists, writers, galleries, art institutions, and political organizations, and her interest in conceptual and minimalist art, feminism, and political activism.

Correspondence files document all aspects of Lippard's professional life including her relationships with artists such as Carl Andre, Judy Chicago, Hanne Darboven, Ray Johnson and The New York Correspondence School of Art, Sol LeWitt, and Henry Pearson; feminist artists including Mary Beth Edelson, Harmony Hammond, Donna Henes, and May Stevens; political and art-related activist groups such as Alliance for Cultural Democracy, Art Workers Coalition, Political Art Documentation/Distribution, Printed Matter, and Women's Caucus for Art; galleries and museums including Addison Gallery of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and publishers including Art International and Art Forum.

The archive also traces the development of Lippard's involvement in activist causes including censorship and the rights of artists, Central America and the impact of U.S. policy on the region, and equality and reproductive rights for women, as well as her interest in conceptual, minimalist and post-minimalist art. The series includes scattered artwork and photographs of artists. A number of artists during this period also reached a wider audience by building on the extensive Fluxus precedents for correspondence art. 

On Kawara who mailed two different acquain- tances a tourist postcard each day between 1968 and 1979. Kawara entirely removed the “hand” of the artist, stamping each of his cards with the recipient’s name and address, the date, and the phrase “I GOT UP AT,” along with the exact time he arose on the given day.


In 1973, Lucy Lippard wrote of the “sea of numbers” in Darboven’s work, alluding to the way her projects’ scale can make her rather straightforward calculations seem like incomprehensible evocations of Immanuel Kant’s mathematical sublime. 

Darboven often wrote to express heartfelt gratitude for small things, com- monly sending an immediate letter to thank a friend for a phone call. On receiving a gift of a favorite pad of drawing paper from America, a work of art, or even just a card, Darboven responded by mail with warm and sincere, although non-linear prose. She was often movingly nostalgic for a time when her correspondent was nearer. To LeWitt, who famously admired her work in the 1960s and whom she credited for her introduction to the New York art world, Darboven repeatedly and effusively reminded him that his friendship was priceless: “sol accept / this note as a possible – / impossible way of from / me to thank you to thank / for all past present you / you to be sol.

The New York Correspondence School is an alternative social network formed by the artist Ray Johnson who encouraged artists, friends, acquaintances, and strangers to share their art through the postal system. Johnson began sending aestheticized mail to his friends as a teenager in the 1940s, a practice he continued to develop while studying at Black Mountain College, and by the 1950s, these mailings, often called “mail art,” had become a major aspect of Johnson’s work as an artist.

In 1962, Ed Plunkett, one of Johnson’s correspondents, named the international network of participants “The New York Correspondence School” (NYCS), a play on “The New York School” of abstract expressionist painters. Johnson’s mailings to the NYCS turned forms of communication and education into artistic media in personal letters, mass-produced flyers, absurd packages, and everything in between.

 While a multiplicity of recurring images and references appear in Johnson’s work, from animals such as his trademark bunny head, to popstars and pop artists, the educational themes are crucial to understanding the NYCS as a network critical of the larger commercialized art world.

Johnson reeducated his correspondents with mailings such as his “brief histories” and “how to draw” instructions, which destabilized traditional definitions of art and education. By encouraging collaboration and participation, these pedagogical mailings undermined notions of individual authorship and created a new model for network-based art experiences. The curriculum of the NYCS existed in constant flux; Johnson’s lessons were open to the indeterminacies, chance encounters, and free-associations inherent to both aesthetic and interpersonal experiences.

Beginning in 1969, Lippard’s conceptual art “numbers” shows were small affairs, curated solely by Lippard and accompanied by hand-made catalogues, composed of randomly arranged index cards designed by each artist and following brief descriptions from Lippard on how these works related and what conceptual art meant to her.

Lippard’s seemingly vague exhibition titles were derived from the population of each show’s host city: 557,087 was held in Seattle, 955,000 in Vancouver, and 2,972,453 in Buenos Aires. Each edition varied in style, construction, and content.