Critical Issues is Public Space presents: Suzanne Lacy

The term “New Genre Public Art” was coined in 1994 by the American artist, writer and educator Suzanne Lacy in her book Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. The term defines a type of American public art that is often activist in nature, and created outside institutional structures in order to engage directly with an audience. More than 20 years later, New Genre Public Art remains an essential and transformative within the field of art in public space.

Born in 1945, Suzanne Lacy is an activist, educator, writer and artist renowned for performative and conceptual projects that blur the distinction between traditionally distinct professional categories. Her interventions tackle social oppression and often unfold as long-term collaborations in which Lacy works alongside other artists, activists, social workers and community organizers. Her early work in body, identity, and gender emerged from the fertile Los Angeles era alongside other prominent artists who originated West Coast conceptual and performance art.

In the 1970s Lacy worked with Leslie Labowitz and members of the Los Angeles Women’s Building on publicizing the suppressed issue of violence against women. In the 1980s, Lacy produced a series of large scale performative tableaux, including The Crystal Quilt 1985-7 with 430 older women, recently added to Tate Modern’s collection. During the 1990s, Lucy worked with Chris Johnson and other collaborators over ten years to produce a series of very visible performances, installations, and videos with Oakland California youth, addressing youth poverty and racism through art, mass media and policy. During the first decade of the 2000s, Lacy continued to explore social issues on a global level through her productions, installations and videos.

Lacy’s performances typically take place in public spaces outside of official art institutions: for example, on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall (In Mourning and In Rage, 1977); and, more recently, on a basketball court in a healthclub in Oakland (No Blood No Foul, 1996, part of The Oakland Projects, 1991-2000). In the past decade she has produced performances for the Museo Reina Sofia (Tattooed Skeleton, 2010); Museo Antioquia (Skin of Memory Revisited 2011); the Tate Modern (Silver Action, 2013); Manchester Art Gallery (a tribute to Allan Kaprow for Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Do It Exhibition 2013); and Creative Time and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center of the Brooklyn Museum (Between the Door and the Street 2013). Her forthcoming collaboration with The Drawing Center will provide a unique opportunity to experience her work in a space dedicated to traditional art exhibitions.

Lacy has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Lila Wallace Arts International Fellow, and the recipient of several National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. In the past year major articles on her work have appeared in Frieze Magazine and Art in America. She is the editor of the seminal publication Mapping the Terrain (1995) and Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics and Publics, 1974-2007 (Duke University Press 2010). She is currently working on a new book, Imperfect Art: Working in Public. She is the founding director of the MFA in Public Practice at Otis College of Art and Design. She received her PhD from Gray’s College of Art at the Robert Gordon University in 2013.

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