Intellectual Property 1968-2018

by Allen Ruppersberg o-o-o-o-o

On view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (Feb 10-May 12) is an excellent retrospective of Allen Reppersberg's work which encompasses everything from print-making to drawing to installations and found objections. Really great stuff that I found myself very much connecting with (the classroom installation was a major highlight for me), and provided much invigorating food for both mind and soul.

Like myself, one of Ruppersberg's core fascinations is the novel, resulting in several peculiar artworks, chief among them is his “Remainders” and “The Novel That Writes Itself”.

The former is a “sculptural” work comprising a number of custom-made novels sitting on a table (under which is a number of discarded cardboard boxes). A nod to the discount tables often seen at bookstores, the books feature custom-designed covers by Ruppersberg featuring entirely believable fictional titles and author names. It is said that the text within these books is a screenplay for a 1960s educational film that warns of the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs, along with inserts of black-and-white stills from the artist’s film archive. Something I can't vouch for as the “sculpture” is meant to be seen, not touched or read, which creates a rather anxious tension (it's hard not to flip through a stack of books sitting on a table).

For “The Novel That Writes Itself”, Ruppersberg invited friends and family to appear in his life story for a fee: major ones for $300, minor ones for $100, and cameos for $50. Started in 1978, the book has been ever-evolving, different each time it was exhibited up until its “publication” in 2014 by mfc-michèle didier in a limited edition of 24. Effectively, a highly prized artist-book existent only in special collections and museum displays, the book is a fat stack of paper held within a heavy-duty ring-folder. Its contents again inaccessible by the general public, rendering it little more than a sculptural object. Albeit one that alludes to a lot more than just the form of the sculpture itself.

Other favorites of mine include Ruppersberg’s newspaper-canvases. Essentially newspaper clippings of true-crime reports, screenprinted large on canvas and inscribed with notes by the artist himself.

A common thread in all of Allen Ruppersberg’s output is that it is at once personal while also intrinsically connected to a larger cultural existence. It speaks very much of the artist’s psyche while also revealing much about the time, place, and culture within which the work is created. Deceptively simple, the work is multi-textual and hard to forget long after you’ve seen it.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: 1968-2018 is on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from February 10 to May 12. It is a must see.