one pic wednesday. Laurie Parsons

LAURIE PARSONS, A Body of Work 1987, exhibition view at Museum Abteiberg, 2018
image courtesy of Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach

1988: A one-person show at Lorence-Monk Gallery, of objects collected over the course of a year. They are placed directly on the floor around the perimeter of the room in the order in which PARSONS encountered them. A pile of charcoal, a weathered coil of rope, a battered suitcase, a yellow nylon noose, an uprooted log, and more. She later describes one particularly cryptic object, from 1987, as “an inverted triangle formed by three lengths of a bed frame with the two longer sides crossed at the bottom, which is titled V, to recall the Thomas Pynchon novel.” No one, if you hadn’t already guessed, buys anything.

Intent on opening up a greater engagement with viewers, Parsons shifts from gathering individual objects to large sections of the landscape. Field of Rubble, 1988, is drawn from a fifteen-hundred-square-foot plateau beside the Hudson River where rubble mixed with such oddities as “packets of soy sauce, keys, butts of lottery tickets,” the artist recalls. “I spent weeks collecting the detritus, to later entirely cover the floor of a gallery.” My immediate take is SMITHSON, entropy, non-sites, and a freewheeling spirit of adventure more `60s than `80s-a search for realism through the thing itself. About a year later, a worker at a storage facility will go into her unit, open up some of the containers, and, finding what seems to be merely gravel and grimy trash (in actuality, Field of Rubble), throw all of it away. – BOB NICKAS, Artforum April 2003,

American artist LAURIE PARSONS (born 1959 in Mount Kisco, New York) was active with a number of exhibitions in the late 1980s and early 1990s and then transitioned away from the art world with consistent and determined gestures of commitment toward something else. A significant body of work was made in 1987 and shown in separate exhibitions at Lorence-Monk Gallery in New York in 1988 and Galerie Rolf Ricke in Cologne in 1989, after which the entire exhibition was purchased by a private German collection. Recently rediscovered and acquired by Gaby and Wilhelm Schürmann, it consists of found objects, mostly from around Parsons’s New Jersey studio—detritus from roads, natural and industrial wastelands. The words “a body of work” invoke PARSONS’s terminology in a title-less exhibition that, interestingly enough, did not contain the word “installation.” The artist’s avoidance of this word is probably a key to understanding her attitude. The status of the found objects was shown as-is. As things from the street. Each one individually. Valuable in its origin and strong in its presence, “as strong as a work of art.” (L. Parsons)

The manner in which PARSONS used the re-exhibition of these ordinary objects to call attention to their context signaled the start of her transition away from the art object and the art world to the everyday object and everyday world. It was an act of rebellion and growth that (to borrow Lucy Lippard’s sentence about the “dematerialization of the art object” in the 1960s) could be described as a “dematerialization of the art career.” Her next exhibition at Lorence-Monk Gallery in 1990 included all the baseline logistics of an exhibition including focusing the lights, paint touch-ups, normal activity and hours of operation for the gallery and staff, a press release and even an exhibition announcement card. However, the artist did not contribute anything additionally; no objects or actions filled the space, and the invitation card featured a completely blank area above the printed gallery name and address. PARSONS further opened up and entangled the conventional demarcations of art-making at the occasional gallery and institutional exhibition over the next two or three years: working as and with gallery interns (Andrea Rosen Gallery 1990-91), museum guards (New Museum, New York 1992-93), local towns, hospitals and schools. Around 1994, PARSONS quit her work as an artist altogether and has since been employed as a social worker for people living in homelessness and those with mental health disorders. She has avoided any reference to her own art for many years. – press release Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach

A Body of Work 1987 by LAURIE PARSONS is on view at Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach until September 2, 2018.

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