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September 29, 2008 - 12 Noon

Lecture at MICA:
Allan McCollum

Location: Maryland Institute College of Art, Falvey Hall
Brought To You By: Maryland Institute College of Art Phone: 410-225-2300

Cost: FREE!

Dates & Times:
09/29/2008 :: 12:00 PM - 02:30 PM


Monday, September 29, noon, Falvey Hall, Brown Center — Allan McCollum has spent more than 40 years exploring how objects achieve public and personal meaning in a mass-produced world. The New York City-based artist has recently focused on collaborations with historical society museums in small communities around the world. For example, he produced topographical models using a mixture of plaster and cement that he donated to historical society museums throughout Kansas and Missouri. McCollum referred to the movement of the models across the two states as "sculpture in motion." In the last two years, he's been working on The Shapes Project, a system that will create over 31 billion unique two dimensional emblems, no two of which will be alike — enough for every person on the planet to have one of their own — a project, according to the artist, that he will continue to work on for the rest of his life, and which will continue after his death.

Allan McCollum has had over 100 solo exhibitions, including retrospectives at Musee d'Art Moderne (Lille, France); Sprengel Museum (Hannover, Germany); Serpentine Gallery (London); Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art (Malmo, Sweden); IVAM Centre del Carme (Valencia, Spain); Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, The Netherlands); and Portikus (Frankfurt, Germany). The artist has produced public art projects in the United States and Europe, and his works are held in more than 80 major museum collections worldwide.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Born in Los Angeles, in 1944, McCollum grew up the Southern California coastal town of Redondo Beach. Without any formal training in the arts, he became well known in the Los Angeles area in the early 70s, mounting solo exhibitions at both the Nicholas Wilder Gallery and the Claire S. Copley Gallery; his first New York showing was in an exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1972. In the late seventies he became especially well known for his series, Surrogate Paintings, which he introduced in 1978, and his series Individual Works, a continuing series of of tens of thousands unique objects, that he began in 1987.

His interest in how objects are integrated into our construction of cultural and personal identity has led him to create tens of thousands of objects connected to specific communities, including recastings of the ancient Pompeii plaster casts (The Dog from Pompei, 1991), over 1000 replicas of dinosaur footprints and dinosaur bones from Utah (Lost Objects and Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah, 1991-95), thousands of copies of sand concretions and small models of a local mountain in Imperial Valley, California (The Sand Spikes from Mount Signal, 1999-2000), and over 10,000 copies of a "fulgurite" created by a lightning strike he himself triggered with a rocket in central Florida (THE EVENT: Petrified Lightning from Central Florida (with Supplemental Didactics), 1996-97).

In 2003, he made 120 two-foot-wide topographical models of Kansas and Missouri, which he donated to 120 small town historical museums, spending over a month in a rented van, dropping off each model by hand (The Kansas and Missouri Topographical Model Donation Project). In association with these projects, he maintains a number of completely unique websites, which include collections of research materials for use by students. For instance, he keeps a website with over 100 images of Mount Signal in Imperial Valley, the largest collection of writings on "sand spike" sand concretions in the world, the largest collection of texts (66) on the phenomenon of "fulgurites" (objects created when sand is melted by lightning strikes) ever accumulated in one place, and a website with over 20 researched texts and text excerpts on the phenomenon of dinosaur tracks found in the ceilings of coal mines.

McCollum is known for utilizing the "social methods" of mass production in his art work in many different ways, often generating thousands of objects that, while produced in large quantity, are each unique. In 1988-91 he created over thirty-thousand completely unique objects he titled Individual Works, which were gathered and exhibited in three collections of over ten thousand each. The objects were made by taking many dozens of rubber molds from common household objects — like bottle caps, food containers, and kitchen tools — and combining plaster casts of these parts in thousands of possible ways, never repeating a combination.

In 1989, he used a similar system to create thousands of handmade graphite pencil drawings, using hundreds of plastic drafting templates he designed and cut for this purpose, each drawing made unique by combining the templates according to a combinatorial protocol that never repeated itself. For a new section of the city of Malmo, Sweden, he created a system of over 1000 emblematic symbols, each unique, that functioned as "addresses" for every apartment in every apartment building. It was the artist's wish that the children growing up in the neighborhood would crack the code, and use in games, club emblems, or sending secret messages to one another.

In October 2008, McCollum will be exhibiting 1800 of his each-unique, emblem-like Drawings series at the 28th São Paulo Bienal; and in January 2009, he is creating an exhibition at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York, for which he presently is collaborating with four different home-based craft businesses in the state of Maine, a group of craftspeople with no relationship to one another, and whom he sought out using the world wide web — with people he has never actually met — to create a few thousand interpretations in different materials of the Shapes from his ongoing Shapes Project. He hopes the exhibition will stimulate interactions with other small businesses, and generate more interesting social interactions and entrepreneurial collaborations.

A number of interesting writers have published texts on McCollum's work, including: Rosalind Krauss, Craig Owens, Hal Foster, Andrea Fraser, Anne Rorimer, Lynne Cooke, Lars Nittve, Thomas Lawson, John Miller, Catherine Quéloz, Helen Molesworth, Johannes Meinhardt, Claude Gintz, Suzi Gablik, Nicolas Bourriaud, Nancy Princenthal, and Rhea Anastas.

McCollum has occasionally interviewed and written essays on fellow artists for books and catalogs, including Matt Mullican, Allen Ruppersberg, Andrea Zittel, and Harrell Fletcher.


Website with information on Allan McCollum
Selected texts
Dowloadable texts in PDF format
Album of images
Recent projects
Descriptions of different series, 1969-2006

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