university of southern california USC Roski School of Fine Arts university of southern california
Allan McCollum,
Lecture Series,

3001 S. Flower St.
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/Graduate Lecture Series presents:
Allan McCollum

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM Lecture forum, Graduate Fine Arts Building     MAP >>

Allan McCollum was born in Los Angeles, in 1944, just a few blocks from USC, in the California Hospital. He grew up in north Redondo Beach, and in 1975, he moved to New York, where he now lives and works. He has spent over forty years exploring how objects achieve public and personal meaning in a world constituted in mass production, focusing recently on collaborations with small community historical society museums in different parts of the world. 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.

His first solo exhibition was in 1971, in Corona Del Mar, California, and he became well known in Los Angeles 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). And 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.

Most recently, in 2005-06, the artist has designed The Shapes Project, a system to produce a completely unique shape for every person on the planet, without repeating — 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.

McCollum has had over 100 solo exhibitions, including retrospectives at the Musée d'Art Moderne, Villeneuve d'Ascq, Lille, France (1998); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany (1995-96); the Serpentine Gallery, London (1990); the Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art, Malmo, Sweden (1990); IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia, Spain (1990); Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (1989), and Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (1988). He has produced public art projects in the United States and Europe, and his works are held in over eighty major art museum collections worldwide. A number of interesting writers have published texts on Allan 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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