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Lutz Bacher, The Book of Sand (detail), 2010–12, at Alex Zachary Peter Currie gallery.
Lutz Bacher, The Book of Sand (detail), 2010–12, at Alex Zachary Peter Currie gallery.

Lutz Bacher (1943–2019)

Lutz Bacher, the pseudonymous neo-Conceptualist known for her by turns elegiac and sharply political works in multiple media, has died at age seventy-five. Her death was confirmed by her galleries, Greene Naftali and Galerie Buchholz. A fixture in the Berkeley, California, art scene in the 1970s but based in New York for the past few years, the artist recycled found objects, personal possessions, and mass media in installations that often jab at power structures with trenchant wit. Since assuming a male alias at the beginning of her forty-year career, Bacher cultivated a mysterious identity, rarely granting interviews and often issuing non–press releases for her exhibitions.

Although her prolific output—which spans photography, drawing, video, sculpture, books, and performance—defies category, Bacher repeatedly addressed power, brutality, and masculinity in her art. “Bacher was critical in bridging the media savvy of the Pictures generation and the slacker neo-Conceptualism of the early 1990s,” wrote Catherine Taft in a review for Artforum’s summer 2015 issue. “Bacher’s work relies as much on the denial of meaning as it does on the denial of authorial power.” An early eighteen-part collage created in 1976, The Lee Harvey Oswald Interview, was made after Bacher was asked to compile a book of interviews with San Francisco artists. A cut-and-paste self-Q&A only ostensibly about Oswald and illustrated with photocopies of images that may or may not depict John F. Kennedy’s assassin, the work, now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, encapsulates the crisis of identity, distrust in images, and lo-fi aesthetic at the heart of much of Bacher’s oeuvre.

Bacher, whose work frequently includes complex references to politics and art history, also made simple, memorable gestures: For the 2012 Whitney Biennial, she dumped hundreds of baseballs across the museum’s fourth floor. That same year, she filled Alex Zachary Peter Currie gallery with twenty-five tons of sand. For a 2017 exhibition, she stapled a repeating, enlarged version of Donald Trump’s signature on the gallery walls. For a show at New York University’s 80WSE gallery last autumn, she hung one hundred framed postcards of Mao Zedong. She exhibited widely throughout the world, and her art is in the permanent holdings of various institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.