Critics’ Picks

View of “The Individual and the Organization: Artist Placement Group 1966-79,” 2012.

View of “The Individual and the Organization: Artist Placement Group 1966-79,” 2012.

London

“The Individual and the Organization: Artist Placement Group 1966-79”

Raven Row
56 Artillery Lane
September 27–December 16, 2012

Formed in London in 1966, the Artist Placement Group (APG) was one of longest running and most prolific political art collectives of the latter half of the twentieth century, and it claimed as members, over its thirty-year run, luminaries such as experimental filmmaker John Latham, television producer Anna Ridley, and artists Barry Flanagan and Gustav Metzger (whose own early activities around auto-destructive art, and the links between activism, science, and art, greatly influenced the group), among others. This extensive exhibition is the first large-scale survey of APG’s work since a 1972 show at the Hayward Gallery, and it features an archival presentation of the group’s contracts, letters, photographs, and films (presented on freestanding bulletin boards, tables, vitrines, and monitors)—documents that secured public funding, and agreement from large industrial and technological companies, as well as British government institutions, to host APG member artists as employees for observing, and ideally for improving, worker conditions.

Though a mainly discursive recounting, the show also demonstrates the products of APG partnerships with host organizations that developed new materials using advances in production technology—such as Garth Evans’s tenure with the British Steel Corporation (1969–70), here represented by a large, four-sided, morphed and bent asymmetrical steel frame on the floor. Viewers also encounter a series of optical color composite screenprints that change according to light and position. Affixed to contoured vacuum-formed PVC and hung on the wall as paintings, these 1968 studies indicate painter and architect Leonard Hessing’s placement with ICI Fibres Ltd. (1970–71).

Perhaps the most tangible element of the show is meant to be heard, in a recording of APG cofounder, and continued resource for the group’s legacy, Barbara Steveni drily reading a list of administrative tasks with Audio notes to self, ca. 1975. Played from two headphones on the windowsill of an otherwise vacant upstairs gallery, the sound piece confirms that even an immaterial mode of artmaking is necessarily sustained by a logistical form.