The Artists’ Dialogues Series: Exploring materiality, process, and conservation with artists from Los Angeles

Rachel Rivenc and Tom Learner

Abstract

As part of the broader dissemination strategy for Art in LA, a project that explores the materials and processes of post-1950s artists working in Los Angeles, the Getty Conservation Institute is producing a series of short videos entitled Artists’ Dialogues. Although based on lengthy interviews and conversations with the artists they feature, these short videos (averaging 10 minutes) aim to tell a highly condensed and edited story in the artist’s own words. They are not tied to a particular collection or conservation project, but seek to act as a broad introduction to each artist and to capture their overarching philosophy and attitudes towards materiality, process, concept, longevity, legacy and conservation.

The series has initially focused on artists that came to prominence in the 1960s and made use of industrial materials and processes in a way that at the time was highly innovative: Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Helen Pashgian. Through these first three videos, the potential tensions between original appearance, artist’ intentions and ageing are explored. The video currently in production features Chris Burden, an artist whose work extends across a very wide variety of media: we are in fact still exploring whether it is even possible to capture the essence of Burden’s overall intention by highlighting just a small number of individual works of art. Our overall goal is to produce a limited number of these videos each year, working with a relatively low budget, to start including a variety of LA-based artists working with different media and methods, as well as younger generations of artists. It is hoped that as the number of videos in the series increases, and as the range of different attitudes that artists might have towards their work broadens, the Artists’ Dialogues series can serve as a useful reference point to illustrate the complexities of conservation questions in contemporary art, and to discuss the pros and cons of engaging the artist in the conservation of their own work. The paper will present the videos completed to date, and discuss the choice of this particular method of dissemination, including the methodology adopted and the considerations of cost. It will also reflect on the purpose and context of the series.