A pioneer in almost all forms of visual art, Andy Warhol used everyday images to raise questions about American art and culture in the 1960s. Through his experiences in New York, he helped redefine the relationship between pop culture and high art, paving the way for a new generation of artists and critical thinkers, like University of Rochester professor Douglas Crimp. A young curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim Museum and art reviewer at the time, Crimp found himself in the midst of the convergence of contemporary art and gay culture. Recently recognized by the Warhol Foundation, Crimp received a grant to support the publication of his memoir, Before Pictures. The book is an account of his first ten years in New York City, 1967-1977.
“Through the book I weave together stories of the two cultures that were most important in my life at the time —gay liberation and the art that came to be called post modernist—in the hopes that I can unsettle the ways theses two worlds are usually understood,” said Crimp, Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History and Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies.
The Creative Capital /Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program awards project-based grants to authors of articles, blogs, books, and alternative media that enhance Warhol’s legacy and support contemporary and visual arts. Crimp’s memoir received $45,000, one of this year’s highest grants, which range from $3,000 to $45,000. By combining personal stories and critical theory, both past and present, Before Pictures will explore the events in Crimp’s life in New York before the “Pictures” show at Artists Space in 1977, for which he became known around the world.
That art exhibit, which Crimp curated and accompanied with a catalogue, argued that different generations have distinct relationships to art and culture. Emerging artists of the 1970s were the first group to grow up with TV, advertising, and under the influence of Warhol and his contemporaries. Crimp was one of the first critics to take notice of this group of young artists who later became known as the “pictures generation.”
“The book is therefore about my juvenilia —when I came to New York from New Orleans, where he studied at Tulane—so it is structured around my early career,” said Crimp. The period he chronicles includes working as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim Museum; organizing a show of Agnes Martin’s paintings; reviewing for ARTnews and Art International; writing about Joan Jonas’s early performances; attempting to write a Moroccan cookbook and a book about disco; and learning about Balanchine’s ballets, photography, and poststructuralist theory in the company of Craig Owens, Crimp’s fellow graduate student and one of the founders of the University’s doctoral program in Visual and Cultural Studies. “On the one hand, it’s a kind of cultural history; on the other hand, it’s full of autobiographical details, which I think might add something new to how we think about that moment of culture.”
Crimp began teaching on the faculty of the Visual and Cultural Studies program and the Department of Art and Art History in 1992 and was appointed the Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History in 2003. He divides his time between Rochester and Manhattan.
He received a doctorate in art history at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Between 1977 and 1990 he was an editor of the journal October. He recently co-curated “Mixed Use, Manhattan: Photography and Related Practices 1970s to the Present,” an exhibition about the uses and pictures made in New York city beginning with the de-industrialization of the 1970s, for the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
Crimp is the author of On the Museum’s Ruins and Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics. He is currently completing a book on Andy Warhol’s films, scheduled for publication by MIT Press in the spring of 2012. Before Pictures is tentatively scheduled for publication the following year.
Gay Culture in the Art World