SARAH MEISTER: We recently acquired a Robert Smithson drawing called Heap of Language.
SARAH SUZUKI: It’s a relatively small-scale drawing on graph paper that features a kind of triangular ziggurat form that’s actually built out of words.
SARAH MEISTER: It begins with the word “language” on top, and it goes on to say “phraseology, speech, tongue, lingo, vernacular,” and on and on. So using this drawing as a point of departure, we notice that, in fact, a lot of other works of art that were made in ‘66 also addressed the idea of language.
The most dramatic example of this might be the Richard Tuttle, where the letters are sprayed across the wall in a random arrangement.
THOMAS LAX: And only some of the letters are recognizable. So it puts the work on you, as the viewer, to figure out how to take what seems like a system and reorganize it for yourself.
And language, of course, is the central component to many works that are made in the medium of performance. The Fahlström Mao-Hope March is the projection in the room. And the kind of everyday language that you see and hear people speaking becomes important for constructing what the work is.
SARAH SUZUKI: The mid-1960s is also the rise of a medium that becomes known as the multiple. These are small, often sculptural objects that are issued in editions. And they were a medium that really appealed to a number of Pop artists—the idea that it could be distributed in a more democratic way.
SARAH MEISTER: And we thought: “Wouldn’t it be interesting to make a forest of pedestals, each one of which would feature some of these marvelous little objects that were made in 1966?” And this allowed us to also include not just multiples by artists but also architectural models and even design objects that evoke that moment in a very different way.