Invitation card for the exhibition Truisms, by Jenny Holzer at Franklin Furnace, 1978
  • Mezzanine, Education and Research Center

The artist Martha Wilson founded Franklin Furnace in 1976 with a mission to present and preserve avant-garde art, especially forms that were vulnerable due to institutional neglect, their ephemeral nature, cultural bias, or politically unpopular content. A main aspect of Franklin Furnace’s program was the creation of an independent archive of international artists’ publications, which became a leading repository for experimental publications by contemporary artists. In addition to the book archive, Franklin Furnace ran a very active exhibition and performance program, providing a space for artists who were experimenting with publishing to perform or exhibit their work through readings and installations.

This exhibition celebrates the 40th anniversary of Franklin Furnace by examining the first five years of the organization’s history. Historical photographs, correspondence, and printed matter document the founding of this artist-run space and its early activities. Selections from the artists’ books archive, which was acquired by the MoMA Library in 1993, trace the early development of the collection and the scope of works found in its holdings. The materials presented here provide a historical view into the vibrant scene that Franklin Furnace created at its storefront loft in Tribeca as it worked to archive and exhibit new genres in contemporary art.

Organized by Martha Wilson, Founding Director, and Michael Katchen, Senior Archivist, Franklin Furnace; and David Senior, Senior Bibliographer, The Museum of Modern Art Library.

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