Dec 11th 2009

Joseph Grigely: The Gregory Battcock Archive

@ Rowley Kennerk Gallery

119 N Peoria St, 3C, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Friday, December 11th, from 6PM - 8PM

On view through Saturday, January 30th

The story of Gregory Battcock is difficult to document. Born in 1937, Battcock was a painter in the early 1960s who found his way into several of Andy Warhol’s films (he starred in “Horse” and “Drunk”), and later he became a critic with eclectic interests–he wrote about minimalism and performance and video art as well as the aesthetics of ocean liners. His best-known book is entitled Why Art: Casual Notes on the Aesthetics of the Immediate Past (Dutton, 1977). In the 1970s Battcock’s influence was quite broad–he was editor of Arts magazine for a while–and among his more adventurous projects was a short-lived magazine called Trylon & Perisphere, which explored the underside of the New York art world. Everything came to a quick and sudden end on Christmas day in 1980, when he was found dead on the balcony of his 10th floor condo in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His body had 102 stab wounds.

Through a fortuitous series of events that took place in Jersey City, N.J. 1992, Grigely discovered and preserved parts of the Battcock’s archive, and is exhibiting a selection of its contents in custom designed vitrines arranged as a modular grid within the gallery. The archive is rich with correspondence, unpublished essays & photographs, postcards, keepsakes, and other remnants of the New York art world in the 60’s and 70’s. Grigely’s manner of selecting and arranging pushes the project beyond the person of Battcock. The viewer recognizes that these materials are not simply ‘presenting’ Battcock, but ‘representing’ him. Grigely’s investigation, as is evident in his other works, is not simply an homage, but a nuanced exploration of the relationship between text, image, and the complexities of interpretation and misinterpretation. There is an inherently interactive component to the show, as the viewer walks, hunches, reads, and pieces together the life of a man that embraced the complexity of interpreting the art of his day.

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