In the 1970s, conceptual art and performance art both relied on photography as a means to express or document the ideas and events that constituted the works’ content. In most cases, the photographs were largely an afterthought, a means to an end. Generally small and done in black & white, these were the first photographs to be exhibited in galleries as fine art. Today, photography is ubiquitous, but galleries prefer large attractive color images, and the conceptual and performance photography from the 1970s is often ignored.
Congratulations to the Mitchell Algus Gallery at 132 Delancey Street for revisiting this forgotten era with the current exhibition Concept, Performance, Documentation, Language. Over one hundred works, by 40 artists, provide a much needed overview for this overlooked genre. The photographs can be alternately transgressive, funny, and intellectual. For more information about this era, the website 98 Bowery provides a first-hand account, reproducing in full Jeffrey Deitch’s 1975 exhibition catalogue Lives.