March 9, 2015

Performing Franklin Furnace

Pratt Manhattan Gallery
Karen Finley, A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much (installation view with Martha Wilson), May 18, 1990. Image courtesy of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.

In 1976, performance artist Martha Wilson founded Franklin Furnace, an organization whose mission would be “to make the world safe for avant-garde art.” This exhibition celebrates that mission with a presentation of 30 projects selected from Franklin Furnace’s archives.

In 2011, recognizing the tremendous influence and importance of Wilson and Franklin Furnace, Independent Curators International (ICI) and curator Peter Dykhuis organized the traveling exhibition Martha Wilson, which presents selections from Martha’s own body of work in addition to work by other artists created under the auspices of and documented in the archives of Franklin Furnace. An important component of the exhibition—and one very much in keeping with Franklin Furnace’s own dynamic and collaborative approach—is that it is not static but instead evolves with each traveling venue, so that each hosting institution works with Wilson to shape the program in concert with institutional and local concerns and context. The current version of this exhibition, Performing Franklin Furnace, taking place across three New York City venues (Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York University’s Fales Library, and Participant Inc.) from February 19 through April 30, will be the final iteration.

The Pratt Manhattan Gallery component of Performing Franklin Furnace presents 30 projects selected from the Franklin Furnace archive, with one project from each year of Franklin Furnace’s first 30 years. Including both original work and documentation of seminal work by Vito Acconci, Eric Bogosian, Willie Cole, Jenny Holzer, Tehching Hsieh, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Ana Mendieta, Shirin Neshat, Martha Rosler, William Wegman, Lawrence Weiner, and many more, the exhibition presents video, photographs, and a variety of ephemeral printed and promotional material—posters, press releases, announcement cards, etc. Additional materials—including catalogues and/or documentation of several exhibitions which took place at Franklin Furnace, a selection (in the form of approximately 450 notecards) from Franklin Furnace’s artists books bibliography, materials related to Franklin Furnace’s “Sequential Art for Kids” programming, and copies of Flue, a newspaper published by the organization—provide a sense of the scope of Franklin Furnace’s activities.

ICI has described these 30 projects as constituting a “self-portrait of sorts” of Martha Wilson, in that the body of work they add up to shares the concerns of and is in many ways inextricable from her own life’s work. Wilson chose these particular projects because of their historical significance; when they were created and presented, they challenged prevailing assumptions about gender, race, politics, and what art could or could not be. But she also considered their relevance today, selecting projects that she feels are ripe for re-visiting and re-consideration. Thus the exhibition is not intended solely as a look back, but rather as an opportunity to re-activate and a potential catalyst for new explorations or directions. In this exploratory vein, the Pratt Manhattan Gallery will also host a symposium on April 22, investigating the many complex issues (economic, political, temporal, etc.) surrounding the re-enactment or re-creation of works of performance art.

Related exhibitions and events

At Pratt Manhattan Gallery:

Knowledge Carnival
Karen Finley, Professor, Art & Public Policy, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, leads her students in an evening of performance, video and installation
Thursday, March 12, 6:30–9pm

Panel discussion
Wednesday, April 22, 6:30pm
Pratt Manhattan Center, Room 213 (adjacent to the gallery)


Martha Wilson: Downtown 
A retrospective of work by the founder and director of Franklin Furnace
February 20–April 30, 2015
Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University
70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10011

Performing Franklin Furnace is organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, and was initiated by guest curator Peter Dykhuis. The exhibition, tour, and the accompanying publication Martha Wilson Sourcebook are made possible in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, and by the generous support of the ICI Board of Trustees.


Performing Franklin Furnace at Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.