Visiting Researcher Report: Jennifer Sarathy
Wednesday, 10 July 2019
Jennifer Sarathy used her Research Fellowship to examine how radical artistic interventions in the landscape related to negotiations of new borders, citizenship and belonging that defined a crisis of British identity in the postwar years.
In March 2019 the Institute’s Research Library hosted Jennifer Sarathy, whose work focuses on British art and the landscape in the 1960s and 1970s, intersecting with the history of Land art and the emergence of experimental sculpture in the United Kingdom.
The Library’s unparalleled collection of open-shelf catalogues, monographs, artist files and general texts on postwar sculpture provided a welcome sanctuary for my research. In addition to these highly accessible and comprehensive resources, the Library holds a multitude of rare materials available to any visitor upon request.
One such example is the 1967 exhibition catalogue for 19:45-21:55 held at Galerie Dorothea Loehr. As was typical of time, this catalogue played a substantial role in constituting the meaning of artworks featured in the brief-lived show, and included original material that supplemented the exhibition. In the case of Richard Long’s contribution, the catalogue included documentation of a ‘complimentary’ installation of sticks in Bristol, made in the same dimensions as the artist’s work inside the gallery in Germany. The catalogue, therefore, provides an early example of Long’s experimentation with the representation of sites across space, in exhibitions and in print, marking an important intersection between Land art and conceptualism.
The Library also holds the equally intriguing 1972 Fluxshoe, which served as the catalogue of the eponymous travelling exhibition organised by David Mayor. The magazine evidences the productive mingling of conceptual art, performance, and Fluxus in the UK, and documents the remarkable international network of artists working in and around Britain at the time. Fluxshoe, produced by Felipe Ehrenberg’s revolutionary Beau Geste Press, is also a pivotal example of countercultural printing that expanded the cartography of the British art world in the 1970s.
The Library’s monographs further trace the expansion of sculpture and intersections with diverse media. The holdings on Keith Arnatt, for instance, chart his transition from a characteristic mix of Land art, sculpture, performance, and conceptual art to a less-well-known concentration on photography. Despite the Library’s focus on sculpture, the collection includes exhibition reviews, texts, and catalogues on Arnatt’s photography from the 1980s and beyond that proved highly influential to my analysis of his earlier works and sculptures in the landscape.
My research on the artist was also greatly impacted by the Institute’s own issue in the Essays on Sculpture series, Box, Body, Burial: The Sculptural Imagination of Keith Arnatt (2009), which offers invaluable and novel insight into the artist’s early career. This publication, along with countless others produced by the Institute, demonstrates how the Library draws from the equally exceptional strengths of the Institute, the Henry Moore Foundation, and neighbouring Leeds Art Gallery, to produce groundbreaking knowledge. As a result, the Library functions not only as a study centre, but as an innovative research hub with a forward-thinking and expansive approach that guides its collection, to the benefit of researchers of all backgrounds.
Jennifer Sarathy (PhD Candidate in Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York)