Adrian Piper: Concepts and Intuitions, 1965–2016


The Hammer Museum presents Adrian Piper: Concepts and Intuitions, 1965–2016, the most comprehensive West Coast exhibition to date of the work of Adrian Piper (b. 1948, New York). Organized by The Museum of Modern Art, this expansive retrospective features more than 270 works gathered from public and private collections from around the world, and encompasses a wide range of mediums that Piper has explored for over 50 years: drawing, photography, works on paper, video, multimedia installations, performance, painting, sculpture, and sound. On view from October 7, 2018 through January 6, 2019, Adrian Piper: Concepts and Intuitions, 1965–2016 is the first West Coast museum presentation of Piper’s works in more than a decade, and her first since receiving the Golden Lion Award for Best Artist at the 56th Venice Biennale of 2015 and Germany’s Käthe Kollwitz Prize in 2018.

Piper’s groundbreaking, transformative work has profoundly shaped the form and content of Conceptual art since the 1960s, exerting an incalculable influence on artists working today. Her investigations into the political, social, and spiritual potential of Conceptual art frequently address gender, race, and xenophobia through incisive humor and wit, and draw on her long-standing involvement with philosophy and yoga.

“Adrian Piper’s fifty-year career transcends traditional categories of art,” said Hammer Director Ann Philbin. “Her influence on a younger generation of artists is profound, and her work—from its conceptual beginnings to her most recent participatory works—are concise, moving, and sharply relevant to our contemporary moment.”

“In constant dialogue with what is both happening around her and with the discourses of contemporary art, from the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement in the 1970s, to her practices in philosophy and yoga which continue to inform her work today, Adrian Piper’s work unyieldingly engages the viewer,” said Connie Butler. “Her direct address becomes an integral part of the experience of her art.”

Throughout the duration of the Hammer’s exhibition, various performances will be enacted in the museum’s galleries. Piper’s 2012 The Humming Room interrogates our implicit trust in institutional authority, while also encouraging musical exploration of the voice. The Humming Room will be presented as a required passageway the viewer must traverse toward the end of the exhibition. Blocking the passageway is a security guard and signage instructing visitors that “IN ORDER TO ENTER THE ROOM, YOU MUST HUM A TUNE. ANY TUNE WILL DO.” Visitors are met with a paradoxical proposition—an obligation to perform an idle, commonplace act of self-expression in any way they wish. In Everything #3 (2003)—to be enacted on the opening and closing weekends of the exhibition—performers wear sandwich boards with the message “EVERYTHING WILL BE TAKEN AWAY,” riffing both on traditional protest action and street advertisement. In other text-based works, such as My Calling Card #1 and #2, which include a performance component, visitors may take away small cards that question the reader’s racial and sexual biases and distribute them as appropriate. Additionally, for this exhibition the Hammer is partnering with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, which will also present work by Piper, from September 30 through January 6.


On October 7, 2018, the Hammer will present Adrian Piper: The Long View, a daylong symposium coinciding with the opening of the exhibition. Copresented with The Museum of Modern Art, the symposium offers a sustained examination of the art historical and social changes Adrian Piper has lived through, and how they contribute to an understanding of her work. The program features artists, scholars, and prominent art world figures, including Alexander Alberro, Bruce Altshuler, Jeffrey Deitch, Donna Dennis, Jörg Heiser, Pablo Larios, Nizan Shaked, Vid Simoniti, and Elvan Zabunyan.

Details for the symposium and other related programs are available on our website.


Three publications accompany the exhibition: an exhibition catalogue, a reader, and Piper’s recently published memoir. The catalogue features the full range of Piper’s work through more than 300 illustrations, and essays by the exhibition curators that examine Piper’s extensive research into altered states of consciousness; the introduction of the Mythic Being—her subversive masculine alter-ego; her media and installation works produced after 1980; and the global conditions that illuminate the significance of her art. Previously unpublished texts by Piper lay out significant events in her personal history as well as her deeply felt ideas about the relationship between viewer and art object. Adrian Piper: A Reader presents a volume of new critical essays by Diarmuid Costello, Jörg Heiser, Kobena Mercer, Nizan Shaked, Vid Simoniti, and Elvan Zabunyan that investigate previously unexplored dimensions of Piper’s practice. Focused texts assess themes such as the Kantian framework that emerges from Piper’s philosophical studies; her contributions to first-generation Conceptual art; her turn from object works and works on paper to performance in the early 1970s; the work’s connection to her yoga practice; her ongoing exposure of and challenges to xenophobia and misogyny; and the relation between prevailing interpretations of her work and the viewers who engender them. Also to accompany the exhibition, Piper has released an autobiographical work, Escape to Berlin: A Travel Memoir, published by the APRA Foundation Berlin and currently available at the Hammer Museum store. In 2005 Adrian Piper secretly emigrated from the United States. Several months passed before anyone realized she had disappeared. She resurfaced in Berlin and has lived there ever since. Piper has consistently and firmly refused to return to the U.S. or explain why she left. Many assume it was because she discovered her name on the U.S. Department of Transportation Security’s Suspicious Travelers Watch List. Others point to Wellesley College’s forcible termination of her tenured Full Professorship. Yet others speculate that George W. Bush’s presidency, or American racism, or the invasion of Iraq compelled her to leave. All of these conjectures are groundless. Escape to Berlin: A Travel Memoir is a gripping autobiographical narrative that provides a full account of the facts. “Takes on the urgency and melodrama of a psychological thriller” —The New York Times; “Brilliant and harrowing” —Artforum.


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