80 Washington Square East, NYU

Stuart Sherman

Beginningless Thought / Endless Seeing

October 21 – December 19, 2009


Stuart Sherman, a member of the important generation of American avant-garde performance artists who rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s, developed his own unique style across various media, the impact of which continues to resonate with the avant-garde eight years after his death. He devoted a large amount of his time to the creation of performances he called “spectacles”, which often took the form of small tabletop performances. These performances involved the manipulation of both familiar and unfamiliar everyday objects atop one or more folding TV dinner tables. Performed by a poker-faced Sherman, the spectacle performances sit in a unique hybrid space that moves between references to various genres including comedy, magic, musicals, minimalism, surrealism, opera, three card monte games, fluxus, and vaudeville. Through these performances, which consisted of series of intricately structured object manipulations, he crafted a unique identity both as creator and performer. While the spectacle performances were generally miniature in scale, they were certainly not miniature in ambition, exploring with great wit topics such as time, language, mortality, eroticism, and personal identity.

Although Stuart Sherman is, perhaps, best known for his object spectacles, as well as for his films (that are currently been restored by the Museum of Modern Art) and videos (available through Electronic Arts Intermix), this exhibit aims to present a broad view of the range of his artistic achievements, firmly establishing his place as a highly influential figure of the 1970s downtown art world. The show explores the extraordinary career of this artist through documentation of his larger scale theatrical productions, sculptural proposals, daily collages from the 1990s, and poetry. Exhibited for the first time is an extraordinary series of ideographic and language-based drawings executed in the 1970s, which provide the immediate context for spectacle performances.
The title of the exhibit—Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing—taken from a syllabus for a class Sherman taught, defines his work and the nature of his process. In combining these disparate and widely unknown materials for the first time, this exhibition highlights the various manifestations of his endless thinking, the richness and depth of his artistry across genre boundaries, and the philosophical themes that informed the central core of his artistic identity.

Image of a figure holding his hands up to his head, with his elbows out, he puts glasses on his face. The glasses say "eye" on the left lens. In front of him is a short table with a paper sign hanging from it that states, "Stuart Sherman, Eleventh Exhibition." The figure is wearing a white, short sleeve button down shirt and a black undershirt and black pants.
Miscellaneous piles of paper with illegible printed text scattered on top of a surface.
Gallery installation view of a TV in the middle of the wall. On the television is a black and white still. A pair of headphones hangs from the front of the TV. On the top left corner, hanging above the television is a black and white picture of a man with short hair wearing eyeglasses that cover his eyes. He is straight-faced with no emotion. Wall text to accompany the exhibition is on the right side. It is illegible from the image.
Gallery installation view of the exhibition. On the wall from left to right is a television featuring a white still image. Hanging on the television is a pair of black headphones. Next to the television is a collection of six images grouped two vertically and three horizontally. The images consist of a figure in front of a table in six different poses. Adjacent to this group of images is another television set. This one is illegible from the viewpoint. There is a pair of black headphones hanging from this monitor as well. On the floor are two stools in front of the television sets.
Gallery installation view of the exhibition. A white, rectangle platform is on the ground. On top of the white rectangle are two white cubes. On the sides of the white cubes, there are small red squares on the sides of the cubes.
Gallery installation view of the exhibition. A white, rectangle platform is on the ground. On top of the white rectangle are two white cubes. On the sides of the white cubes, there are small red squares on the sides of the cubes. Behind the installation on the floor, there are seven images on two walls. On the left, there is a white frame with a sketch. Next to sketch are two black squares with white figures, the photo is not legible from the photo provided. Adjacent to these two images is one image with similar content of black image with white figures. In the corner, there is a small monitor with nothing on the screen. On the right hand wall, there is a black square. Adjacent to the black square is a poster with the word HAMLET over a three-dimensional drawing of the outline of a cube.
Gallery installation image of many pieces of white paper. On the left wall there is one piece of white paper. On the adjacent wall, there are three white works and then six white works grouped in an arrangement of two by three, followed by one white image.