I’ve always been obsessed with making lists. Writing out my weekly grocery list in a florid hand makes big-box shopping excursions a more palatable experience. And penning to-do lists with stellar penmanship may not increase the likelihood that I’ll check off more line items, but it sure makes staring at the evidence of my failure more pleasant. But I can state with relative certainty that my lists wouldn’t interest the public. The same can’t be said for the 40 lists currently being exhibited at The Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, runs through September 27, 2010.
According to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art website:
“This exhibition celebrates a common document – the list – as a key to the lives of some of the most celebrated artists of the last two centuries.
There are hundreds of thousands of lists in the Archives of American Art. This exhibition includes 40 intriguing examples from Leo Castelli’s to-do lists to Oscar Bluemner’s illustrated list of works of art.
Whether dashed off as a quick reminder or carefully constructed as a comprehensive inventory, this humble form of documentation provides insight into its maker’s personal habits and decision-making processes. Pablo Picasso itemized his recommendations for the 1913 Armory Show and Alexander Calder’s address book reveals the who’s who of the Parisian avant-garde in the early 20th century. In the hands of their creators, these artifacts sometimes become works of art in and of themselves.”
The exhibition’s lists, culled from the Archives of American Art, offer an intriguing look into both the day-to-day lives of their artist creators and the larger cultural and artistic zeitgeist. One fascinating list is the object of the Art Workers’ Coaliton‘s first public act, a list of 13 demands for artists’ rights which was served up to MoMA. Feast your list-lovin’ eyes on that list and other examples below:
* 13 demands, 1969 Jan. 28. Memorandum : 1 p. : typescript ; 28 x 22 cm. Virginia Admiral papers, [ca.1947-1980].
* An idea, 19–? / Frederick Hammersley. Item : 3 p. : various media ; 8 x 8 cm. Frederick Hammersley papers, 1944-2007.
* [Alphabetical list of animals], ca. 1911 / Paul Bransom. Notes : 1 item : handwritten, ill. ; 29 x 22 cm. Paul Bransom papers, 1862-1985 (bulk 1904-1979).
* [Illustrated list of works of art], 1932 May 18 / Oscar Bluemner. Notes : 1 item : handwritten, ill. ; 22 x 28 cm. Oscar Bluemner papers, 1886-1939, 1960.