Sunday, October 23, 2022

Illegal America

[Papo Colo & Jeanette Ingberman, Editors]
Illegal America
New York City, USA; Exit Art, 1982
[27], 28 x 21.5 cm., boxed loose leaves
Edition size unknown

Artists Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman founded Exit Art in 1982 as a space for “unusual” art. A few months prior, they curated an exhibition at Franklin Furnace on the theme of art that had run afoul of the law. The works ranged from so-called desecrations of the American flag to Charlotte Moorman playing the cello topless to Chris Burden having his assistant shoot him in the arm with a rifle to the occupation of abandoned buildings by the Real Estate Show.

The catalogue consists of 27 folded sheets in a brown cardboard box, mostly artists' statements and documentation. The box is sealed shut with an American dollar bill. To open it you had to slice through the bill, itself an illegal act.  (A 1948 law states that "Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.")

The catalogue features contributions byVito Acconci, Gempei Akasegawa, Louis Aragon, Scott Billingsley, Marc Blane, Gunther Brus, Barry Bryant, Chris Burden, Papo Colo, Bogomir Ecker, William Farley, John Fekner, Lou Forgione, John Giorno, GAAG, John Halpern, Abbie Hoffman, Sam Hsieh, Jay Jaroslov, Komar & Melamid, George Maciunas, Gordon Matta Clark, Ann Messner, Richard Mock, Peter Monnig, Charlotte Moorman, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, Dennis Oppenheim, People's Flag Show, Jan Van Ray and Real Estate Show.

Responding to the social and political climate of the time, the curators re-staged the exhibition eight years later, in 1990. 

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