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Vito’s infamous Seedbed piece from 1982

praise famous men (and women)…back in the 1970’s when I worked at the major regional gallery our Director, the amazingly independent creative thinker Hugh Stoddart, hatched an ambitious plan.  We would show, over a year or so, three seminal figures in the USA’s then nascent Conceptual/Performance Art scene – Dennis Oppenheim, Chris Burden & Vito Acconci.  Hugh sadly departed the Gallery (to concentrate on his own creative career as a screenwriter) before we could carry out the full plan.  We did manage to invite Chris Burden to make a piece – Diamonds Are Forever – and he arrived in Birmingham replete with a diamond (alledgedly purchased en route at Covent Garden) that formed the centrepiece of an installation that comprised the diamond twinkling in the velvet blackness of the entire basement gallery (quite a large space) [see here p.21 for an illuminating if partial account of the event.  And sometime later, just after I departed Ikon for the East Midlands, Denis Oppenheim arrived to install his Vibrating Forest.

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Dennis Oppenheim, Vibrating Forest (From the Fireworks Series) (1982). Installation, Ikon Gallery, 2014 – reinstalled for Ikon in the 80’s show (Photo:Stuart Phipps)

But sadly the trail then went cold…for what reason I don’t know…and Vito never made it to the gallery.  He recently died and this touching tribute to him seemed to me to sum up what we missed all those years ago. With Dennis & Chris having shuffled off stage a while back a generation of amazingly inventive and revolutionary artists is slipping away.

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