Vito Acconci

(b. 1940)

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(1940– ).

Performance artist, video artist, conceptual artist, installation artist, photographer, sculptor, and designer. Also a writer. In his best-known work, he used the actions and images of his own body to undermine social conventions and the hypocrisy that often surrounds them. Until the 1980s, most of his work was performance-based, sometimes presented to a live audience but often recorded in videos or photographs. His later sculptures, installations, and other projects emphasize relationships between public and private experience. In 1962 Vito Hannibal Acconci graduated with a major in English from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1964 he received an MFA in creative writing from the Writers' Workshop at the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa) in Iowa City. Except for his student years, he remains a lifelong New Yorker. His early involvement with poetry, particularly, and other forms of literary endeavor prefigured the interest in language that marks his art. In 1969 he made his first visual works, a series combining photographs and texts. In these he investigated his own body in action, as he performed mundane movements, such as touching his toes. Soon he began to use video (or less often, silent film) to record private performances also centered on his body and sometimes imbued with masochistic overtones. In the early 1970s he gained notoriety for gallery performances, particularly Seedbed (1972). While lying in a narrow space beneath a low ramp built on the gallery floor, he projected the sound of his voice uttering sexual fantasies as he masturbated below the feet of visitors. Around 1974 the emphasis of his work shifted from such investigations of the psychological and physical self to his existence as a social being. In the 1980s he turned his attention to sculptures and installations, often inviting visitor participation, and with time he became less confrontational. In 1988 he founded Acconci Studio for collaborative work in community-oriented projects, architecture, and landscape design. Vito Acconci: Writings, Works, Projects appeared in 2002.

Subjects: Art.

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