Untitled (Narcotics of Surrealism), 1986. Live television broadcast on a 14" CRT monitor, vinyl lettering, shelf. 13 3/4 x 14 x 17 in. Installation view of Gretchen Bender: So Much Deathless at Red Bull Arts New York, 2019. Photo by Lance Brewer. All artwork © The Gretchen Bender Estate and Courtesy of OSMOS.
From March 6-July 28, 2019, Red Bull Arts New York exhibited Gretchen Bender: So Much Deathless, the first posthumous retrospective of the life and work of the influential, multi-disciplinary artist. The ambitious exhibition returned the spotlight to one of contemporary art’s most prescient figures, detailing her historic importance and contemporary relevance.
Gretchen Bender (1951- 2004) was an American artist who worked in video, sculpture, photography, print and installation. She received her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1973, and came to prominence in the 1980s as a post-appropriation artist in the East Village. Bender showed at Nature Morte, Metro Pictures and International with Monument in New York, and Meyer/Bloom in Los Angeles. Her work was included in the historical show Infotainment in 1985 and has circulated widely in exhibitions at the New Museum; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Whitney Museum of American Art; Hammer Museum; Tate Liverpool; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin;, among others. In 2013, Gretchen Bender: Tracking the Thrill traveled from The Poor Farm in Wisconsin to The Kitchen in New York, effectively reintroducing Bender’s “electronic theater” piece Total Recall to the art world at large. Her work appears in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Menil Collection. Bender was the recipient of a New Genres Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985, a Bessie Award in 1995 for her visual concept and set design for Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company’s Still/Here at BAM, an Anonymous Was A Woman award in 1997, and Art Matters Foundation fellowships in 1987 and 1997.
So Much Deathless - Exhibition Trailer from Red Bull Arts New York on Vimeo.
Artnet News named Gretchen Bender’s Total Recall (1987) in "So Much Deathless" at Red Bull Arts New York #1 in their list of Best Art of 2019. Read the review here.
Gretchen Bender, Total Recall (1987). Courtesy of The Kitchen. Photo: Jason Mandella.
The exhibition was also included in Artforum's annual "The Year in Review" December 2019 issue (formerly called "Best of"), as well as in a featured called "The Artists' Artists." To take stock of the past year, Artforum asked an international group of artists to select a single exhibition or event that most memorably captured their eye in 2019—Gretchen Bender was Sarah Sze's pick. Read the feature here.
Congratulations to Red Bull Arts New York on making it into Artforum's December issue two years in a row! (Click here for their 2018 feature.)