Yayoi Kusama, the Anatomic Explosion, Brooklyn Bridge, NY, 1968. Photograph: Shunk-Kender, © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
Art on Camera: Photographs by Shunk-Kender, 1960–1971 at MoMa
In 2013, The Museum of Modern Art acquired over 600 works from the Shunk-Kender Photography Collection as a gift of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. The donation established a consortium across five institutions – the Getty Research Institute, the National Gallery of Art, Centre Pompidou, Tate, and MoMA – that together received the full archive of photographic material by Harry Shunk (German, 1924–2006) and János Kender (Hungarian, 1937–1983), who worked collaboratively under the name Shunk-Kender from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.
Yves Klein, Leap into the Void, 5 rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1960. Photograph: Shunk-Kender, © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
This exhibition presents a selection of remarkable photographs by Shunk-Kender from the Museum’s collection. Also featured are numerous photographs of Yayoi Kusama’s astonishing New York performances of 1968. A major portion of the exhibition is devoted to photographs from Pier 18. In 1971, a series of ephemeral artworks were executed at a derelict Hudson River pier in New York.
Vito Acconci, Security Zone, Pier 18, NY, 1971. Photograph: Shunk-Kender, © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
Conceived and organized by Willoughby Sharp, the actions, instructions, and performances of Pier 18 were enacted in February and March of 1971 by 27 (all male) artists, including Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Jan Dibbets, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mario Merz, and Allen Ruppersberg, among others. Sharp invited Shunk-Kender to collaborate with each artist to photograph the individual projects. From the start, Sharp conceived of the project as an installation, in which Shunk-Kender’s photographs would be the physical manifestation of the work experienced by an audience.
John Baldessari, Hands Framing New York Harbor, Pier 18, 1971. Photograph by Shunk-Kender, © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
Indeed, it was through Projects: Pier 18 (June 18–August 2, 1971) — an exhibition at MoMA that was part of the Museum’s experimental Projects series — that the public ultimately discovered and engaged with the Pier 18 artworks. Without question, the roles played by the two photographers varied from one project to the next. The resulting Pier 18 pictures capture the chaotic energy, systematic processes, and playful wit of the era’s performance and Conceptual art in two-dimensional black and white.