Willoughby Sharp (January 23, 1936 – December 17, 2008) was an internationally known artist, independent curator, independent publisher, gallerist, teacher, author, and telecom activist.
Born in New York City, Sharp studied art history at Brown University and graduated with a BA in 1957. He undertook graduate study in art history at the University of Paris, the University of Lausanne, and Columbia University. Sharp began his media work in 1967 by shooting a small number of films in 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm including “Earth,” (1968, Collection: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and “Place & Process,” (1969, Collection: MoMA, New York). After these films, he started producing a prodigious body of video works in 1/2, 3/4 and 1-inch tape. These works included video sculpture, video installations, “Videoviews,” (1970–1974), Videoperformances (1973–1977), cable television programs (1985–1986), and broadcast TV programs (2001-).
In February 1969, at the invitation of Hans Haacke, he presented a three-part video installation, “Earthscopes,” at Cooper Union, N.Y., which included the only showing of a video catalogue of the historic “Earth Art” exhibition that he had curated at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. In March 1969, Sharp created “Einstein’s Eye,” a closed-circuit b/w video sculpture exhibited at the Richard L. Feigen Gallery in Soho, N.Y.
The following year, Sharp’s film “Place and Process” was included in MoMA’s “INFORMATION” exhibition curated by Kynaston McShine. Also in 1970, Sharp curated “Body Works,” an exhibition of Video art with works by Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Terry Fox, Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim and William Wegman which was presented at Tom Marioni's Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California.
At the San Jose State TV studios in 1970, Sharp began the “Videoviews” series of videotaped dialogues with artists which he continued after he bought one of the first Sony 3400 Porta-Pac video recording systems in 1972. The “Videoviews” series consists of Sharp's dialogues with Bruce Nauman (1970), Joseph Beuys (1972), Vito Acconci (1973), Chris Burden (1973), Lowell Darling (1974), and Dennis Oppenheim (1974). More recently, working with ARTENGINE, N.Y., a collaborative video production/post-production company in partnership with Duff Schweninger, Mr. Sharp has produced an ongoing series of 30-minute documentary programs on Dennis Oppenheim (2001), Keith Sonnier (2002), Earle Brown (2002), and Morton Subotnick (2003).
In 1976, under an NEA grant to Center for New Art Activities, Inc., he co-produced [with Liza Bear] “Five Video Pioneers: Vito Acconci, Richard Serra, Willoughby Sharp, Keith Sonnier, William Wegman (Collection: MoMA, N.Y.). That year he also represented the United States in the Venice Biennale.
Shortly afterward, Sharp started to produce a series of international, multi-casting, pre-Internet projects which simultaneously interlaced information from computers, telefax, In September 1977, he participated in Send/Receive Satellite Network: Phase II, co-produced and directed by Keith Sonnier and Liza Bear in collaboration with a group of San Francisco and New York artists; this was the first trans-continental interactivesatellite work made by artists. His participation in Send/Receive in part led to Sharp’s current preoccupation with global collaborative work through a series of interactive telecommunications and streaming transmissions. This ongoing series of projects honors the accomplishments of electrical geniuses Guglielmo Marconi (1981), Heinrich Hertz (1986) and Nikola Tesla (2005-2006). In 2006 his interview with Serkan Ozkaya (conceptual artist) has been published under the title Have You Ever Done Anything Right? in English and Spanish, by Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien and Smart Art Press.
Beginning in 1964 with "POP ART" at Columbia University, N.Y., Sharp independently curated numerous important exhibitions. Among others these include: "Robert Rauschenberg" (1964) Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany; "LIGHT, MOTION, SPACE" (1967) Walker Art Center; "KINETIC ENVIRONMENTS I AND II" (1967) Central Park, N.Y.; "AIR ART" (1968) Philadelphia and six other locations; "KINETICISM: SYSTEMS SCULPTURE IN ENVIRONMENTAL SITUATIONS" (1968) Mexico City; "EARTH ART" (1969) Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; "PLACE AND PROCESS" (1969) Edmonton, Canada; "PROJECTS: PIER 18" (1971) MoMA, N.Y.; "JOSEPH BEUYS" (1973) Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., N.Y.; "VIDEOPERFORMANCE' (1974) 112 Greene Street Gallery, N.Y.
Since 1969, Sharp has had more than 20 solo exhibitions at museums, and art galleries such as: Brown University; the University Art Museum, Berkeley, California; The Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco; CAYA, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the University of Iowa; the Ontario College of Art, Toronto; the University of California, Los Angeles; the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Pumps Gallery, Vancouver. His work has also been seen in many group shows in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.
Willoughby Sharp died December 17, 2008, after a long battle with throat cancer. On October 15, 2009 a memorial was held for Sharp at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and among the speakers were Dennis Oppenheim, Les Levine, Ronald Feldman, Liza Bear, Carolee Schneeman and his widow Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp.
1964 POP ART: AN ART HISTORICAL APPROACH, Columbia University, NY. Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann. A symposium on Pop Art at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 25, 1964 , Horace Mann Auditorium, Columbia University. Moderated by Professor Meyer Schapiro with Lawrence Alloway, William Rubin and Alan Solomon. No Catalogue.
1964 ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, September 12 – October 18. Exhibition included 60 works, 26 paintings and 34 Dante Drawings. Catalogue. 20 pages, 12-5/8” X 9-5/8”. Introductory essay Robert Rauschenberg and the Objekt, by Willoughby Sharp. In English and German.
1966 KINETICISM, American Abstract Artists, NY. One day exhibition. Yaacov Agam, Pol Bury, Davide Boriani, Martha Boto, Alexander Calder, Hans Haacke, Julio Le Parc, Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Earl Reiback, Jesus Rafael Soto, Takis, Jean Tinguely, Gunther Uecker. One day show. Catalogue. 6 pages, 8-1/4” X 5-7/8”, illustrated, with text, "Kineticism" by Willoughby Sharp.
1966 GUNTHER UECKER, Alfred Schmela Gallery, Düsseldorf, Germany, September 9 – 29. Catalogue. 6 pages, 8-1/4” X 5-7/8”, illustrated, with text by Willoughby Sharp.
1966 GUNTHER UECKER, Howard Wise Gallery, NY, November 1–19. Catalogue. 16 pages, 9-11/16” X 6-5/8” illustrated, with essay "Uecker, Zero and the Kinetic Spirit" by Willoughby Sharp.
1966 KINETIC AND PROGRAMMED ART, November 25-December 4, 1966. Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence. Davide Boriani, Robert Breer, Hans Haacke, Joe Jones, Len Lye, Julio Le Parc, Sheldon Machlin, Nam June Paik, Otto Piene, George Rickey, Thomas Tadlock, Takis Vassilakis. 3-panel catalogue brochure.
1967 SLOW-MOTION, Rutgers University, NJ. Curated by Willoughby Sharp at the invitation of John Goodyear. Artists included:Antonio Asis, Davide Boriani, Robert Breer, Pol Bury, Alexander Calder, Gianni Colombo, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Haacke, Heinz Mack, Bruno Munari, George Rickey, Marcello Salvadori, Keith Sonnier, Jesus-Rafael Soto, Man Ray, Takis, Jean Tinguely, Gunther Uecker, USCO, John Van Saun, Gabriele de Vecchi. Catalogue. 6 pages, 8-1/4” X 5-7/8”, illustrated, with text "Kineticism and Slow-Motion" by Willoughby Sharp.
1967 LIGHT–MOTION-SPACE, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. and the Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, WI. Stephen Antonakis, Ben Berns, Davide Boriani, Martha Boto, Chryssa, John Goodyear, Julio Le Parc, Heinz Mack, Preston McClanahan, Boyd Mefferd, Nam June Paik, Abraham Palatnick, Otto Piene, Martial Raysse, Thomas Tadlock, Takis, Gunther Uecker, John Van Saun, Gilles Larrain, others. Catalogue. 20 pages, 8” X 7-1/2”, illustrated with design and text "Luminism: Notes Toward an Understanding Of Light Art" by Willoughby Sharp.
1967 LUMINISM, The Artists Club, NY. One day exhibition, at the George Washington Hotel, New York City, May 25, 1967. Stephen Antonakis, Bernard Aubertin, Ben Berns, Dan Flavin, Horacio Garcia-Rossi, John Goodyear, Richard Hogle, John Hoppe, Lila Katzen, Gilles Larrain, Julio Le Parc, Heinz Mack, Preston McClanahan, Nam June Paik, Abraham Palatnick, Leo Rabkin, Marcello Salvadori, Takis, Gunther Uecker, USCO, John Van Saun, Paul Williams, Donald Zerlo. Catalogue. 6 pages, 8-1/4” X 5-7/8”, illustrated, with design and text by Willoughby Sharp. Published by Kineticism Press.
1967 KINETIC ENVIRONMENTS ONE & TWO, Central Park, NY. Hans Haacke, Richard Hogle, Gilles Larrain, Preston McClanahan, Charles Ross, Willoughby Sharp, John Van Saun. Kinetic Environment One, one day on Sunday, July 23, 1967 Kinetic Environment Two, one day on Sunday, October 29, 1967
1968-1969 AIR ART, Arts Council, YM/YWHA, Philadelphia, PA (March 13 – 31, 1968); Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH (April 25 – May 19, 1968); Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Illinois (June 7 – 28, 1968); University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, CA (January 13 – February 16, 1969); Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH (February 25 – March 18, 1969); Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (September 4-October 26, 1969). Hans Haacke, Kanayama, Les Levine, Preston McClanahan, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Marcello Salvadori, Graham Stevens, John Van Saun, Andy Warhol. Catalogue. 40 pages, 8” X 8”. Design and production by Preston McClanahan and Willoughby Sharp. Text, "Air Art", by Willoughby Sharp. Published by Kineticism Press.
1968 KINETICISM: SYSTEMS SCULPTURE IN ENVIRONMENTAL SITUATIONS (Official Olympic Games Exhibition), University Museum of Arts and Science, Mexico City, Mexico (July and August). Yaacov Agam, Hans Breder, Lucio Fontana, Hans Haacke, Julio Le Parc, Les Levine, Len Lye, Heinz Mack, Preston McClanahan, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Otto Piene, Jesus Rafael Soto, Takis, Jean Tinguely, Gunther Uecker, John Van Saun, Robert Whitman. Catalogue. 60 pages, 8-5/8” X 9-5/8”, illustrated with design and text by Willoughby Sharp.
1969 EARTH ART, Willoughby Sharp, at the invitation of Tom Leavitt, curated "Earth Art" at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Artists in the exhibition included Walter De Maria, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, Michael Heizer, Neil Jenney, Richard Long, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Gunther Uecker. Catalogue. 96 pages. Approx. 5” X 9”, illustrated. "Earth Art" published in 1970 with an introductory essay by Willoughby Sharp. Avalanche 1 was devoted to "Earth Art." (Also 6,000 feet of B/W silent film of each of the artists making their works at Ithaca, commissioned by Willoughby Sharp). Gordon Matta-Clark, who lived in Ithaca at the time, was invited by Willoughby Sharp to help the artists in "Earth Art" with the on-site execution of their works for the exhibition. Sharp then encouraged Matta-Clark to move to New York City where Sharp continued to introduce him to members of the New York art world.
1969 PLACE & PROCESS, The Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta, Canada (September 4-October 26, 1969). Ian Baxter, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, Bruce McLean, Les Levine, Richard Long, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Klaus Rinke, John Van Saun, William Wegmen, Lawrence Weiner. No catalogue. 30 minute 16mm color/sound film, Place & Process, directed by Willoughby Sharp and Evander Schley and cinematography by Robert Fiori. Shown on Canadian National Television, CBC.
1970 BODY WORKS an exhibition of Video art with works by Vito Acconci, Terry Fox, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim and William Wegman which was presented at Tom Marioni's Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California.
1970 THIS IS YOUR ROOF exhibition is presented at the international art festival held in Pamplona, Spain. Willoughby Sharp produces a series of videos, mainly documentaries on the activities of New York artists, for the same event.
1971 PIER 18, a site/non-site exhibition curated by Willoughby Sharp. Sharp's artist friends asked him early in 1971 to curate an exhibition that would quickly gain exposure for their work. Sharp chose Pier 18 as a site (an abandoned Pier on Manhattan's West Side, closed to the public), and engaged Harry Shunk and Janos Kender to photograph the artists making their work at the Pier. Sharp invited 27 artists to meet Shunk-Kender at Pier 18 in February, 1971, with written instructions for a performance or idea to be enacted in collaboration with the photographers. Artists who were unable to come to Pier 18 sent instructions to Shunk-Kender for the execution of their works. There were no art institutions involved in the events at Pier 18. Sharp made plans with Pomona College Museum of Art director, Helene Winer, to exhibit the Pier 18 photographs almost immediately afterward in March, but could not meet the exhibition deadline. Pier 18 artists: Vito Acconci, David Askevold, John Baldessari, Robert Barry, Bill Beckley, Mel Bochner, Daniel Buren, Jan Dibbets, Terry Fox, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, Lee Jaffe, Richards Jarden, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mario Merz, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Allen Ruppersberg, Italo Scanga, Richard Serra, Michael Snow, Keith Sonnier, Wolfgang Stoerchle, George Trakas, John Van Saun, William Wegman, Lawrence Weiner.
"Projects: Pier 18" is the title of an exhibition of approximately 600 of the Pier 18 photographs taken by Shunk-Kender in the MoMA Projects series at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, June 18-August 2, 1971. It was the second exhibition in the series. No catalogue. The Pier 18 photographs were returned to Shunk-Kender after the exhibition.
In 1992, the Pier 18 photographs were exhibited again, this time at the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice. Catalogue, 164 pages.
1971 Vito Acconci,Claim, 93 Grand Street, NY, September 10, 1971. A four-hour closed-circuit live video performance.
1971 William Beckley, bird (nightingale) on see saw, September 17, 18 and 19, 93 Grand Street, 8 until midnight. An installation with video and bird.
1971 William Wegman, Bobbing for Twins/Bobbing for Apples, 93 Grand Street, New York, NY. Live video performance/video tape
1971 Terry Fox, Yeast, 93 Grand Street, NY, October 1, 1971. Videotaped performance.
1973 JOSEPH BEUYS, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., NY. Beuys’ first show in the U.S. No catalogue. The show consisted of a video program,"Willoughby Sharp Videoviews Joseph Beuys."
1973 AVALANCHE DIE ENTWICKLUNG EINER AVANTGARDE-ZEITSCHRIFT, Cologne Kunstverein, March 23 to April 23: Hanover Kunstverein, May 27 – July 22; Munster Kunstverein, Fall 1973; Frankfurt Kunstverein, Fall 1973. No catalogue.
1974 VIDEOPERFORMANCE, 112 Greene Street, Gallery, NY. Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, Dennis Oppenheim, Ulrike Rosenbach, Richard Serra, Willoughby Sharp, Keith Sonnier, William Wegman. Avalanche magazine Issue Number 9 serves as a catalogue for this exhibition.
1979-1980 Joseph Beuys, Guggenheim Retrospective. Willoughby Sharp, Curator, video and film. Catalogue.
1984 Joseph Nechvatal, Machine Language Book by Willoughby Sharp, 74 pages
1988 Lawrence Weiner, Fine Arts Center, University of Rhode Island, Kingston Rhode Island. No catalogue.
1989 Joan Jonas, Fine Arts Center, University of Rhode Island, Kingston Rhode Island. No catalogue.
1990 MICROSCULPTURE, Fine Arts Center, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island. Catalogue. 40 pages. Illustrated, black and white. Introductory text by Willoughby Sharp
1990 Adrian Piper, Fine Arts Center, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island. No catalogue.
2003 POLARITIES, The Lobby Gallery, 1155 Avenue of the Americas, NY, February 20-March 24.John Ahearn, Claudia Vargas, Jene Highstein, Joan Jonas, Nancy Lorenz, Marisol, Joseph Nechvatal, Michele Oka Doner, Dennis Oppenheim, Tom Otterness, Alan Scarritt, Duff Schweninger, Keith Sonnier, John Torreano, Tom Warren, Lawrence Weiner. Brochure catalogue.
In 1968, Sharp co-founded Avalanche magazine (in publication from 1970-1976) with writer/filmmaker Liza Béar. and published interviews he and/or Béar conducted with contemporary artists such as Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, William Wegman, and Yvonne Rainer.
Sharp has been the contributing editor to four publications: Impulse, Toronto, Canada (1979–1981); Video magazine, San Francisco (1980–1982); Art Com, San Francisco (1984–1985), and the East Village Eye, N.Y. (1984–1986). He has published three monographs on contemporary artists, contributed to many exhibition catalogues and has written articles, essays, and interviews featured in Artforum, Art In America, Arts magazine, Avalanche magazine, Laica Journal, Quadrum, Rhobo, and Studio International.
Mr. Sharp taught on the faculties of the School of Visual Arts, Humanities and Science Department (1984–1988); the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, where he was also the director of the Fine Arts Center (1988–1990); and the New School University, Parsons The New School for Design, Graduate Faculty, Digital Design Department, N.Y. (2000–2003). For the last 38 years he has been a visiting artist at numerous art institutions and he has shown his video in museums in the U.S. and abroad.
Collaboration with Joseph Beuys
Sharp met Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf in 1958. From then until Beuys' death in 1986, they had a close, collaborative relationship. Sharp was instrumental in bringing Beuys’ work to the attention of the American art world. Starting with an ARTFORUM interview (December, 1969), he also featured Beuys in the first issue of Avalanche magazine (1970). Then in 1972, Sharp produced the Beuys Videoview which constituted Beuys’ first solo show in New York at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., N.Y. He also produced “Public Dialogue” in which Beuys performed as part of Mr. Sharp’s “Videoperformance” exhibition in 1974. In 1974, at Beuys’ request, Sharp videotaped “I Like America, America Likes Me” his performance at the Rene Block Gallery, New York, which has recently been released as “America” (1974–2003). In 1979, Beuys invited Sharp to curate the film/video sections of his retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Sharp has received numerous grants, awards and fellowships both as an individual or under the sponsorship of the three non-profit arts organizations that he co-founded.
- The Center for New Art Activities, Inc. N.Y.
- The Franklin Street Arts Center, Inc. New York
- WORLDPOOL, Toronto, Canada
- A DAAD Berlin grant with Pamela Seymour Smith, (2006)
- An Emily Harvey Foundation artists-in-residence grant with Pamela Seymour Smith (2006)
- An ACE award (1986)
- The Department of Communications, Canadian Government (1981)
- The Canada Council, Explorations Department, (1981)
- The NEA (1976–1978, 1980–1981)
- The New York State Council on the Arts (1975–1977, 1979, 1985)
- A Rockefeller Foundation individual artists grant (1971)
His video and film works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y.; ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe, Germany; The Collection of the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island; the National Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada; The Western Front, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as well as many private collections worldwide.
Body of Work
- Joseph Beuys' America (1974–2003) 12 min
- Earle Brown By Artengine, New York (2002) 28 min
- Dennis Oppenheim By Artengine, New York (2001) 28 min
- Keith Sonnier By Artengine, New York (2002) 28 min
- Who Killed Heinrich Hertz? (1986–1987) 20 min
- Willoughby Sharp's Downtown New York (1986, in collaboration with Timothy Binkley, George M. Chaikin, Gretta Sarfaty and Ira Schneider) 58 min
- Art And Telecommunications (1983) 60 min
- The Space Shuttle Is A Robot (1983) 20 min
- Willoughby Sharp's Beta 1: DBS (1982) 20 min
- Five Video Pioneers: Acconci, Serra, Sharp, Sonnier & Wegman (1977) 30 min
- Two-Way Demo(1977) 20 min
- Willoughby Sharp Videoviews Chris Burden (1975) 27:45 min
- Art Stars in Hollywood: The DeccaDance (with Chip Lord and Megan Williams) (1974) 60 min
- Art Stars Interviews (with Chip Lord and Megan Williams) (1974) 60 min
- Joseph Beuys' Public Dialogue (1974) 120 min
- Willoughby Sharp's Videoperformances (1973–1974) 58 min
- Chris Burden Videoview (1973) 30 min
- Joseph Beuys Videoview (1973) 30 min
- Vito Acconci Videoview (1973) 30 min
- artnet, Charlie Finch, Remembering Willoughby
- artcritical.com Tobey Crockett Tribute: Willoughby Sharp, 1936 – 2008
- Obituary, New York Times 12/31/08
- Earth Art Interviews: Willoughby Sharp and Dennis Oppenheim by Bil Thompson
- Sharpville: A meeting place for friends & lovers of Willoughby Sharp
- Selected video works distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix, Inc., New York
- Willoughby Sharp Videoviews Vito Acconci (1973) UbuWeb Film & Video
- The text Videoperformance by Willoughby Sharp. Portuguese translation published in eMagazine Performatus Issue 6, September 2013
- Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. ''Willoughby Sharp: Guest - Curating, Earth Art, Silent Film and Avalanche, Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp on Willoughby Sharp and the curating of Earth Art in 1969 at Cornell.
- Larsen, Lars Bang. "Frieze blog". Willoughby Sharp. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- Fox, Margalit. "New York Times". Willoughby Sharp, 72, Versatile Avant-Gardist, Is Dead. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- Fox, Margalit. "New York Times". Willoughby Sharp, 72, Versatile Avant-Gardist, Is Dead. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- Harry Shunk Projects: Pier 18 (First ed.). Nice: Musee D'art Moderne et D'art Contemporain. 1992. pp. 11, 15.
- "Avalanche". Primary Information. Retrieved October 28, 2011.