This October, in collaboration with Alexander Gray Associates, we're presenting Last Words, a text-based work by one of our heroes, Luis Camnitzer. The work consists of six large, consecutive panels where Camnitzer has printed a collage-text interweaving the last words of an unknown number of people executed on Death Row in Texas during the last thirty years. The work opens Thursday, October 4th and will be on view until Sunday, November 11th, 2012.
The quotations which Camnitzer has selected for Last Words, primarily statements of affection directed at friends, family members and other loved ones, were taken from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Death Row website, where the names of names of people currently on Death Row, along with the names and last statements of people whom the State has executed since 1982, can be found. The works are framed pigment prints, measuring 66" by 44", with page numbers appearing at the bottom of each. This aspect, a straightforward reference to the codex form, accentuates the linear, cohesive nature of the work.
The work, like many in Camnitzer's oeuvre, troubles the distance and distraction that characterize habits of viewership by implicating the viewer in the act, or acts, on which the works are based or in which the works consist. It also draws attention to the practice of publicizing and, in a way, making aesthetic, a person's last words, which would otherwise be a person's most private, intimate. In this sense, it relates to another line of inquiry, which is common in Camnitzer's work, a consideration of the agency and behaviors of single individuals when confronted with the vast, impersonal and often very violent mechanisms of State power. And perhaps most importantly, the exhibition of this work in Texas raises critical questions about the actual policy of Capital Punishment which effects everyone in our state.
Luis Camnitzer (b. 1937) is a German-born Uruguayan conceptual artist and academic who works in the media of printmaking and sculpture. His humorous yet biting work has appeared in many exhibitions since the early 1960s.
Camnitzer’s work has been shown in noted exhibitions and institutions, including individual shows at The Kitchen and El Museo del Barrio, New York; List Visual Arts Center at M.I.T., Cambridge, MA; and Museo Carillo Gil, Mexico City. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx, NY(1991) and Kunsthalle Kiel, Germany (2003), as well as at the Daros Museum in Zürich (2010) and the upcoming exhibition at El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011). His work has appeared in biennials and group shows, including Information(1970), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Biennial of Havana, Cuba (1984, 1986, and 1991); Whitney Biennial (2000), Documenta 11(2002), and Beyond Geometry (2005), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA. Camnitzer’s work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Argentina (MALBA), among other institutions. Camnitzer received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1961 and 1982. A highly regarded critic and curator, Camnitzer is a frequent contributor to ArtNexus, and wroteNew Art of Cuba (1994, 2003) andConceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (2007).