February 1 – March 30, 2003
High Performance: The First Five Years, 1978-1982 was organized by Jenni Sorkin and reconsiders the first international magazine devoted exclusively to live performance art. Based in Los Angeles, High Performance magazine ran as a quarterly from 1978-1997. The magazine provided a forum for both local and international artists, many of whom in the years beyond the 1970s and early 1980s became known as prominent and highly influential artists.
Utilizing material from the High Performance archive, housed in Santa Monica, CA, as well as from the artists themselves, the exhibition examines the first five years of the magazine’s history through correspondence, layouts, photographs, videos, artists’ books, and other objects. With its radical, non-commercial status, performance art was, for much of the 1970s, an unrecognized discipline flourishing in both New York and Los Angeles, and Western Europe. Assembling performance documentation from a wide range of established and emerging artists, High Performance offered coverage to artists whose practices often challenged the boundaries, conventions, and silences of the established art world. Through live, body-based works, artists engaged experiences of autobiography, catharsis, and social injustice, challenging the ideological separations between art and life.
Operating on an open submission policy from its founding in 1978 until 1982, the magazine was a crucial publication that provided the necessary critical conditions needed to create and sustain an audience for the new genre. Through the publication of artists’ texts, the magazine documented the performance art movement at its inception, and in the recent years after many key works had been completed. The magazine featured 15-80 artists per issue, providing a breadth and depth of materials previously unseen. A significant document, High Performance is a historical archive of seminal artists, but also a testament to passionate practice and independent activity. Artists included in this exhibition are Nancy Buchanan, Chris Burden, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Kim Jones, Suzanne Lacy, The Lesbian Art Project, Paul McCarthy, Linda M. Montano, Gina Pane, Rachel Rosenthal, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara T. Smith, the Waitresses, and others.
LACE’s programming in 2003, the year the organization turned twenty-five, was comprised of presentations that brought together artist alumni from this institution’s rich history and younger artists whose careers are burgeoning. A conceptual continuum with the organization’s founders was emphasized as well as the legacy of this organization, founded to champion the presentation of new art and art forms. High Performance‘s crucial early coverage of LA’s performance art scene documents, in tandem, a seminal period in LACE’s own history; nearly half of the artists featured in this show are alumni of LACE, and many of the projects documented occurred under its auspices.
Founded the same year, in 1978, on the same principle, to provide a forum for new and innovative art that challenges artistic conventions, High Performance and LACE share a vital history. Fittingly, the institution’s 25th Anniversary Series will be launched by High Performance: The First Five Years, 1978 – 1982, followed in May by the presentation of Small Skyscraper, a new sculptural/architectural work by renowned Los Angeles artist and alumni Chris Burden.
In conjunction with High Performance: The First Five Years, 1978 – 1982, Irene Tsatsos organized a performance series called The Rebirth of Wonder that featured new work by Los Angeles artists.
Jenni Sorkin is an independent curator and freelance critic who has written for numerous art magazines and journals. The exhibition originated as an MA thesis exhibition at The Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. She is at work on a book about High Performance magazine and other art publications of the 1970s.