Coinciding with the Pacific Standard Time exhibition State of Mind at the Berkeley Art Museum which includes several works by the artist, “Lowell Darling: This is Your Life” at Krowswork reflects upon artist Lowell Darling’s life and work. Respecting Darling’s legacy as a conceptual artist, the exhibition executes a powerful retrospective through press clippings, news videos and ephemera, evincing that Darling’s greatest artistic achievements do not lie in tangible objects, but what artistic meanings and intentions were gleaned from the experiences and events that shaped his life.
The exhibition includes three particular highlights of Lowell Darling’s career. In the 1970s when Conceptual Art emerged, artists like Darling were challenging paradigms had been set in place for hundreds of years. The IRS refused to identify Darling as an artist because he made no physical work, which gave impetus for him to receive recognition from nearly every cultural magazine: “If enough newspapers, magazines and TV news broadcasters called me an artist, how could the government deny it? I set out to become a recognized artist, making News instead of objects. Appearing in the press but not in galleries. They always called me an Artist.” The project came to a definitive end when Art in America identified him as an artist; the cover of that issue is on view at the exhibition. Also chronicled is Darling’s 1978 run for governor against Jerry Brown, and his Fat City School of Finds Art that offered free Master’s degrees and PhDs to art students.
In this retrospective, the gallery screens two important films that bookend his life. For the very first time, the 1973 interview of Darling by curator and publisher Willoughby Sharp, co-founder of the influential Avalanche magazine is on view. Within a few minutes of watching the film it becomes evident perhaps nothing in Darling’s life is without artistic intent. Even a pen falling to the floor is part of the performance between the two. The second film is a poignant documentary of one of Darling’s newest and personal projects, Tomb of the Unborn Soldier. At first the project was made in purely artistic intentions in response to the Bosnian War occurring at the time of its inception: “The stones [of the tomb] are reminders that wars begin over disputes created before the soldiers who die in them are born.” Yet, after his nephew’s unexpected death in Croatia, he became inexorably woven into the fabric of the project; Darling says, “Adam died over problems that were left unsolved before he was born, another unborn soldier.” This is only one of many instances of chance or perhaps fate which have led Darling along his artistic path, illustrating his life will always be as an artist.
“Lowell Darling: This is Your Life” is at Krowswork until March 24