Robert Barry

American, Born 1938

Born in New York, Robert Barry graduated from Hunter College with an MFA in 1963. He held his first solo exhibition a year later at the Westerly Gallery, NYC. In spite of early success with painting -- his acrylic on canvas appeared in 1966 at the Guggenheim’s Systemic Painting exhibition -- he began to develop away from traditional media into the area of art that would be named Conceptualism. A residency at a disused racehorse farm in 1967 produced the film projection piece that appeared in the Museum of Modern Art’s first exhibition of Conceptual art, Information, in 1970. In interviews he stresses his interest in the physicality of artworks, their placement in space. He has worked with invisible media, sound waves for example, in his 1969 piece, Carrier Waves, and gases in the Inert Gas Series. Individual words, carefully selected and arranged, have been one of his motifs since the 1960s. In a 2011 interview with Flash Art he said that the development of Conceptual art “was about the unknown, and about putting that very condition out there, so that people would have to deal with it along with us. I always said that whatever the meaning of the art is, it’s left up to the audience.” One exhibition consisted of three invitations announcing that the gallery was closed. The wording on each invitation was slightly different. Years later the Vogels bought all three. “We have,” said Herbert Vogel to New York Magazine, “without a doubt the greatest piece of conceptual art that was ever done in the world. We have the Closed Gallery piece by Bob Barry!”

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