Krowswork is very pleased to present Lowell Darling: This Is Your Life featuring videos, ephemera, and stories by this stalwart of the California conceptual art scene of the 1970s. Coinciding with the Pacific Standard Time exhibition State of Mind at the Berkeley Art Museum which includes several works by Darling, the show at Krowswork will focus on representative vignettes from Darling's entire career, including the eponymous "This Is Your Life" saga, Darling's 1978 run for governor against Jerry Brown, and his very popular Fat City School of Finds Art, which offered free Master's degrees and PhDs to art students and luminaries around the country. This exhibition will also screen for the first time the oft-cited but never shown 1973 interview-cum-performance with Darling by curator, publisher, and impresario Willoughby Sharp, co-founder of the influential Avalanche magazine. Lowell Darling: This Is Your Life celebrates this smart, meandering, and highly entertaining storytelling agit-propist, whose art and life, politics and morality, conversation and chance effortlessly intertwine as a captifying paean to the artist/citizen.
Lowell Darling & Willoughby Sharp, Hollywood, 1973
For the show at Krowswork Darling will also create a new editioned piece, a print featuring the three TIYL stamps and made on-demand. The number of prints sold will be the number of the edition.
The specific story behind the title track of this show, "This Is Your Life," is a circuitous, chance-driven, hilarious, poetic tale, ever-balanced on a moral pivot particular to the artist. Darling, an inimitable storyteller, and for whom the story is the key ephemeral residue of the act, writes the TIYL account in full below:
THIS IS YOUR LIFE
I moved to Seward Street in 1972. This was the processing center for Hollywood feature films (when they still used film). My neighbors were Woody Woodpecker and a dildo factory. Jon Hall walked his ancient wirehaired terrier beneath my window every day. Peter Fonda’s Pando was down the block, where he sat beneath a still fresh Easy Rider poster. Next door lived the wrestler Tiger Joe Marsh, a member of the Cauliflower Alley Club, a group of retired boxers and wrestlers who Ilene Segalove worked with as Hollywood Anthropologists.
There are 110 of these collages. Made with non-archival materials so the art will return to gossip. But not until after the subjects of the gossip are dead.
Two blocks from my flat sat an abandoned film stage. Cinema General Studios. On Lillian Way. Above its unused stage door a sign read “This Is Your Life.” On the door someone had spray painted the words “Fuck you.” Exactly my sentiments at the time.
This Is Your Life. Fuck you.
The site became my shrine for the next few years. More like a mantra. I couldn’t sell my work because of a quarrel with the IRS, now in the third or fourth year. They argued that I couldn’t deduct art expenses because I sold no artwork.
“You are not in the trade of business of sculpturing.” The work in question were exhibited in Jack Pollock’s gallery in Toronto, my first show (and the last for many years.) Salt glazed ceramic sculptures called Baby Machines, with wind up keys, penises, vaginas, and babies’ faces pulled from plaster casts of abandoned dolls.
Then the art historian Aimee Brown Price told me that her husband was starting a new pro bono legal service for artists. He was looking for cases. This was the Advocates for the Arts. Monroe E. Price was the lawyer. He took some magazines and a pile of articles written about my art in newspapers, often on the front pages. Public relations, advertising gimmicks applied to political satire. All labeled ARTIST.
During the years when I couldn’t enter art museums, one of the ways I stayed in touch with other artists was through the mail, and I started Fat City School of Finds Art in 1971. Over the next few years I conferred thousands of MFAs at graduation ceremonies on campuses or wherever invited, and whoever sent me art in the mail relieved a diploma in return. (Dudley Finds was my mail moniker, the Head of FCSOFA, the largest degree granting art institution in America.)
SUGGESTION: ART IN AMERICA SHOULD PRINT ONE ISSUE WITH NOTHING BUT NAMES OF AMERICAN ARTISTS. AN ARTIST’S PROOF/IRS EDITION.
ANOTHER SUGGESTION: THE NEA SHOULD REINSTIGATE THE INDIVIDUAL ARTIST FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM AND UP THE ANTE FOR ALTERNATIVE ARTISTS SPACES. ARTISTS DID MORE FOR AMERICA, DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR, THAN ANY PROGRAM THE NEA HAS EVER FUNDED. NO ONE MENTIONS THIS, BUT THE VIGOROUS ART OF THE 1970s WAS ENHANCED ENORMOUSLY BY THESE FELLOWSHIPS. AND THE ARTISTS HAVE MORE THAN PAID THE GOVERNMENT BACK IN TAXES.
This was my life, and I was fucked. The sign said it all. So when Willoughby Sharp interviewed me for Avalanche in 73, I posed in front of my shrine for the piece. I also made a rubber stamp portrait of the sign to stamp my mail to the IRS, writing “fuck you” beneath it, like the Shrine.
We held a party to celebrate, The Artists and Lawyers Ball. Hundreds of lawyers showed up and volunteered to work free for artists. Soon we even got our first copyright protection. But all my work was in the public domain, so this mattered little to me. Most of my videos are owned by ABC, NBC, CBS, CBC, BBC, PBS, Thames Broadcasting.
And then one day a pile of what appeared to be snow covered the sidewalk in front of my shrine. The This Is our Life sign lay at my feet, shattered into hundreds of fragments. It was a modern American frieze, as representative as the Parthenon is to ancient Greece. A portrait of the times.
An empty Safeway shopping bag lay waiting, open and empty. I filled the bag with fragments, took them home, reassembled them like a jigsaw puzzle. Then I hung it on my wall, something I hadn’t done as an artist in a long time. Without making art I had willed it into existence.
So anyway, I moved to Vancouver in late 1976 and waited for what would happen next. I’ve never been one to make art just to make art. I’m lazy. Have to wait for the volcano, the Brain Storm. Like Clyfford Still taught, you go to the studio every day whether you make anything or not, and you wait for the angel to visit.
The Gubernatorial Announcement was made on the lawn of the University Museum in Berkeley on Valentine’s Day, 1978. This would be my last pro bono public performance piece, lasting three months. And it was the first time I performed at a museum, (but we were still outside. On the lawn.
The campaign was a successful failure, my forte. But the success belonged to artists throughout the State. To name them all would be impossible. Joe Rees’s Oakland benefit was busted by squad cars full of cops and a helicopter overhead. We were kicked out of Charles Christopher Hill’s LA benefit at the Larchmont Hotel. The Museum of Conceptual Art in San Francisco hosted a Thousand Dollar Plate dinner. Nobody paid except Tom Marioni. For the poster.
I’ve been called a conceptual artist, a performance artist, a correspondence artist, mail artist, media artist, video artist, web artist, con artist, even a ceramist, not having touched clay since The First Annual Open Invitational Unfired Clay Exhibition:’70.
Since childhood people have called me an Artist, long before I knew what art is (not that I know now…..)
But I’ve never been anything else.
This Is _our Life.
For more on Lowell's work visit: lowelldarling.com