Artists Space

Terry Fox
All These Different Things Are Sculpture

March 1 - May 11

Artists Space is pleased to present Terry Fox: All These Different Things Are Sculpture, an exhibition of photography, sound, video, ephemera, and acoustic elements by Conceptualist Terry Fox (1943–2008), the artist’s first solo institutional presentation in New York since 1980.

Black-and-white film photograph of a figure bent over, knees on the ground, his left hand reaches up to touch his face which looks downward. His hands and clothing are covered in a dusting of flour. In the background viewers sit on the concrete floor.
Terry Fox, Yield, University Art Museum, Berkeley, California, September 4, 1973. Photo: Larry Fox. Courtesy Marilyn Bogerd. [Black-and-white film photograph of a figure bent over, knees on the ground, his left hand reaches up to touch his face which looks downward. His hands and clothing are covered in a dusting of flour. In the background viewers sit on the concrete floor.]

“Even to enter the door is to punctuate the space.”

– Terry Fox

In the 1960s and ’70s, Terry Fox was part of an American-European avant-garde that actively sought new forms of artistic expression. Employing an actionist and process-oriented approach to art making, Fox created extreme physical and psychological performance experiences that used his own body to explore the often-invisible aspects of human existence and endurance. Extending far beyond a single medium, Fox moved effortlessly between the accidental and ephemeral while focusing on a heightened awareness of perception and the subtextual aspects of social life.

All These Different Things Are Sculpture comprises Fox’s videos and sound works as well as performance documentation primarily from the late ’60s to the early ’90s, with glimpses of later works appearing throughout, to collectively highlight the artist’s subversive understanding of attunement to both one’s interior state and external surroundings. Moving geographically from San Francisco to New York, two key sites for Fox’s experimental activities before his relocation to Europe in 1980, the exhibition begins in the late 1960s with Fox’s involvement in the Bay Area Conceptualist movement, his association with the artist-run space the Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA) in San Francisco, and his relationships with figures such as Tom Marioni, Bonnie Sherk, and others.

Fox’s arsenal of materials included everything from fermented flour, yeast, and water—the ingredients used to make bread—to dead fish to nature’s four elements (earth, air, water, and fire) to his own breath. With this rich panoply of unconventional mediums, he highlighted the transitory nature of existence while extending the boundaries of body art. He carried over this approach to his sound art, understanding sonic and physical space as inherently sculptural materials. All These Different Things Are Sculpture will prominently feature audio, video, and recordings of solo performances and collaborations that capture Fox’s acoustic use of everyday elements to foreground the vibrations emitted by purring cats, traffic on Canal Street in New York’s Chinatown, metal doors and rosined piano wires, and foghorns.

Living with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a form of cancer affecting the lymphatic system) led Fox to address the physical and emotional cycles of illness and wellness in works like Levitation (1970), where the artist fasted and then lay for six hours atop a square of dirt surrounded by elemental fluids in order to be able to rise into the air—a metaphor for transfiguration. Fox called the actions in Levitation his “strongest piece of sculpture because the whole room was energized,” a key example of his attempts to expand the limits of gesture and the body and the possibilities of sculpture.

In 1972, after undergoing major surgery, Fox began making art inspired by the Chartres labyrinth in France, an intricate pattern on the pavement of the cathedral floor that represents life’s journey as a winding path of 552 steps. Among the resulting works was Yield (1973), a set of continuous trancelike actions that took place over three days in an elaborate built environment. While viewers watched from a balcony, Fox ritualistically performed such activities as creating skeletal outlines on the floor in flour, blowing smoke, and baking bread.

Terry Fox (1943–2008) was a groundbreaking Conceptual artist who worked across performance, video, body art, and sound. Born in Seattle in 1943, Fox assumed a visionary role in contemporary art in the 1960s and ’70s, working primarily in San Francisco and New York before moving to Europe. Fox’s performances and installations used his body to test human mental and physical capacities. His earliest performative works, often described by the artist as “situations,” thematically addressed everyday phenomena and life in public space. His seminal Labyrinth series (1972–80), a combination of environments, sculptures, performances, and drawings, is based on the configuration of the stone labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France. The labyrinth served as a metaphor for sickness and health, issues that the artist addressed variously in his work. Fox appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including Documenta 5 (1972), the Whitney Biennial (1975), the Venice Biennale (1984), Greater New York (2016), and the touring retrospective Elemental Gestures, curated by Arnold Dreyblatt (2015–17).

Support for Artists Space’s exhibitions and programs is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, I.A. O'Shaughnessy Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, and the Herman Goldman Foundation.