Lippard, Lucy R.

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Born 14 April 1937, New York, New York

Daughter of Vernon W. and Margaret Cross Lippard; married Robert T. Ryman, 1961 (divorced); children: Ethan

Lucy R. Lippard's voice as an art critic and social activist has been making itself known in no uncertain terms for nearly 40 years. In addition to the important books of art criticism and art biography she's authored, she has contributed essays, comments, and introductions to countless anthologies, exhibition catalogs, and other critical works, as well as editing a number of them. She has also curated numerous art exhibitions, including a show of conceptual art ("955,000: An Exhibition," Vancouver Art Gallery, 1970); a show centered around activism by women artists ("Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists: An Exhibition," London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1980); and the art of the Vietnam War ("A Different War: Vietnam in Art," Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington, 1990).

Lippard was born in 1937 into a family of "good liberals," and a family familiar with the academic life (her father was dean of Yale University Medical School). She grew up in New York, Louisiana, and Virginia. She attended Smith College, where she received her B.A. in 1958, and then went to New York University, where in 1962 she received an M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts. She has been based in New York City for many years.

Lippard started writing about art in the 1960s, initially writing from a position that supported the aesthetics of minimalism. Lippard also wrote extensively on conceptualism. It was following a trip to Buenos Aires (during which she met Argentine artists who, in response to corruption in the art world, simply stated that they wouldn't make art until the world changed) that Lippard turned her primary interest and attention to activism and social responsibility in art. Upon returning to New York, she joined the Art Workers Coalition, an active group of antiwar artists. She also began identifying herself as a feminist and started writing extensively about women artists and feminist issues relating to art.

A number of Lippard's books have become standards of art historical criticism, including Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966-1972 (1973) and Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory (1983). Her biographies of Eva Hesse (Eva Hesse, 1976) and Ad Reinhardt (Ad Reinhardt, 1981) are likewise recognized as the standards in the field.

Lippard is most decidedly a living example of a socially committed artist. Her involvement as a writer with a range of socially aware and active art production is extensive, and her support of the artists involved is significant not only to the artists themselves, but more importantly in its potential to impact and help shape the larger art world. She has been involved with art projects as various as Partial Recall (1992), a book on Native American portrait photography, to an interview with the Guerrilla Girls (a group of anonymous women artists who have dedicated themselves to informing the public of the inequality that persists in the art world with respect to women artists and their work). Lippard has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship (1968), National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1972-73 and 1976-77, and the Frank Jewett Mather award for criticism in 1976.

In the 1990s, Lippard turned her attention to art production centered on such important issues as multiculturalism and environmentalism. Her book Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America (1990) has "quickly become a fixture in college art history courses and required reading for anyone interested in the subject," according to an article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. "It's a major, pioneering book, enormously important," said Judith Bettelheim, an art history professor at San Francisco State University specializing in African and Caribbean art. "Nobody's ever tried to tell the other side of the diamond—the nonwhite male version of art history." Ms. Lippard considers her seven-year effort "just the beginning" of a substantive look at artists of color. "This isn't the be-all and end-all, and these aren't the only artists. I kept finding artists up until the end. The art was there. You just had to look for it." Lippard's most recent book, On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place (1999), is about the way in which tourism affects, and in some way shapes, the perception of art and art history.

Other Works:

Graphic Work of Philip Evergood (1966). Pop Art (1966). Changing: Essays in Art Criticism (1971). From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women's Art (1976). I See/You Mean: A Novel (1979). Get the Message? A Decade of Art for Social Change (1984). A Different War: Vietnam in Art (1990). The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art (1995). The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (1997).


ANR 20. Atlanta Journal and Constitution (20 Oct. 1992). LAT (31 Mar. 1991).