Artifacts at the End of a Decade

February 2021 – December 5, 2021
Virtual Opening Reception Thursday, February 25, 2021  6:00 P.M.
Steven Watson and Carol Huebner Venezia, Publishers and Editors. Artifacts at the End of a Decade, 1981.

Steven Watson and Carol Huebner Venezia, Publishers and Editors. Artifacts at the End of a Decade,
1981. Unbound book/portfolio in a clamshell fabric-covered case; includes 44 works in mixed media
by various artists; title page; and catalogue; edition 48/150. Purchased with funds from the
University of Massachusetts Alumni Association and Robert D. Watson in memory of Mary Watson. 

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  Curators' Essay

In August of 1979, Steven Watson and Carol Huebner mailed 200 invitations to artists they had never met, asking if they would like to contribute to a project about the previous decade.

More than fifty people replied, “Yes,” and two years later the project was completed. Artifacts at the End of a Decade is the result — an unbound artists’ book whose “pages” consist of 44 unique pieces of photography, ceramics, fiber, print, clothing, painting, and drawing, contributed by artists including Martha Rosler, Fab 5 Freddy, Laurie Anderson, Sol LeWitt, Michelle Stuart, John Ashbery, Robert Wilson, Lucinda Childs, and Robert Kushner, among many others.

Co-curated from the UMCA collection by Jessica Scott, 2021 MFA Studio Arts, and Jill Hughes, 2021 MA Art History, Artifacts at the End of a Decade is presented in its entirety for the first time since 1989.

This exhibition prompts the audience to examine the meaning of these works, now that we have seen how history has unfolded through a 40-year span, from the 1970s to today.

Artifacts provides space to consider the past from the vantage point of a collaborative work of cultural reflection. What about their time did these artists most want to communicate to future audiences? How did they envision us? On the eve of our own new decade, this prescient and multifaceted artists’ book models a hands-on approach in using a subjective perspective to understand the socio-political moment, asking, “Have we been here before? How did we survive then, and how can we survive now?”

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Now in its thirteenth year, the University Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual Curatorial Fellowship Exhibition is the culmination of a year-long research project conducted by Art History and Studio Art graduate students, resulting in an exhibition of work drawn from the UMCA’s permanent art collection. 

The UMCA is grateful to the Eva Fierst Student Curatorial Exhibition Fund for support of this annual museum project.

We thank the UMassFive College Federal Credit Union for their support of our 2021 exhibition program.

We appreciate the generous support of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the UMass Arts Council.

Additional thanks to the UMass Department of Art and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture for their support.