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Bio Summary

Luis Camnitzer - Artists - Alexander Gray Associates

Luis Camnitzer, 2018. Photo: Ross Collab

Luis Camnitzer (b.1937) is a German-born Uruguayan artist, educator, and writer who moved to New York in 1964. He was at the vanguard of 1960s Conceptualism, working primarily in printmaking, sculpture, and installations. For more than five decades, his practice has been marked by an enduring interrogation of systems of power, the intersection of art and pedagogy, and the deconstruction of language and other familiar frameworks.

Biography

Luis Camnitzer (b.1937) is a German-born Uruguayan artist, educator, and writer who moved to New York in 1964. He was at the vanguard of 1960s Conceptualism, working primarily in printmaking, sculpture, and installations. For more than five decades, his practice has been marked by an enduring interrogation of systems of power, the intersection of art and pedagogy, and the deconstruction of language and other familiar frameworks.

In 1964, he co-founded The New York Graphic Workshop, along with Liliana Porter and José Guillermo Castillo. They probed the social impact and theoretical possibilities of printmaking by defying its traditional limitations. The workshop’s innovative propositions, including three-dimensional prints and an exhibition staged through the mail, epitomize the irreverence and social efficacy unifying Camnitzer’s diverse body of work.

Language has been a key subject of inquiry for Camnitzer since 1966. His juxtapositions of text and image in various media expose the fallibility of both representational systems. Early prints annotated with the procedures of their own production characterize his biting wit. As do his recurrent subversions of individual authorship and his scrutiny of the discrete art object and its commercial value. As Camnitzer’s interest in the polysemy of representational systems unfolded, so did his aim to express socio-political concerns through his art—especially in his rebuke of military regimes taking power in Latin America and the fraught political landscape of his adopted country, the United States.

The wooden Object Boxes that Camnitzer began constructing in the early 1970s typify his investigation of the relationship between language and image. Objects, drawings, and found images are contained between glass panes and accompanied by brass plates bearing evocative yet enigmatic texts. Rather than definitive explanations of the contents, the correlation of text to object or image is an extemporaneous construct, an indeterminate narrative meant to be formed by the viewer.

Camnitzer’s work frequently beckons the subjectivity of the spectator through discursive, interactive, and participatory propositions that reveal his dedication to pedagogy. As an educator, he has advocated since the 1960s for the need for art to transcend the boundaries of its conventional parameters and establishments. That conviction is the basis of A Museum Is a School, a touring site-specific installation displayed on the exterior of various arts institutions since 2009. By emphatically re-defining the museum, Camnitzer re-contextualizes the work housed inside. Under his proposal, art becomes a dynamic process rather than a product, a means of acquiring and developing knowledge; the museum becomes a forum for exchange; the artist becomes a facilitator rather than an authority. Camnitzer’s commitment to involving the public in this creative process reflects his role as a progenitor of process-oriented art, his abiding commitment to institutional critique, and his lifelong conviction in art’s transformative function.

Retrospectives of Camnitzer’s work have been presented at El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain (2018); Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá (2012); El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2011); Daros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland (2010); Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Germany (2003); and Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY (1991). Camnitzer’s work has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile (2013); Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (2011); El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (1995); and Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico (1993), among others. His work has been included in many group exhibitions, including This Must Be the Place: Latin American Artists in New York, 1965–1975, Americas Society, New York, NY (2020–21); HOME—So Different, So Appealing, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, traveled to Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2017); I am you, you are too, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2017); Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2014); and Information, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1970). He has been featured in several international biennials, including the Bienal de la Habana, Cuba (2009, 1991, 1986, 1984); documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (2002); Whitney Biennial, New York, NY (2000); and Pavilion of Uruguay, 43rd Venice Biennale, Italy (1988). Camnitzer’s work is represented in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain; El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; São Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Tate Modern, London, UK; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, among others. His honors include the 2022 Francis J. Greenburger Award by Art Omi and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982 and 1961. From 1969–2000, he taught at the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Old Westbury, and is professor emeritus.

Public Collections

ARCO Corporation, New York, NY
Biblioteca Communale, Milan, Italy
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Cabinet of Drawings and Prints of the Uffizzi, Florence, Italy
Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME
Colección Patrica Phelps de Cisneros, Caracas, Venezuela/New York, NY
Daros-Latinaamerica, Zürich, Switzerland
Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Lorraine, France
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Library of Jerusalem, Israel
Malmö Stad, Sweden
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, León, Spain
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá, Colombia
Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo de Arte Moderno, Cartagena, Colombia
Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José, Costa Rica
Museo de Artes Plásticas, Montevideo, Uruguay
Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela
Museo de Gráfica y Dibujo Latinoamericano, Roldanillo, Colombia
El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY
Museo del Grabado, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain
Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, Montevideo, Uruguay
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile
Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico
Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidad de São Paulo, Brazil
Museum Lodz, Łódź, Poland
Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia
Museum of Contemporary Graphic Art, Fredrikstad, Norway
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum Wiesbaden, Germany
National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
New York Public Library, New York, NY
Queens Museum, New York, NY
São Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Snite Museum, Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Yeshiva University, New York, NY