Mel Ziegler (born in 1956 in Campbelltown, PA) & Kate Ericson (born in 1955 in New York City, died in 1995 in Milanville, PA) worked as an artist duo from 1978 to 1995. Mel Ziegler lives and works in Nashville, TN.


solo shows

Exhibitions including solo works by Mel ZIEGLER are marked (MZ)

- Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nasheville, TX, USA (forthcoming)

- Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA (forthcoming, MZ)

- A Living Thing: Flag Exchange, Federal Hall, New York, USA (MZ)
- A Living Thing, San Francisco Art Institute, CA, USA (MZ)

- A More Perfect Union, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA (MZ)

- Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France (MZ) 
- Grandma’s cupboard, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City, USA (MZ)

- Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler, Galerie Perrotin, New York, USA
- Remembering Loaded Text, Museum of Durham History, Durham, North Carolina, USA

- An American Conversation, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Nebraska, USA (MZ)
- Taking Note, Permanent public art commission for City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (MZ)
- 1000 Laughs, Trahern Art Gallery, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee, USA (MZ)

- Smell The Flowers, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee, USA (MZ)

- America Starts Here, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

- America Starts Here, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
- America Starts Here, Austin Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, USA

- America Starts Here, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

- America Starts Here, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA

- Breathe In, Breathe Out, Salina Art Center, Salina, Kansas, USA (MZ)

- Hold Your Breath, Dunn and Brown Contemporary, Dallas, Texas, USA (MZ)

- Stuffed, Secession, Vienna, Austria (MZ)

- 1301 PE projects and editions, Santa Monica, California, USA Doug Lawing Gallery, Houston, Texas, USA

- Drawings by Mel Ziegler, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, USA (MZ)

- Mel Ziegler, Artspace, San Antonio, Texas, USA (MZ)

- Come and Go, Project commissioned for the Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition Spaces, Cleveland, Ohio, USA (MZ)

- Lisson Gallery, London, England

- Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler, Metropolitan Galleries, University of Manchester, Manchester, England
- Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler, James Hockey Gallery, West Surrey College of Art and Design, Farnham, England
- Stir From Time to Time, Michael Klein Inc., New York, USA

- Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- Anybody Can Make History, Michael Klein Inc., New York, USA
- Wall of Words, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA

- Peaks and Valleys, Capp Street Project, San Francisco, California, USA
- Exported Pallet, Cultural Fundição Progresso Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

- Feed and Seed and Weeds or Wild owers, Spaces, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- Augustus Saint-Gaudens Fellowship Exhibition, The Picture Gallery at the Saint- Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire, USA
- The Wellesley Method, Wellesley College Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA 
- Viaduct Gateway (subsequently renamed Viaduct Garden), a design team project for The Hidden City Revealed Masterplan, sponsored by the Committee for Public Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- Proposals, Wolff Gallery, New York, USA

- Loaded Text, Public installation, Durham Arts Council, Durham, North Carolina, USA
- College Ivory, University Art Gallery, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
- Hollow Oak Our Palace Is, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut, USA 
- Walls Have Tongues, Wolff Gallery, New York, USA
- The Lighting Specialists, Burnett Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA

- Projects 14: Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
- Investigations 24, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
- Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler: WORKS, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA
- Dark On That Whiteness, Wolff Gallery, New York, USA

- If Landscapes Were Sold: An Installation by Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, Diverse Works, Houston, Texas, USA
- Time The Destroyer Is Time The Preserver, Loughelton Gallery, New York, USA 
- Half Slave, Half Free, artist-initiated project with private homeowner, Hawley Pennsylvania, USA

- Stones Have Been Known To Move, White Columns, New York, USA
- If You Would See The Monument, Look Around, Central Park, New York, USA 
- House Monument, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California and Costa Mesa, California, USA

- Garden Sculpture, project sponsored by Artists Representing Environmental Arts (A.R.E.A.), Ward’s Island, New York, USA
- Traveling Stories, project for Downtown Seattle Transit Arts Program, Seattle, Washington, USA
- Unplanted Landscape, artist-initiated project with private homeowner, Bellport, New York, USA

group shows

- In Around Beyond, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francico, California, USA
- Real Estate Dwelling on Contemporary Art, Berman Museum of Art, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA

- Brain Multiples at 25, 1301PE, Los Angeles, USA
- New to the Cantor, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford, California, USA

- Paris Holidays, Galerie Perrotin, New York, USA

- Country living, Samek Art Museum, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

- Happy Birthday Galerie Perrotin/25 ans, Tripostal, Lille, France
- The Symbolic Landscape: Pictures Beyond the Picturesque, UC Irvine University Art Galleries, Irvine, California, USA

- Loughelton Revisited, Winkleman Gallery, New York, USA

- Domestic: Artists Transforming the Everyday, Arlington Museum of Art, Arlington, Texas, USA

- Locating Drawing, Doug Lawing Gallery, Houston, Texas, USA
- The World According to the Newest and Most Exact Observations: Mapping Art + Science, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA
- Museum as Subject, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan

- Museum as Muse: Artists Re ect, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, California, USA
- Blurring the Boundaries: Installation Art 1969-1996, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California, USA

- Museum as Muse: Artists Re ect, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA 
- Blurring the Boundaries: Installation Art 1969-1996, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
- Blurring the Boundaries: Installation Art 1969-1996, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

- Blurring the Boundaries: Installation Art 1969-1996, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York, USA

- Blurring the Boundaries: Installation Art 1969-1996, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA

- The Bare Wall!..., Michael Klein, Inc., New York, USA
- Food for Thought, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA

- WoodWorks, Michael Klein Inc., New York, USA
- KunstKabinett, Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, Washington, USA 
- Mapping: A Response to MoMA, American Fine Arts, Co., and Colin De Land Fine Art, New York, USA

- Tony Oursler, Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, Lisson Gallery, London, UK 
- L’object: du magasin au musée, Villa du Parc à Annemasse, Geneva, Switzerland 
- Debut: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art & Design, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
- The Body As Measure, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA
- House Rules, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, USA
- Die Orte de Kunst: Der Kunstbetrieb als Kunstwerk, Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover, Germany
- Old Glory: the American Flag in Contemporary Art, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- An American Landscape, Michael Klein, Inc., New York, USA
- Group Show, Ma Galerie, Paris, France
- Don’t Look Now, Thread Waxing Space, New York, USA

- Money/Politics/Sex, Nancy Drysdale Gallery, Washington, D.C., USA
- Living With Art, The Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey, USA 
- Kurswechsel, Michael Klein Inc. at Transart Exhibitions, Cologne, Germany 
- Integral, Kunstprojekte, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, Germany 
- Sonsbeek 93, Arnhem, Netherlands
- Projet Unite, Firminy, France
- Myths and Legends as Told and Retold, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
- The Naming of the Colors, White Columns, New York, USA
- Mettlesome & Meddlesome: Selections from the Collection of Robert J. Shif er, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
- Nature, Memory, Strength, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

- Culture in Action, Sculpture Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Transgressions in the White Cube: Territorial Mappings, Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, USA
- Translation, The Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland 
- anomie, Patent House, London, England
- Teamwork, Lintas Worldwide, New York, USA

- Glass: Material in the Service of Meaning, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington, USA
- Preview, Michael Klein, Inc., New York, USA
- From the Train, Michael Klein, Inc., New York, USA
- Beyond The Frame: American Art, 1960-90, Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
- Beyond The Frame: American Art, 1960-90, National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan 
- Beyond The Frame: American Art, 1960-90, Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan 
- Anninovanta, Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna, Bologna, Italy
- Mud, or, How Can Social and Local Histories Be Used as Methods of Conservation?, Hirsch Farm Project, Hillsboro, Wisconsin, USA
- Places With a Past: New Site-Speci c Art in Charleston, Spoleto Festival U.S.A., Charleston, South Carolina, USA

- 15 Years of RAW, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
- Team Spirit, Neuberger Museum, State University of New York at Purchase, Purchase, New York, USA
- Team Spirit, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- Team Spirit, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
- Team Spirit, The Art Museum, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA 
- Team Spirit, Spirit Square Center for the Arts, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA 
- Team Spirit, Davenport Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa, USA
- Team Spirit, Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
- Preview, Michael Klein, Inc., New York, USA
- Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, Burnett Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA 
- Notes on the Margin: A Framework in Focus, Gracie Mansion Gallery, New York, USA
- (A) Selection (of) Selections: An Exhibition of 1989 NYFA Fellows, Parsons School of Design, New York, USA

- Contemporary Sculpture ‘89: Works by Fellowship Recipients of the New York Foundation for the Arts, University Art Museum, Albany, New York, USA
- Here and There - Travel Series Part Four, The Clocktower, New York, USA
- Ten Years, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA
- 1989 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
- Horn of Plenty: Sixteen Artists from NYC, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
- Monochrome, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

- Collaboration, Gallery at the Plaza, Security Paci c Corporation, Los Angeles, California, USA
- Equation, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
- Group Exhibition, Fuller Gross Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA
- Public Discourse, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
- Home Show, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, California, USA 
- Detail in the Cottage, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Democracy/Politics and Election, Dia Art Foundation, New York, USA
- La Nature des Choses, ‘Cinquieme Ateliers Internationaux des Pays de la Loire, Fondation Regional d’Art Contemporain, La Gerenne Lemot, Clisson, France
- Group Exhibition, Lawrence Oliver Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Temporary Public Art: Changes and Interventions, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, USA
- CalArts: Skeptical Belief(s), Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, California, USA

- CalArts: Skeptical Belief(s), The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Nature, Feature Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Private Visions/Public Spaces, Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington, USA
- Real Pictures, Wolff Gallery, New York, USA
- Of Ever-Ever Land i Speak, Stux Gallery, New York, USA The Errant Sign, Milford Gallery, New York, USA
- Walk Out To Winter, Bess Cutler Gallery, New York, USA

- Art and The Environment, organized by A.R.E.A., Lever House, New York, USA 
- Highlights from the Kansas City Art Institute Alumni, Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

- Selections from the artists File, Artists Space, New York, USA

public collection

- Albright-Knox, Buffalo, NY, USA
- Bronx Museum, New York, NY, USA
- Cantor Arts Center, Stanford, CA, USA
- Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IO, USA
- MoCA, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- MoCA, San Diego, CA, USA
- Osaka Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (MZ)
- Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA
- Samek Art Museum, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, USA
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA
- The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA 
- The Menil Collection Drawing Institute, Houston, TX, USA
- UC Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, USA
- Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York, NY, USA 

Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler - "America Starts Here"

Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler - "America Starts Here"

Exhibition catalog

$49.96 Excluded VAT

  • November 2017
    Forbes — 3 PAGES

  • September 2017
    New York Times — 3 PAGES

  • September 2017
    Artnet — 8 PAGES

  • April 2015
    Blouinartinfo — 2 PAGES

  • April 2015
    Blouinartinfo — 2 PAGES

MEL ZIEGLER “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones” Exhibition at Galerie Perrotin, Paris April 18 - May 30, 2015

by Owen KAEN

Galerie Perrotin, Paris is pleased to present “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones,” the first solo exhibition of Mel Ziegler in France, presenting a selection of new and recent works by the American artist. The show will also include works from his influential collaboration with Kate Ericson, beginning in the late 70s and continuing until Ericson’s premature death in 1995.
Synthesizing conceptual, Land art, and interventionist strategies, Ericson and Ziegler developed a distinctly American community-based art outside the orbit of New York. Working directly with local iconography, sites, and communities across America, the pair staged interventions with and for these communities, and produced works, largely sculptural, from these interventions. Throughout their collaboration, the couples’ work was exhibited by numerous galleries and museums, and was the subject of the traveling retrospective “America Starts Here” in 2005 (organized by Bill Arning and Ian Berry), as well as a comprehensive exhibition at Galerie Perrotin New York in 2014. In 1992, Emmanuel Perrotin dedicated a solo show to the artists in his first gallery, from which two pieces, “Vinegar of the 48 Weeds” and “Untitled (National Archive stones and Paris rain water)” (1992), are presently on view. 

Following the passing of Kate Ericson, Mel Ziegler has continued an artistic practice founded on the central concerns and strategies he and his partner established in their collaboration, but which has, over time, loosened formally and methodologically, allowing for a new degree of humor, serendipity, and a certain craftiness to enter his work. 
In the first room of the gallery, both the roots of his practice with Ericson as well as a more relaxed sensibility are evident with “Rock Hard Individualism” (2010). At first glance the work appears as a map of the United States composed of a variety of found stones. A second look reveals that each stone might be seen as a face. Ziegler, who has a thing for collecting these rock faces as he finds them, offers up a little bit of playful irony in his maturity: individually, each stone might not read as face to anyone except Ziegler, but organized together, we can no longer help but see each rock as having a countenance of its own.
On a nearby wall is an arrangement of some two-dozen brightly colored toy guns handmade by the children of the artist “Untitled” (2009-2013). Production was undertaken out of necessity—the artist was unwilling to purchase toy guns for his children on moral grounds—and so, fashioning the toys out of cardboard, duct tape, foil and paper with reference images from the internet, Ziegler’s children made their own. Like “Rock Hard Individualism”, this untitled work plays both with and against much of Ericson & Ziegler’s earlier iconic participatory work, wryly replacing the distinct local communities who engaged in projects with the community of his own nuclear family.

The family and its relationship to community, nation and politics—though again with an injection of levity—is a theme which carries through into “To Carry a Big Stick” (2015), a title which makes partial reference to President Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policy of “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick.” Antique ammunition boxes, each lined with red velvet, have been filled with “fetch sticks.” “Fetch sticks,” as Ziegler calls them, are the sticks which he has collected and used over the last five years to play fetch with his dog. This American pit-bull named Sister, with whom Ziegler sometimes plays in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, is a sweet, affectionate animal, and no more inherently vicious than the sticks in the disarmed, luxuriously-lined ammo boxes on display in the present exhibition.

The exhibition also features two new iterations of “Stuffed” (antique gun cabinet and grandfather clock), a site-specific project installed throughout Vienna for Ziegler’s solo show at the Wiener Secession in 2003. “Stuffed” arose in part out of the observation that museum showcases, especially in a city like Vienna, form an integral part of the grammar of presentation for not just the Arts, but also for the display of salable luxury goods in the city’s famous shopping district. Taking about fifty museum vitrines, Ziegler relocated them around the city and stuffed them full of plain straw, drawing a viewer away from the object behind the glass, and redirecting him to attend the case itself and its role in creating an “aura of display.” A viewer is further encouraged, by this inversion of display and what is displayed, to consider the relationship between luxury goods and art objects, public presentation and private consumption, as well as the social, commercial, and institutional frames and behaviors that contribute to establishing these distinctions.

Mel Ziegler was born in 1956 in Pennsylvania, he resides in Nashville, Tennessee. His significant collaboration with Kate Ericson (from 1978 to 1995) was the subject of over a hundred exhibitions, group and solo shows as well as museum retrospectives. Several solo exhibitions were dedicated to his recent  practice since Ericson death, including at the Secession, Vienna (2003), at The National Museum of Art, Osaka (2001) and at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2000). In 2015, The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art will dedicate a extensive show to Mel Ziegler, as well as a selection of works from the duo’s earlier collaboration.

KATE ERICSON and MEL ZIEGLER Exhibition at Galerie Perrotin, New York July 8 - August 22, 2014

by Owen KAEN

Galerie Perrotin, New York presents a selection of iconic works by Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler whose collaboration, beginning in the late 70s, continued uninterrupted until Ericson’s premature death in 1995. Two decades after showing their work in his first Paris location in 1992, Emmanuel Perrotin is proud to revisit the full span of the couple’s career in the gallery’s inaugural year in New York. In addition to the major works on display here, such as “Give and Take” (1986), “Dark on That Whiteness” (1988), “Feed and Seed (Gelsinger Farm, Buckwheat)” (1989), “Peas, Carrots, Potatoes” (1994-1996), “From the Making of a House” (1995), “A long Line” (1995-96), Perrotin is pleased to offer a collection of never before exhibited sketches and drawings, essential to the artists’ practice.

Synthesizing conceptual, land-art, and interventionist strategies, Ericson and Ziegler developed a distinctly American community-based art outside the orbit of New York. Working directly with local iconography, sites, and communities across America, the pair produced works and staged interventions with and for these communities as much as the works themselves informed onlookers back in the institutionalized art world. As Bill Arning puts it in his introductory essay to America Starts Here, the companion catalogue to the traveling 2005 retrospective of their work:

“When their collaboration began, conceptual art practices were consigned to the past, belonging to the previous generation… New York’s art world marked the focus of international art discourse… The rest of the United States—with the possible exception of Los Angeles—remained virtually invisible as artistic producers, receivers, collaborators, and subjects. Americana-based iconography could only appear ironically, if at all. Political art limited itself to a confrontational mode most appropriate for crisis situations, and artists rarely worked within communities to achieve political or ethical goals” (Berry and Arning, 11).

Indeed, an ethical engagement with the various communities, occupations, materials, and locales, combined with an acute awareness of the potential pitfalls that a well-intentioned artist faces when trying to engender social or political discourse in a community not his own, is the common thread throughout the duo’s practice. This is particularly evident in “Camouflaged History” (1991), for which Ericson and Ziegler, presenting themselves as artists, approached the owners of a house that needed painting in Charleston, South Carolina. The house was located just outside a line demarcating the more affluent “historic city”, where building codes were more stringent, more costly to meet, and for which the local Board of Architectural Review had prescribed a list of approved house colors. Organizing meetings to establish the consent of the neighborhood, and offering a tangible service to the owners of the house in exchange, the artists, with the aid of a nearby military base, had the house painted and labeled in a camouflage pattern composed with the full board-approved palette. Perhaps surprisingly, the owners and their immediate neighbors were pleased with the end result. The house punctuated the neighborhood with flair, color, and wit, showing cheerful irreverence for such comically solemn things as Boards of Architectural Review with historical mandates. Of course, comically solemn things can also be of significant political, social, and economic consequence. It was perhaps less surprising then that more affluent members of the community, across the line in the “historical city,” objected to the camouflaged “eyesore.”

The kind of locally sensitive, pragmatic intervention of “Camouflaged History” is exemplary of Ericson and Ziegler’s practice. Mechanisms like consent, consensus, community meetings, classified ads in regional newspapers, the exchange of labor and proceeds with participants in the production of an artwork or intervention characterized the artists’ ethics. It is worth noting that by no means are these radical or revolutionary tactics; they do not seek to upend communities under the assumption that the artists have a superior social arrangement in mind. Rather, the ethics at work here are largely in keeping with the democratic ideals of self-governance and self-determination which, though often ignored, forgotten, or violated, underpin the American political enterprise. Whether this is the result of patriotic commitment or mostly a matter of pragmatism is a question better left to the artists. But perhaps it goes some way towards seeing what is American about not just the material and locales of Ericson and Ziegler’s work, but more integrally, what is inimitably American about their methods and the entirety of their innovative practice.

About the Artists

During their collaboration, Ericson and Ziegler were featured in over one hundred exhibitions, including the 1989 Whitney Biennial, and three shows at the Museum of Modern Art (twice in 1988, and once more in 1990). Their work may be found in several major American collections, notably the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco. In 2005 the pair were subject to a traveling retrospective organized by Ian Berry and Bill Arning, hosted by The Frances Young Tang Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, the Austin Museum of Art, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. Companion to the exhibition is the thorough and invaluable catalog, America Starts Here (MIT Press, 2005).

Kate Ericson, born 1955 in New York, died of brain cancer in 1995. Mel Ziegler was born in 1956 in Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where he works as an artist, a farmer, and is professor and chair of the Arts Department at Vanderbilt University. Both Ericson and Ziegler received BFAs from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1978; the couple continued their studies under Michael Asher, Douglas Huebler, and John Baldessari at the California Institute of the Arts, from which they received MFAs in 1982.

Art Review, Ericson and Ziegler's Interventionist Art at M.I.T. March 30, 2006


CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 25 — A favorite fantasy of the art vanguard is the idea of intervention: the artist introduces something into the cultural mainstream that may or may not be recognized as art, but causes those who see it to reconsider and, ideally, to change their relationship to conventional values.

Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler were influential collaborators in social interventionist art, beginning officially as a team in 1985 and continuing until Ms. Ericson died of brain cancer in 1995. Their career is the subject of an illuminating time capsule of an exhibition now at the M.I.T. List Visual Arts Center here. "America Starts Here: Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler" was organized by Bill Arning, a curator at the List, and Ian Berry, a curator at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, where the exhibition opened last fall.

Ms. Ericson and Mr. Ziegler, who were students at the Kansas City Art Institute in the mid-1970's and attended the California Institute of Arts in the early 80's, did not usually make objects for display in museums and galleries. They preferred nonpermanent projects in settings away from art institutions. The ones involving private homeowners are especially amusing. Once they paid a homeowner to allow them to remove all the doors in a house and stack them in the living room. Another agreed to mow only half of his lawn and groom half of his large yard for a period of time, to the consternation of his neighbors.

Dada may be what started this sort of thing, but Ms. Ericson and Mr. Ziegler were not absurdist pranksters. (At CalArts their mentors were Michael Asher, John Baldessari and Douglas Huebler, conceptualists known for their wit but not for extravagantly provocative gestures.) Their major projects involved extensive research into the history and current affairs of particular places, and the goal was to raise the social and political consciousnesses of the local residents.

In the exhibition at M.I.T., a house model painted in a colorful camouflage pattern represents a project executed in 1991 as part of an arts festival in Charleston, S.C. Ms. Ericson and Mr. Ziegler asked an elderly man and his daughter who lived just outside an officially designated historic district to let them paint their house in camouflage, using colors approved by the city's historic preservation review board. The commercially produced paints had names like Moorish Maroon Red and Confederate Uniform Gray, and the project, pointedly titled "Camouflaged History," became a lesson about history and economic, social and racial divisions.

While working on "Camouflaged History," Ms. Ericson and Mr. Ziegler kept local residents informed about what they were doing and why in a series of community meetings. In an interview in this show's catalog, Mr. Ziegler recalls that after the festival, the immediate neighbors favored keeping the new color scheme. But residents in the nearby historic district objected, calling it an eyesore. Perhaps they also disliked its implicit exposure of differences in wealth and privilege between neighboring communities.
Ms. Ericson and Mr. Ziegler did not refuse to work in museums. In 1990, while engaged in a project for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, they discovered that its curators favored different shades of white for the exhibition walls. So they created an arrangement of bottles containing those shades, each etched with the name used by the museum's painting crew: "Rubin White," "Riva White," "McShine White." The current show extends that idea by painting different walls in the gallery with the curators' favorite whites, and identifying them with discreet signs. One thought this prompts is about how power can be both all-pervasive and subtle to the point of invisibility.

Among the more tangible works on view is an antique wooden Dutch cupboard that displays a full set of fine, gold-trimmed white china, produced in 1993 for an international art exhibition in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Look closely and you discover that the dishes have printed on them in fine script the names of more than 800 types of products made by Akzo Chemicals, a company based in Arnhem (now Akzo Nobel). They include sealants, acne control medication, poultry antigens and impregnating products. This creates a nice tension between refined traditionalism and a vaguely frightening industrialism.

The problem with presenting art of this sort in a gallery is that almost nothing is clear without a good deal of explanation. But if you read all the labels — or better yet, the excellent catalog — you get a clear picture of an enterprise marked by intelligence, earnestness, diligence and optimistic pragmatism. Whether Ms. Ericson and Mr. Ziegler managed to change much in the real world, they remain inspirational role models for the wonkier conceptualists and social workers in today's art world.

"Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones", Galerie Perrotin, Paris 2015

"Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones", Galerie...