Allen Ruppersberg's Meals from Al’s Cafe (1969) Credit: Courtesy the artist. Photo: Gary Krueger, scan: Augusta Wood
Allen Ruppersberg: Intellectual Property 1968-2018, Hammer Museum (February 10-12 May): “The strength of Ruppersberg’s work is that it has managed to be accessible through references to American vernacular and literary histories while also being of a hardcore conceptual bent,” says Aram Moshayedi, the curator of the Hammer Museum’s retrospective dedicated to the hometown hero Allen Ruppersberg: his first comprehensive one in the US since 1985, when a mid-career survey was mounted by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. (This exhibition debuted at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center in 2018.) While 1960s Conceptual artists in New York, London and Europe tended to approach language from a philosophical or Structuralist position, Ruppersberg was always more interested in literary fiction, screenwriting and poetry—not to mention wry humour. Born in 1944, Ruppersberg has long been a mythical presence in the Los Angeles art world—which was perhaps his intention. “Evasion has always been part of his work,” Moshayedi says. The artist once listed his influences as “youth, serial killers, magic, movies and film history, Raymond Roussel, reading and looking, fate, suicide, the fountain of youth, surrealism, fiction and reality, high and low cultures, hell, Hollywood, Bible stories and horrific current events”. Over the past five decades he has pursued these interests quietly, often seemingly from the margins, operating from rented offices and moving frequently between California, New York and Europe. Where’s Al? (1972/2006) is the title of an early installation of typed index cards and photographs, a landmark piece included in this show.