Willoughby Sharp (b. January 23, 1936, [New York City], d. December 17, 2008 [New York City]), the co-founder, with writer/filmmaker Liza Bear, of Avalanche magazine (1970-1976), is an internationally known artist, independent curator, gallerist, teacher, author, and telecom activist.
Sharp began his media work in 1967 by shooting a small number of films in 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm including “Earth,” (1968, Collection: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and “Place & Process,” (1969, Collection: MoMA, New York). After these films, he started producing a prodigious body of video works in 1/2, 3/4 and 1-inch tape. These works included video sculpture, video installations, “Videoviews,” (1970-1974), Videoperformances (1973-1977), cable television programs (1985-1986), and broadcast TV programs (2001-).
In February 1969, at the invitation of Hans Haacke, he presented a three-part video installation, “Earthscopes,” at Cooper Union, N.Y., which included the only showing of a video catalogue of the historic “Earth Art” exhibition that he had curated at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. In March 1969, Sharp created “Einstein’s Eye,” a closed-circuit b/w video sculpture exhibited at the Richard L. Feigen Gallery in Soho, N.Y. The following year, Sharp’s film “Place and Process” was included in MoMA’s “INFORMATION” exhibition curated by Kynaston McShine. Also in 1970, Sharp curated “Body Works,” an exhibition of Video art with works by Vito Acconci, Terry Fox, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim and William Wegman which was presented at Tom Marioni's Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California.
At the San Jose State TV studios in 1970, Sharp began the “Videoviews” series of videotaped dialogues with artists which he continued after he bought one of the first Sony 3400 Porta-Pac video recording systems in 1972. The “Videoviews” series consists of Sharp's dialogues with Bruce Nauman (1970), Joseph Beuys (1972), Vito Acconci (1973), Chris Burden (1973), Lowell Darling (1974), and Dennis Oppenheim (1974). More recently, working with ARTENGINE, N.Y., a collaborative video production/post-production company in partnership with Duff Schweninger, Mr. Sharp has produced an ongoing series of 30-minute documentary programs on Dennis Oppenheim (2001), Keith Sonnier (2002), Earle Brown (2002), and Morton Subotnick (2003).
In 1976, under an NEA grant to Center for New Art Activities, Inc., he co-produced [with Liza Bear] “Five Video Pioneers: Vito Acconci, Richard Serra, Willoughby Sharp, Keith Sonnier, William Wegman (Collection: MoMA, N.Y.). That year he also represented the United States in the Venice Biennale.
Shortly afterward, Sharp started to produce a series of international, multi-casting, pre-Internet projects which simultaneously interlaced information from computers, telefax, In September 1977, he participated in Send/Receive Satellite Network: Phase II, co-produced and directed by Keith Sonnier and Liza Bear in collaboration with a group of San Francisco and New York artists; this was the first trans-continental interactivesatellite work made by artists. His participation in Send/Receive in part led to Sharp’s current preoccupation with global collaborative work through a series of interactive telecommunications and streaming transmissions. This ongoing series of projects honors the accomplishments of electrical geniuses Guglielmo Marconi (1981), Heinrich Hertz (1986) andNikola Tesla (2005-2006).
Beginning in 1964 with "POP ART" at Columbia University, N.Y., Sharp independently curated numerous important exhibitions. Among others these include: "Robert Rauschenberg" (1964) Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany; "LIGHT, MOTION, SPACE" (1967) Walker Art Center; "KINETIC ENVIRONMENTS I AND II" (1967) Central Park, N.Y.; "AIR ART" (1968) Philadelphia and six other locations; "KINETICISM: SYSTEMS SCULPTURE IN ENVIRONMENTAL SITUATIONS" (1968) Mexico City; "EARTH ART" (1969) Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; "PLACE AND PROCESS" (1969) Edmonton, Canada; "PROJECTS: PIER 18" (1971) MoMA, N.Y.; "JOSEPH BEUYS" (1973) Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., N.Y.; "VIDEOPERFORMANCE' (1974) 112 Greene Street Gallery, N.Y.
Since 1969, Sharp has had more than 20 solo exhibitions at museums, and art galleries such as: Brown University; the University Art Museum, Berkeley, California; The Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco; CAYA, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the University of Iowa; the Ontario College of Art, Toronto; the University of California, Los Angeles; the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Pumps Gallery, Vancouver. His work has also been seen in many group shows in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.
Here is his NYTimes Obit
Willoughby Sharp, Avant-Garde Artist and Performer, Dies at 72
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: December 30, 2008 New York Times
Even by conceptual-art standards, Willoughby Sharp’s work stood out. There was his gestational spin in a clothes dryer. There was the curious affair of the talcum powder, the teddy bear and the tab of LSD. And there was the Oklahoma Gun Incident, which members of the art world still discuss, with a mixture of horror and awe, more than 30 years later.
Mr. Sharp, the Ivy League-educated scion of one of New York’s most socially prominent families, who in the 1960s and afterward was on the cutting edge of the American avant-garde as a performer, producer, writer, publisher, curator, video artist and much else, died on Dec. 17 in Manhattan. He was 72 and lived in Brooklyn.
The cause was cancer, his wife, Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp, said.
A central figure in conceptual and performance art back when those forms were new and daring, Mr. Sharp was concerned with making art that was as much for the mind as it was for the eye. Along with artists like Chris Burden and Nam June Paik, Mr. Sharp helped expand the very idea of what constituted a work of art.
Mr. Sharp was also known as the publisher of Avalanche, a widely respected, handsomely produced art magazine he founded with the writer and filmmaker Liza Béar. Published for just 13 issues between 1970 and 1976, Avalanche featured in-depth interviews with many rising contemporary artists of the day, among them Mr. Burden, William Wegman and Joseph Beuys, the charismatic German artist of whom Mr. Sharp was an early champion.
As a curator, Mr. Sharp attracted international attention with “Earth Art,” a 1969 exhibition at Cornell University. Groundbreaking in every sense of the term, the exhibition featured site-specific installations — by Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke and others — that were hewn, molded or otherwise created from the land itself. Mr. Sharp also ran the Willoughby Sharp Gallery, on Spring Street in SoHo, from 1988 to 2004.
Mr. Sharp’s film and video works are in the collections of major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1976 he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale.
Willoughby Sharp was born in Manhattan on Jan. 23, 1936. His family appeared often in the society pages; as the announcement of Mr. Sharp’s first marriage in The New York Times pointed out in 1960, he was “a nephew of the dowager Lady Eliott of London and Redheugh, Scotland, widow of Sir Gilbert Eliott, tenth baronet of the Clan of Eliott.” Mr. Sharp’s mother, a former Ziegfeld Girl whose marriage to his father had caused a family scandal of no small dimension, was by all accounts a refreshing counterweight.
Mr. Sharp earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Brown University in 1957, followed by graduate work at the University of Paris, the University of Lausanne and Columbia University, where he was a student of the noted art historian Meyer Schapiro. He later taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York, the University of Rhode Island and elsewhere.
Mr. Sharp’s first marriage, to Renata Hengeler, ended in divorce, as did his second, to Shavon Martin. Besides his wife, Pamela, Mr. Sharp is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Saskia Sharp of Düsseldorf, Germany, and two grandchildren.
Much of Mr. Sharp’s art was rooted in autobiography. In “Saskia,” first performed in 1974, he mourned losing touch with his daughter, whom he was unable to see after his first marriage ended.
As the magazine Art in America recounted the work this year, Mr. Sharp “videotaped himself in front of a live audience as he attempted to recapture Saskia by re-enacting her birth — albeit with a difference. After shaving and covering his body in powder and perfume and dropping LSD, he crawled into a crib wearing only a diaper and, after much angst-ridden convulsing, ‘gave birth’ to the teddy bear he had stuffed between his legs.”
Another work, “Stay!,” Mr. Sharp’s account of a turbulent love affair, had its premiere in 1974 at the University of Oklahoma. As a camera rolled, he and a female student volunteer disported themselves passionately on a bed. Their every word and deed was transmitted by video to the audience, locked in the campus gym nearby.
Then, without warning, Mr. Sharp slapped his partner across the face. They struggled, and from beneath the mattress he pulled a pistol. At the precise moment the video feed went dead, he fired a single shot.
This did not play in Norman, Okla. The audience rushed the doors and poured from the gym. They found the young woman in an adjoining room, bewildered but unhurt.
And then there was the clothes dryer. In “Full Womb,” a 1975 work, Mr. Sharp climbed into an industrial dryer with a baby bottle, shut the door and tumbled while imagining his parents making love.
The 15-minute performance seemed to recapitulate his own gestation, only faster, warmer and with more static cling.