Fellow: Awarded 1979
Field of Study: Fine Arts
Competition: US & Canada
Vito Acconci is an American sculptor, poet, installation, and video artist who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Born in the Bronx in 1940, Mr. Acconci received a B.A. in literature from Holy Cross College and an M.F.A. from Iowa University. He began his early artistic career in the 1960s writing literature and poetry. He soon ventured beyond the written word into the exhibition space, using his own body as the focus of his art in his conceptual pieces. Mr. Acconci is well known for his innovative performances and installations involving transgressions of the traditional boundaries between artist and viewer, with an emphasis on the body as both subject and object. In an early performance-based work entitled Following Piece (1969), Mr. Acconci randomly chose passersby in the city street and followed them with a camera, for periods spanning from few minutes to a few hours, until they entered an enclosed space where he could no longer trail them. On other occasions he produced pieces in which he burned his own hair, waited blindfolded with a crowbar for gallery visitors, and, in a particularly controversial 1972 work entitled Seedbed, remained obscured on one level of the Sonnabend Gallery while reciting fantasies about its visitors through a loudspeaker.
Mr. Acconci’s later work includes spoken-word poetry sessions and gallery installations of sound, video, and architectural constructions. In the 1980s he became increasingly concerned with crossing divisions between public and private spaces and creating structures that facilitated interactions between visitors. His more recent pieces
include a number of installations in public places including parks and plazas,
constructed in cities from New York and San Francisco to Tokyo and Vienna.
Mr. Acconci has taught at the University of Iowa, the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, the School of Visual Arts in New York, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. He has participated in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Venice Biennale, and the Documenta exhibitions 5, 6, 7, and 10 in Kassel, Germany. Mr. Acconci’s honors include several fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sculpture Center Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Skowhegan Award. His work is included in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Tate Gallery in London.