A Finding Aid to the Robert Kushner Papers, 1967-2011, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.kushrobe
Creators:
Kushner, Robert, 1949-
Dates:
1967-2011
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
4.6 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of the artist Robert Kushner measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1967 to 2011. The collection documents primarily the early career of Robert Kushner through performance videos and other media artworks, correspondence, notes, lab records, inventories, an exhibition proposal, and subject files regarding critic Amy Goldin.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of the artist Robert Kushner measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1967 to 2011. The collection documents primarily the early career of Robert Kushner through performance videos, other media artworks, correspondence, notes, lab records, inventories, an exhibition proposal, and subject files regarding critic Amy Goldin.
Performances and artworks comprise the bulk of the collection and include video recordings, sound recordings, and motion picture films documenting works by Robert Kushner created between circa 1967 and 1982. Most of the video footage documents live performances of Kushner's pageants and fashion shows that took place between 1972 and 1981, primarily in art spaces in the SOHO district of New York City. In addition to live performance documentation, videos and films include four moving image artworks, recorded music used in performances, and publicity including a television news magazine segment featuring Kushner and his edible costumes. Paper documentation of Kushner's video recordings includes correspondence, notes, lab records, performance programs, edit worksheets, and inventories of Kushner's performance videos. An exhibition file contains documentation of the development of a proposed exhibition from 1999-2000 entitled "Pret-a-porter: Robert Kushner, performance and fashion, 1970-1980."
Subject files compiled by Robert Kushner regarding critic Amy Goldin (1926-1978), Kushner's former teacher and close friend, contain mainly photocopies and a few original documents. Included are published and unpublished writings, letters to and from Goldin, photographs, and biographical material. A small amount of original primary sources related to Goldin are also found.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Collection is arranged in 3 series:
  • Series 1: Performances and Artwork, 1967-1988 (Boxes 1-4, FC 6-7; 3.7 linear feet)
  • Series 2: Video Documentation and Exhibition Proposal, 1988-2002 (Box 4; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Research Material on Amy Goldin, 1971-2011 (Boxes 4-5; 0.7 linear feet)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Robert Kushner (1949- ) is a New York, N.Y.-based painter of the Pattern and Decoration movement and an installation artist who began his career as a performance artist.
Kushner was born in Pasadena, California in 1949 and studied visual arts at the University of California at San Diego, La Jolla in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kushner met and worked closely with the critic Amy Goldin at UCSD, and his work was strongly influenced by her scholarship and thinking about non-Western visual cultures, particularly regarding Islamic decorative art.
Kushner began his work with fashion, costume, and performance in the early 1970s in New York City. He performed and exhibited in the many SOHO art spaces that emerged at that time supporting avant garde and experimental art, such as the 98 Greene Street Loft, the Kitchen, The Clocktower, St. Mark's Church, and Paula Cooper Gallery. The work evolved from the creation of soft sculptures using found materials, to the creation of costumes and fashion "lines" with nontraditional materials, including fresh food, which he presented in the performance genres of pageants and fashion shows, using models to exhibit his works before live audiences. In 1973, art dealer Holly Solomon became a champion of his work. He was a founding member of the Pattern and Decoration movement beginning in the mid-1970s, and his performance, costume, and paintings are strongly associated with that movement.
Kushner has exhibited his work widely, with major exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art. Kushner's work is included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the National Gallery of Art, among many others. He is represented in New York by the DC Moore Gallery.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
All of the sound recordings and moving image materials in the collection were digitized for preservation and research access in 2018 and are available in the Archives' Washington, D.C. and New York, N.Y. research centers.
Processing Information
The collection was processed to a preliminary level by Joy Weiner in 2014. Motion picture film was inspected and re-housed during a motion picture film preservation assessment project in 2016. All sound recordings and moving image material were digitized for preservation and access in 2018 with funding provided by Bridget Moore. The preservation of the video recordings used the original video reels and videocassettes as sources as much as possible, but in some cases duplicate tapes re-mastered from the originals in 1988 or 1999 were found to be in better condition than the original recordings. In such cases, duplicate tapes were used as sources for the new digital preservation masters. Legacy re-mastered tapes that were not used as sources for preservation were removed from the collection, leaving the digitized original recording as the authoritative archival record of the event. Paper documentation of the analog re-mastering projects is found in Series 2. Regardless of the source's generation, digital preservation and access copies now exist for all the unique content found among the original and duplicate tapes.
Author
Megan McShea
Sponsor
Funding for the preservation of the video and sound recordings and motion picture film digitization was provided by Bridget Moore.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated 2013 by Robert Kushner.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Preferred Citation
Robert Kushner papers, 1967-2011. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Performance artists -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pattern painting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
SoHo (New York, N.Y.) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Goldin, Amy Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
98 Green St. Loft Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kitchen, The Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Clocktower Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Paula Cooper Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Solomon, Holly Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/