One of the founders of Conceptual art, Douglas Huebler (1924 – 1997) was an artist whose works documented the everyday activities of ordinary people in ordinary places. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he served in the U.S. Marines during World War II and, after the war, studied at the Académie Julien in Paris and the Cleveland School of Art. He eventually earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. From the late 1950s on, Huebler taught at various schools including Miami University in Ohio, at Harvard, and at the California Institute of the Arts.
Huebler began his career in painting and drawing. His interest in Hard-Edge painting, or the art movement characterized by vibrantly colored abstract images, led him in the early 1960s to conceive of his paintings as three-dimensional objects. Influenced by Minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris, he experimented with sculptures made of Formica and wood. In the late 1960s, wanting to explore more substantial ideas and move beyond the notion that art must be embodied in a physical object, he began to make conceptual works. Many of these works were made in series known as Duration Pieces, Variable Pieces, and Location Pieces, which documented everyday life in text, images, maps, and photographs. One of Huebler’s most well-known works is Variable Piece #70 (1970 – 1997), in which he examined the limitations of photography as a documentary medium by attempting to document every living person through photographs.
As part of his conceptual work exploring the nature of documentation, Huebler made a handful of books. For example, Douglas Huebler: November 1968 (1968) is an exhibition in book form. Each of the sculptural works within it is documented through text, photos, maps, and drawings. Other books continued his series of Variable Pieces and Location Pieces. For example, Secrets: Variable Piece 4 (1977) transcribes secrets that were submitted to him by visitors to a 1970 exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York. In addition to these works, Huebler also contributed to the seminal Conceptual art book known popularly as the Xerox Book (1968), an iconic exhibition-as-book published by art dealer Seth Siegelaub and including photocopy-based work by seven conceptually-oriented artists: Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Huebler, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and Lawrence Weiner.
Huebler’s work has been featured in exhibitions in the United States and abroad. Retrospectives of his work have been held at Camden Arts Centre, London (2002), Musée d’Art Modern et Contemporain, Geneva (2006), and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2012).
Books by Douglas Huebler available from Boreas Fine Art:
Huebler, Douglas. Location Piece #2: New York City, Seattle, Washington. New York: Multiples, Inc. 1970.
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