Bio Summary

Luis Camnitzer, 2018. Photo by Ross Collab.

Luis Camnitzer (b.1937) is a German-born Uruguayan artist and writer who moved to New York in 1964. He was at the vanguard of 1960s Conceptualism, working primarily in printmaking, sculpture, and installations. Camnitzer’s artwork explores subjects such as repression under systems of power, pedagogical norms, and the deconstruction of familiar frameworks. His humorous, biting, and often politically charged use of language as art medium has distinguished his practice for over four decades.

Biography

Luis Camnitzer (b.1937) is a German-born Uruguayan artist and writer who moved to New York in 1964. He was at the vanguard of 1960s Conceptualism, working primarily in printmaking, sculpture, and installations. Camnitzer’s artwork explores subjects such as repression under systems of power, pedagogical norms, and the deconstruction of familiar frameworks. His humorous, biting, and often politically charged use of language as art medium has distinguished his practice for over four decades.

In 1964, he co-founded The New York Graphic Workshop, along with fellow artists, Argentine Liliana Porter and Venezuelan José Guillermo Castillo (1941–1999). For six years until the end of the workshop in 1970, they examined the conceptual meaning behind printmaking, and sought to test and expand the definition of the medium. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Camnitzer developed a body of work that explored language as a primary medium, printing text on paper or walls, such as in his Dictionary etchings and room-size installation, Living Room (both 1969). As his interest in language unfolded, so did his aim to identify socio-political problems through his art. Camnitzer responded to the growing wave of Latin American military regimes taking root in the late 1960s, but his work also points to the dynamic political landscape of his adopted country, the United States.

During the 1970s, Camnitzer created a key body of work that blended both language and humor—producing a series of object-boxes that placed ordinary items within wood-framed glass boxes with text printed on brass plaques. In all cases, the printed sentences are also the works’ titles. In many ways, these boxes anticipate one of Camnitzer’s most important works, the Uruguayan Torture Series (1983–84). This photo-etching series epitomizes Camnitzer’s ability to question the social and political roles of an individual in society, while also examining a dimension of human psychology by pairing images and text to create new meaning.

Though Camnitzer never left New York, his practice remains intrinsically connected to his homeland and the whole of Latin America. This consistent dedication cements his place as a key figure in shaping debates around ideas of post-colonialism, Conceptualism, and pedagogy.

Camnitzer’s work has been shown at important institutions since the 1960s, including one-person exhibitions at El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile (2013); Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (2011); El Museo del Barrio, New York (1995); Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (1993); and List Visual Arts Center at M.I.T., Cambridge, MA (1991). Retrospectives of his work have been presented at Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx, New York (1991); Kunsthalle Kiel, Germany (2003); Daros Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, El Museo del Barrio, New York; and Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin, Bogota, Colombia (2010–13). The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid is planning a large-scale retrospective, Luis Camnitzer: Hospice of Failed Utopias, which will open later this year. His work has appeared in numerous group exhibitions, including HOME— So Different, So Appealing, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), CA, traveled to Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2017); I am you, you are too, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2017); Take Me (I’m Yours), The Jewish Museum, New York, NY (2016); Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2014); and Information, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1970). He has been featured in several international biennials, including the Bienal de la Habana, Cuba (1984, 1986, 1991, 2009); Pavilion of Uruguay, 43 Biennale di Venezia, Italy (1988); Whitney Biennial (2000); and Documenta 11 (2002).

Camnitzer’s work is in the permanent collections of countless institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Tate, London; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zurich. He was the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowships on two occasions, 1961 and 1982. A highly regarded critic and curator, Camnitzer is a frequent contributor to contemporary art magazines. He has authored the publications New Art of Cuba (University of Texas Press: 1994, 2003), Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (University of Texas Press: 2007), and Didáctica de la liberación: Arte conceptualista latinoamericano (Fundación Gilberto Álzate Avedaío, IDARTES: 2012). Since 1969, he has taught at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, and he continues to serve as professor emeritus there.

Public Collections

ARCO Corporation, New York, NY
Biblioteca Communale, Milan, Italy
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Cabinet of Drawings and Prints of the Uffizzi, Florence, Italy
Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba
Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME
Colección Patrica Phelps de Cisneros, Caracas, Venezuela/New York, NY
Daros-Latinaamerica, Zürich, Switzerland
Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Lorraine, France
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Library of Jerusalem, Israel
Malmö Stad, Sweden
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, León, Spain
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá, Colombia
Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo de Arte Moderno, Cartagena, Colombia
Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José, Costa Rica
Museo de Artes Plásticas, Montevideo, Uruguay
Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela
Museo de Gráfica y Dibujo Latinoamericano, Roldanillo, Colombia
El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY
Museo del Grabado, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain
Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, Montevideo, Uruguay
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile
Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico
Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidad de São Paulo, Brazil
Museum Lodz, Łódź, Poland
Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia
Museum of Contemporary Graphic Art, Fredrikstad, Norway
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum Wiesbaden, Germany
National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
The New York Public Library, New York, NY
Queens Museum, New York, NY
São Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Snite Museum, Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Yeshiva University, New York, NY

Time Lapse: Luis Camnitzer's "The Museum is a School" at Museo Jumex

Artist Profile: Luis Camnitzer on “Art Thinking” and Art History

Luis Camnitzer on Giovanni Battista Piranesi's etchings

Artist Profile: Luis Camnitzer on His Reasons for Making Art Guggenheim Museum

Artist Profile: Luis Camnitzer on His Reasons for Making Art Guggenheim Museum