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Between September 1970 and March 1971, somebody from the Jean Freeman Gallery in New York placed half- and full-page advertisements in four leading American magazines—Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, and Arts—for seven solo and group exhibitions. The gritty subject matter and serial nature of the photographs promoting the shows indicated that the gallery specialized in Earthworks and Conceptual art. As it turns out, neither Jean Freeman nor the address of the space—listed as 26 West Fifty-Seventh Street, the heart of Manhattan’s gallery district—actually existed.
The fictional advertisements were concocted by the artist Terry Fugate-Wilcox, though over the past forty-five years his project has largely been forgotten. Is this because the Jean Freeman Gallery remains unrecognizable, even invisible, to someone flipping through back issues of old art magazines today? Or is it because Fugate-Wilcox is considered too marginal, too far off the Seth Siegelaub–Lucy R. Lippard axis that dominates thinking on art from this place and time? The answer to both questions is yes.
Although neglected by scholars and forgotten by the art world, Fugate-Wilcox had regularly exhibited his work in New York—he was represented by James Yu Gallery and Louis K. Meisel Gallery during the 1970s, staged a solo exhibition of sculpture at 112 Greene Street, and executed several public artworks into the 1980s. In addition, he and his wife operated their own exhibition space, Fvlcrvm Gallery, in SoHo throughout the 1990s.
No books have been written on Fugate-Wilcox or the Jean Freeman Gallery, and no substantial criticism has been published of his work, in either book or essay form, for several decades. No museum has organized a retrospective of his work, let alone included him in a group show addressing the art of the period. Fugate-Wilcox is not a cool artist, but a few things he did warrant closer attention.
A book-length essay (near completion) will contextualize Fugate-Wilcox’s project among better-known examples of similar and contemporaneous magazine-based work by Judy Chicago, Dan Graham, Stephen Kaltenbach, Robert Morris, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Smithson, among others.
More important, it will explore how photographic and textual documentation of ephemeral works of art not only changed received notions of criticism and approaches to magazine publishing, but also reshaped the visual landscape of gallery advertisements, which eventually become a significant part of the historical record. The Jean Freeman Gallery was conceived at a time when dealers and spaces showing the most avant-garde art—Virginia Dwan, Howard Wise, Paula Cooper, Bykert, and others—were also producing the most visually interesting promotional materials. And it’s no coincidence that art designed for the page was often identical to—or even replaced—what was hung on gallery walls.