(born 1971, Baltimore, Maryland; lives and works in New York, New York)
Clifford Owens is a photographer and performance artist who has worked in performance for over two decades. Also a writer and scholar, Owens has frequently advocated for the visibility and recognition of black performance artists. In his own work, which is influenced by the body-centered practices of performance artists in the 1960s, he often requires audiences to manipulate, move, dress, touch or otherwise engage directly with his body, resulting in actions that are defined by chance and spontaneity. In his solo exhibition Anthology, on view at MoMA PS1 in 2011, Owens presented his investigations into the history of black performance art. He invited black artists of multiple generations to submit instructional scores that he performed and documented for the exhibition.
Radical Presence presents both the original scores and the documentation of Owens’s performances of a few of these scores. For Anthology (William Pope.L), Owens invited a young African-American man to run through the hallways of MoMA PS1 and later marked his path with white tape. For Anthology (Senga Nengudi), he swept colored sand into piles with a broom, connecting to a broad task that most people have done before. Finally, for Anthology (Glenn Ligon), Owens re-performed existing performances or performance scores while annotating or narrating them, including David Hammons’s Pissed Off (1981), for which Hammons urinated on a Richard Serra sculpture.
Clifford Owens received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998 and his MFA from Mason Gross School of Visual Arts, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in 2000. He also participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2001 and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2004. His solo exhibitions include Clifford Owens: Anthology, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (2011); Perspectives 173: Clifford Owens, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2011); Clifford Owens, Hanes Art Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2009); Clifford Owens, On Stellar Rays, New York (2008). His performances include Photographs with an Audience, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2009), and On Stellar Rays, New York (2008); Four Scores by Benjamin Patterson, The Studio Museum in Harlem (2006); The Strangest of Theaters: Politics and Emotions, Roebling Hall, Brooklyn (2006); Studio Visits, Performa 05, The Studio Museum in Harlem (2005); Tell Me What to Do with Myself, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY (2005). Owens’s group exhibitions include Deliverance, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2012); 30 Seconds off an Inch, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2009); One Minute More, The Kitchen, New York (2009); Shaun El C. Leonardo and Clifford Owens, Momenta Art, New York (2008); Performa 05, New York (2005); Greater New York 2005, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY (2005); Influence, Anxiety, and Gratitude, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2003); and Freestyle, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001).