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Press Release


OLIVER LARIC, Yuanmingyuan Columns, 2014.  Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin.

By Proxy is an exhibition of the instances when an idea needs more than just an artist to take form.

Marcel Duchamp called it "aesthetic osmosis", the process by which an artist, through an artwork, transfers responsibility and agency to a viewer. A viewer's position — where they're coming from — shaped the final meaning of many of Duchamp's works. His revolutionary idea gave viewers authority to complete the process he had started. His objects, "through the change from inert matter into a work of art", were evidence of the strength of this shared enterprise.

In the century since, production, outsourcing, interaction and appropriation have
become mainstream modes of artistic expression; the shared enterprise has become a
fragmented contract between the artist and other factors, not simply between the artist and the viewer. An artwork's form and meaning take shape outside the artist's hands in countless ways: in context, fabrication, tools, reproduction.

By Proxy is an exhibition in which technology, other artisans, context, chance and culture have a role in the making of the work. The exhibition takes an interest in the primacy of an idea, the possibilities of that idea as it moves through its making, and the resulting object. It pays tribute to the purity of good ideas and the inherent peculiarity and magic of every collaboration, with the proof in the pudding.

The exhibition will include artists incorporating work from the past century to the present day. Artists include Francis Alÿs, Alighiero Boetti, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Wade Guyton, Oliver Laric, Lee Mingwei, Sol LeWitt, Yoko Ono, Jon Rafman, Mariah Robertson, Siebren Versteeg, and Xu Zhen.

Press release

XU ZHEN, produced by MadeIn Company, Eternity-­Aphrodite of Knidos, Tang Dynasty Sitting Buddha, 2014


November 20 – January 31, 2015

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 20, 6 – 8 PM


James Cohan Gallery is pleased to present a group exhibition entitled By Proxy, opening on November 20th, 2014 and running through January 31st, 2015.


Marcel Duchamp called it "aesthetic osmosis," the process by which an artist transfers responsibility to a viewer, empowering them to complete the work out in the world. This idea, of art as shared enterprise, is the theme of this exhibition.  Here, the word proxy encompasses the tools and techniques that complete artworks away from the artist’s hand. This exhibition is concerned with those tools and techniques, the effects they can have, and the instances when an idea calls for more than just the artist to take form.


Production, outsourcing, interactivity and appropriation have become increasingly mainstream modes of artistic expression over the past 100 years. The shared enterprise, in which the artist somehow cedes responsibility for the final work, now takes many forms: from fabrication and machines to chance, games, relational practice and the increasingly fertile landscape of the internet. By Proxy includes Marcel Duchamp’s assisted readymade With Hidden Noise, a ball of string with an unknown object rattling inside it; embroidery works by Alighiero Boetti; three drawings from John Cage’s 1990 series River Rocks and Smoke, in which chance operations are performed by smoke settling in the fibers of the paper; Oliver Laric’s Yuanmingyuan Columns, a new work created with 3D scans of Chinese cultural artifacts ensconced in Bergen, Norway; Yoko Ono’s seminal chess set and war allegory Play it By Trust; and a work from Xu Zhen’s recent Eternity series, which juxtaposes the East and West by mounting headless replicas of key Hellenistic and Buddhist sculptures neck to neck.


The exhibition will incorporate work from the past century to the present day. Participating artists are Francis Alÿs, Alighiero Boetti, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Wade Guyton, Oliver Laric, Lee Mingwei, Sol LeWitt, Yoko Ono, Jon Rafman, Mariah Robertson, Siebren Versteeg and Xu Zhen.  A full color, 24-page brochure with an accompanying text will be available for free at the gallery.


For press inquiries, please contact Jane Cohan at or 212-714-9500.

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