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Elson Lecture 2014: Allan McCollum

Allan McCollum, artist. Born in Los Angeles in 1944, Allan McCollum briefly considered a career in theater before attending trade school to study restaurant management and industrial kitchen work. In the late 1960s, he began to educate himself as an artist. Applying strategies of mass production to handmade objects, McCollum has spent nearly fifty years exploring how works of art achieve personal and public meaning in a world largely constituted within the manners of industrial production. McCollum has given attention to the “drama of quantities” in his pursuit of the dynamic relationship between work and viewer. His installations—large fields of related small-scale works, each usually unique and categorically arranged—are the products of various systems. By engaging a cast of assistants, scientists, and local craftspeople in his processes, McCollum has often embraced a collaborative and democratic artistic practice.  His approach to art cuts across its hierarchies—by medium, audience, context, and preconception. In honor of the National Gallery of Art’s acquisition of his Collection of Four Hundred and Eighty Plaster Surrogates (1982/1989) last year, McCollum presented the 21st annual Elson Lecture on March 27, 2014.