b. 1948, United States

Adrian Piper Biography

Adrian Piper is a first-generation Conceptual artist and analytic philosopher. Since the 1960s, her work across mediums has drawn from her personal and professional experiences to consider the nature of subjectivity, agency, and identity in metaphysical, social, and political contexts. Inspired by her friend Sol LeWitt, the artist developed a conceptual framework for drawings and geometric sculpture before turning to performance, exploring its potential to challenge our understanding of social structures, gender, and race. In the series Mythic Being (1973–1975), for example, she publicly dons a mustache and Afro wig, adopting the signifiers of the stereotypical 'young Black man.' Her work often directly addresses the viewer: in the performance and video Funk Lessons (1982–1984), she teaches an audience of mostly white people how to dance to funk music. In Calling Card (1986–1990), business cards confront the reader's own biases; and in the video installation Cornered (1988), Piper calmy tells the viewer, 'I'm Black... Now, let's deal with this social fact, and the fact of my stating it, together.'

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Born in 1948 in New York City, Piper graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1969. She received a BA in Philosophy from the City College of New York (1974) and a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University (1981). In 1987 at Georgetown University, she became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy. Piper's artwork resides in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Generali Foundation, Vienna; and Tate, London, among many others. Her numerous honours include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1979, 1982), the Guggenheim Foundation (1989), and the Golden Lion Award at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). In 2018, her seventh traveling retrospective, Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions 1965–2016, was organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Since 2005, Piper has lived and worked in Berlin, where she runs the Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin (APRA).

Text courtesy Lévy Gorvy Dayan.

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