Michael Asher, Famed CalArts Professor and Conceptual Artist, Honored at Memorial Service

Michael Asher was an important member of both the contemporary art world and the CalArts community. When he passed away, he left an artistic legacy that will always be remembered. Here is my obituary and coverage of his formal memorial service that was published on the arts blog at www.laweekly.com. Rest in peace, Michael… and thank you.


“The mood was one of respect and reflection last Friday, Dec. 7, as hundreds of friends, colleagues, student and teachers gathered in the Main Gallery at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia to celebrate and remember the life of long-time beloved faculty member and widely regarded conceptual artist Michael Asher…

Asher, who passed away after a long illness on Oct. 15 at the age of 69, is often hailed as one of the most influential figures in the contemporary art world, particularly noted for his work in a genre known as institutional critique, involving artistic takes on the structures of the art world itself, such as museums and galleries.

But he was perhaps even more widely known for the exhaustive attention and critical consideration he gave to his students’ work. Within the framework of his famous Post-Studio Critique class, Asher would spend hours and hours discussing a single artwork, deconstructing and examining it from every possible angle. The class meetings, starting at 1:00 pm on Friday afternoons, were known to stretch past midnight (or even later) on a regular basis.

“The primary activity of the class is to enter into a fairly complete discussion of each student’s art production,” wrote Asher in a collection of writings straight-forwardly entitledWritings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979. The president of CalArts, Steven Lavine, told the crowd at the service of how art teachers he had recently met in China had asked him, in amazed disbelief, whether the stories about the iconic class were in fact true — he said he had assured them that they were. I myself was most fortunate to have attended the class several times as an undergraduate — but only on Michael’s gently-delivered but firm condition that I “not talk too much.” …”

CalArts has established a new scholarship in his name. For more information, please visit the University’s website. 


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