Oliver Herring is a visual artist known internationally for his use of experimental techniques as a means to better understand human nature, individual behavior, and interpersonal dynamics. His work has taken on a variety of forms, but since 2000 has focused primarily on brief yet intensive collaborative encounters with volunteer participants. Herring directs and documents these open-ended performances, usually involving a series of improvised actions, which take place in different environments – public and private, cultural and educational – and feature groups of people interacting with each another. The resulting works not only record these impromptu activities, but also reveal the poignancy implicit in humanity when strangers expose their vulnerabilities and embrace trust.
His first solo exhibition in 1993 at the New Museum in New York featured hand-knit Mylar and tape sculptures inspired by the death of playwright and drag performer Ethyl Eichelberger, work which he continued for a decade. Herring’s creative practice later evolved to include videos, performances, drawings, three-dimensional photographic sculptures, and TASK, a simple performance structure that manifests itself as an ongoing series of parties and workshops.
Over the last nineteen years TASK has become established as an educational tool in schools at all grade levels, as an access point to contemporary art, and a social icebreaker. Performed in hundreds of classrooms all over the world, TASK has also taken place in partnership with large cultural and educational institutions and organizations including the National Art Educators Association; Turnaround Arts, (an initiative of the President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities); the school district of Melbourne, Australia; and Art21. A book on TASK was published in 2009 by Illinois State University.
Herring’s work is in the collections of many major institutions, and has been exhibited widely nationally and internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, NY; the Whitney Museum of Art, NY; Performa 09, NY; the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; The Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA; the Blanton Art Museum, Austin, TX; and the Denver Art Museum, CO. Elsewhere, he has exhibited at the Camden Art Center, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Kyoto Art Center, Kyoto; He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen; A4 Art Museum, Chengdu; McAM, Shanghai; OCAT-Xian, Xian; Xth Lyon Biennale, Lyon; Performa 09, NY; Configura II, Erfurt; 2010 Aichi Triennale, Nagoya.
Me Us Them, a fifteen year survey of Herring's work, was organized in 2009 at the Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY. Herring was featured on Season 3 of PBS’s program Art21, Art in the 21st Century.
Oliver Herring's complete exhibition history