NYU Fales Library Acquires Works and Papers by Conceptual Artist Mary Ellen Carroll


NYU Fales Library has acquired five mixed media works and the personal papers of conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll.

Mary Ellen Carroll in a crane on a construction site surrounded by the wreckage of a demolished house.
​Conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll realizing her final performance, "Daringly Unbuilt" at prototype 180 on November 11, 2017. Photograph by Kenny Trice © 2017 Mary Ellen Carroll / MEC, studios

New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections today announced the acquisition of five mixed media works as well as the personal papers of conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll.  Carroll’s work will join that of fellow artists Robert Blanchon, Lucy Thane, David Wojnarowicz, and others whose papers are held in the Library’s Downtown Collection, documenting the collaborative, multidisciplinary, multimedia, and non-hierarchical work that characterized the downtown New York City arts scene of the 1970s through the 1990s.

Internationally known as a conceptual artist embracing non-traditional media and themes as well as political and social commentary, Carroll has attracted worldwide attention for her “prototype 180,” a project that began in 1999 and utilizes policy as an artistic medium. In 2010, Carroll executed the 180-degree revolution of a single-family home and surrounding land in the development of Sharpstown in Houston, Texas – a city known for its lack of land use policy, or no zoning – and culminated in a final performance and ‘unbuilding’ of the structure in “Daringly Unbuilt” on November 11, 2017. The five works acquired by Fales include “Hand of Fatima/Keep Me Modest,” “Eames 2 to 1,” “Free Throw,” and “Drinking from the Same Glass.” 

Carroll’s association with Fales originated through her partnership with the organization Visual AIDS – which preserves and honors the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement – and the work of her close friend and collaborator, photographer Robert Blanchon, who died in 1999 from AIDS related illnesses. Carroll was executor of the Blanchon estate and donated his papers and works to the Fales Library in 2008.

“It was love at first sight when I got to know Carroll's work,” said Marvin J. Taylor, director of the Fales Library.  “Her practice is based in extensive research and writing, making her a perfect fit for our holdings.  Her personal papers in particular document the development of the intellectual and aesthetic underpinnings of all her works."

The Downtown Collection includes the personal papers of artists, filmmakers, writers and performers; archives of art galleries, theater groups and art collectives; and collections relating to AIDS activism, music, and off-off Broadway theater. The Collection also includes a significant amount of printed, published materials either by or related to people associated with the Downtown scene, and its effect on wider social and cultural movements. For more information on how to access these materials, visit https://library.nyu.edu/locations/fales-library-special-collections/

About Fales Library and Special Collections:
The Fales Library, comprising more than 365,000 volumes, and over 12,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses The Fales Collection of British and American Literature, the Downtown Collection, and the Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection. The Fales Collection was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1974 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection is a vast and rapidly expanding collection of books and manuscripts documenting food and foodways with particular emphasis on New York City. Other strengths of the Fales Library include the Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll, the Robert Frost Library, the Kaplan and Rosenthal Collections of Judaica and Hebraica and the manuscript collections of Elizabeth Robins and Erich Maria Remarque. The Fales Library preserves manuscripts and original editions of books that are rare or important not only because of their texts, but also because of their value as artifacts.

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