About

The following biography appears on page 18 of the book California Video: Artists and Histories and is used here by permission:

Lamenting the loss of his car, Portapak, and perception of space and time, Alan Ackoff, in his video ballad called Cornceptual Art (1976), tells the story of a young artist whose luck changes after embracing a new, less-traditional definition of art. Sung in true country-and-western style, Ackoff's tune accompanies a close-up shot of the artist, blinking, snarling, and making faces for the camera. In another of his melodious pieces, Art Bar Blues (1976)—which chronicles a young man's fleeting romance and dreams of becoming an "Art Star"—the lone artist pensively gazes at his his own image, which is reflected in infinite regress on a television monitor. Ackoff's work seems thematically allied to the playful tradition of John Baldessari singing pop-song versions of Sol LeWitt's thirty-five declarative "Sentences on Conceptual Art." And it should come as no surprise that Ackoff studied with Baldessari as a student at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Although his encounters with video art primarily occurred as a student, Ackoff's short songs and video performances keenly reflect the ripples of late seventies conceptualist teachings, which challenged and amused young artists during this defining moment in art history.

As part of his expanding formal art education, Ackoff worked at the Long Beach Museum of Art as a video production intern. At the museum he edited, exhibited, socialized, and made music with other video artists, all the while questioning the limits and meanings of an art based in ideas rather than objects. He later continued to explore his musical talents and even toured with folk musician Ramblin' Jack Elliott (whom Ackoff considers to be a conceptualist performer in his own right). Today, Ackoff works as a photographer documenting personal moments and everyday beauty. And it seems Ackoff has finally settled on a definition of art that he likes: "Art is a moving target, meaning different things in different cultures at different times."

—Catherine Taft