Steve Kaltenbach is one of the most intriguing figures in conceptual art. Best known for his anonymous ads in Artforum that encouraged readers to “Build a Reputation” and “Perpetuate a Hoax” — and for his cryptic Time Capsules whose inscriptions mixed self-deprecating humor with egocentric boasts — Kaltenbach was among the figureheads of the New York avant-garde in the late ‘60s. He mixed Duchampian absurdism with text-based object making to lampoon practically every myth the art world was manufacturing and refining. From the inflated notions of celebrity that took hold in Warhol’s heyday to the superheated art valuations that recently fell to Earth, Kaltenbach skewered them all without sparing himself.
At the height of his renown in 1970, Kaltenbach disappeared from the scene after accepting a teaching position at Sac State. But as “Nuclear Projects and Other Works” powerfully attests, he hasn’t stopped innovating. In this four-decade survey, Kaltenbach showed that the strategies he employed then are equally valid now.