Lee Lozano


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American artist born as Leonore Knaster in Newark, New Jersey. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1957 to 1959. She took the name of her husband, an architect and designer, although they were divorced in 1960 at the time that she embarked on her career as an artist in New York. In the early 1960s she made explicit and violent drawings of mechanical sex, sometimes using visual puns (a spanner in jeans as a penis), sometimes using crude language. Other drawings and paintings deal with subjects like the plucking of eyebrows or the squeezing of zits. All the work, while hardly illusionistic, is vigorously modelled in three dimensions: at one point she said ‘I hate flatness’. The body and the machine come together again in what are probably Lozano's most attractive works, a series of paintings of the mid-1960s such as Clash (1965, University of North Carolina). With a facture described by Todd Alden as ‘industrial but never impersonal’ (documenta 12 catalogue) and using the colours of ferrous oxide, although apparently abstract, they relate to the earlier machine imagery and suggest gleaming curved surfaces interacting. At the time she was close to the Minimalist artists such as Robert Morris and Richard Serra and shared their preoccupation with the relation between material process and the body. In a notebook comment of 1968 she identified two concepts of paint. One was a ‘liquid state’, which she associated with ‘*Pollock and Lewis’ (presumably Morris Louis: Lozano's spelling was as idiosyncratic as her art); the other was ‘being matter in solid state. A painter who thinks of it this way is Lee Lozano whose bowels function magnificently’. She became disenchanted with the highly competitive world of the New York art scene and resolved to disengage with it. In 1971 she announced that, as an art work, she would refuse to talk to any woman for a month. Paradoxically this has been claimed as a feminist gesture, an exposure of where the real power lay. However, she took this further and not only gave up art, but completely disappeared for ten years. Today little is known of her later life. One of the last of her extensive written notes, which form her final art works, includes the sentence ‘I will be human first, artist second’. She died in Dallas in 1999, a forgotten figure, although her posthumous reputation is growing.

Further Reading

Kunsthalle, Vienna, Seek the Extremes: Lee Lozano (2006)

Subjects: Art.

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