Cure For Gloom: A Talk About Lee Lozano’s Early Paintings and Drawings
On the occasion of the exhibition ‘Lee Lozano’ at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, we joined Professor Melissa Rachleff, Barry Rosen and Jaap van Liere of The Estate of Lee Lozano, and Randy Kennedy, Director of Special Projects at Hauser & Wirth, for a discussion about the early years of Lee Lozano’s career, from emerging as an artist in Chicago to embedding herself within the New York art scene during the early 1960s.
‘Cure for gloom, crankiness, blues, etc: Have a disembodied paper airplane flying around all the time’
—Lee Lozano, 1968
About ‘Lee Lozano’ at Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Created in 1962–1963, the early paintings and drawings on view at Hauser & Wirth Somerset use airplanes as a central image and can be considered as examples of the artist’s passionate exploration of creative energy in its purist form. Iris Müller-Westermann writes about the series as ‘Metaphors for a kind of thought energy – for ideas circulating, being heard and taken in, processed, produced, and sent out again. One could regard these airplane pictures as investigations of the raw material necessary for every sort of creative activity. After all, everything starts with an idea, including art.’ Lozano’s works from the early 1960s are stylistically distinct, admired for their furious physicality, unapologetic confidence and urgent energy. They exploit the boundaries between body and machine, eroticism and aggression, to powerful effect.
This focused body of early work exposes a complex and deeply intimate inner life grappling with one-sided gender and societal dichotomies, while other works display a form of ferocious humour and playfulness, exploiting the rhetoric of exaggeration to its most cogent effect.
About Melissa Rachleff
Melissa Rachleff is a Clinical Professor in the Visual Arts Administration Program at NYU: Steinhardt, and in 2017 she curated Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965 for NYU Grey Art Gallery and wrote/edited the accompanying book, co-published by the Grey and Prestel Publishing. For the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, Melissa curated Narrative & Counternarrative: (Re)Defining the Sixties for NYU’s Bobst Library.
About Barry Rosen & Jaap van Liere
Since 1984 Barry Rosen and Jaap van Liere have worked with the legacy of Lee Lozano.
About Randy Kennedy
Randy Kennedy has been Hauser & Wirth’s Director of Special Projects and editor of Ursula magazine since 2018. He was a reporter at The New York Times for 23 years, more than half of those years writing about the art world.
About Lee Lozano
Lee Lozano is one of the most innovative artists to have worked in America during the 1960s. Throughout her entire oeuvre, which spans a little more than a decade, she produced ground-breaking work in a progression of styles, from the figurative and cartoonish pop-expressionism of her early paintings and drawings, through serial minimalism, to language-based conceptual pieces.
In February 1969 she commenced her ‘General Strike Piece’, in which she withdrew from the New York art world ‘to pursue investigations of total personal and public revolution’. This was followed by one further act of withdrawal, the decision to boycott all relations with other women. What began as a short-term experiment to improve communication with women resulted in a rejection of all members of her own gender – and, by the same token, of early forms of feminism – that lasted for the remainder of her life. However, the uncompromising and vigorous richness of Lozano’s creative output has had a profound impact on many contemporary artists that have followed, firmly placing her as a cult figure within the historical canon of American Art. She eventually settled in Dallas, Texas where she lived until her death in 1999. Her short lived but influential career remains a source of fascination, lauded by Lucy Lippard as the foremost female conceptual artist of her era in New York.