January 2012

Guest blogger and curator Katie Geha examines the radical life of artist Lee Lozano in her Blanton exhibition…

Lee Lozano

The painter and conceptual artist Lee Lozano loved puns: “As I’ve been saying for years,” she wrote in her memo pad. “The great puns are metaphor in its purest form.” A pun is a rhetorical device that exploits the flexibility of language, and whether it acts as a metaphor or as a mirror—as Lozano insinuates—it changes agreed-upon meaning through a process of deflection.

A pun reveals the mutability of words. Similarly, Lozano is an artist who constantly averts any one characterization. She was a prolific artist in the 1960s who hung out with artists such as Richard Serra and Yvonne Rainer and she influenced the work of her once-lover, Dan Graham, while declaring, “Give away all your ideas.” She showed conceptual work at Virginia Dwan’s groundbreaking Language III exhibition in 1969 and held a solo exhibition of paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970. Yet, just as she threw herself into her work, she threw herself out of it. “Seek the extremes, That’s where all the action is,” she is known for saying. Lozano left New York in 1973 and mostly stopped showing her art.

Lee Lozano, ReamThe four works by Lee Lozano in the Blanton Museum of Art’s collection display Lozano’s varied interests in art making from the 1960s until her departure from the art world. All the works share suggestive verb titles: Ream, Stroke, & General Strike Piece. Two are paintings, one is a study for a painting, and another is an art-life piece that exhibits Lozano’s practice in conceptual and performance art in the early 1970s. While Lozano the artist is difficult to discern, here too are works that deflect any one reading. If we were to take these four works as case studies, we would find a constantly moving network of ideas from paint to drawing to words as directives; a small collection of the best output by an artist who refused to be any one thing.

Images: Portrait of Lozano & her 1964 work, Ream