Kunsthalle Basel

Lee Lozano

15 Jun - 27 Aug 2006

Lee Lozano
Opening: Wednesday 14 June 2006, 7pm

Lee Lozano (1930-1999) is one of the lesser known most fascinating artists of the New York art scene in the 1960s and 1970s, whose work has been drawing considerable attention in recent years.

Having studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, Lozano went to New York in the early 1960s. She began her art career with figurative paintings and cartoon-like drawings in which she rendered various tools as sexualised hybrids, even accompanying some of them with obscene and witty texts. In these ‘Tool Paintings’ Lozano satirically linked the functional and handicraft features of the tools with themes such as voyeurism, sexuality, religion and violence. In her paintings of the mid-1960s Lozano engaged intensely with minimalist and abstract forms, which she consistently developed out of the tool motifs. Her manipulation of the paint on the picture surfaces produced shimmering light effects and often imbued the minimalist compositions with an illusionist quality. These works finally lead to the large format ‘Wave Series’ paintings on which she worked between 1967 and 1970. These 11 conceptual paintings were each produced in a single performative act of painting. The number and formation of the waves on the picture surface adhered to mathematical formulae, which the artist herself developed. Lozano also designed a specific exhibition situation for her ”Wave Series”: propped up against the wall in a black room, they were to be lit in such a way that their colour and materiality would be perceived in a particular way by the viewer.

Lee Lozano accompanied and documented her paintings with sketches and diary entries and made notes of her ideas. These notes contain the point of departure for the later ‘Language Pieces’ which she produced in the mid-1960s. In these text-works, biography and work, life and art can no longer be separated: they included instructions for the artist herself — how much hashish she should smoke a day (as much as possible) or what to do with printed announcements she received from galleries (let them pile up in the studio or throw them out the window) — and were also partly documentations of an intimate self-analysis. Other conceptual works were the records she kept on the long-term project ‘Dialogue Piece’. Lozano invited guests, including artist-friends Robert Morris, Dan Graham and Robert Smithson, to her studio for a discussion on some unspecified topic — the dialogue itself was to become the artwork. In a statement made in 1969 in connection with her participation in the Art Workers Coalition in New York Lozano formulated, ‘I will not call myself an art worker but an art dreamer and I will participate only in a total revolution simultaneously personal and public.’ Lozano thus expressed a political expectation of art: it should not just be on show in museums, galleries or magazines, but should serve above all as a vehicle for promoting private and public communication. Text pieces like ‘Throwing Up Piece’, 1969 in which Lozano gives gives to herself the instruction to throw 12 of the most recent issues of the art magazine Artforum up in the air in her studio, document the artist’s increasing sense of disillusion with the commercialised art world in the late 1960s. With her last work, ‘Drop Out Piece’ (1969-79), Lozano began to slowly retreat from the New York art scene, breaking off all contacts with galleries, critics and other artists. Finally, she decided never to speak to women again — a radical statement which constituted a critique both of the art and the social system. In 1971, Lozano moved to Dallas, Texas, where she died in 1999 without ever having returned to the art world.

The Kunsthalle Basel will show the first ever comprehensive solo exhibition of works by Lee Lozano in Europe. The exhibits will be distributed throughout the museum and include works from the various periods in her artistic career. In addition to the less known figurative paintings and drawings from the early 1960s, among others the conceptual text-works and her work sketches of the later 1960s as well as her complete ‘Wave Series’ will be on show.

© Lee Lozano, 'Peel' (Diptych), 1964 (Oil on canvas, 300 x 165cm)
Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Mr. Robert C. Scull, 1981

Tags: Dan Graham, Lee Lozano, Robert Morris