Marguro Sushi Cup, 1978
Peach With Tamago Slice, 1977
Ceramics by Peter Shire
During the summer of 1995, posters appeared on walls around Vienna with collages depicting different women followed by a name, the word ‘Bless’ and a telephone number. Those who called were disappointed. It was neither a phone sex line nor an artistic operation, but rather an image for a unique product: an almost entirely transparent sun top that nonetheless covers up the most important bits.”
via Coton Blanc
Marguro Sushi Cup, 1978
Peach With Tamago Slice, 1977
Ceramics by Peter Shire
The short skirt
The short skirt is the item of clothing which threatens to disappear. When women entered automobile racing, at the turn of the century, the great question was what to do with the problem of the wind and the exposure which it might induce. At that time cars weren’t enclosed, and the problem was therefore pressing inasmuch as it was inconceivable that women, even when risking their lives in a quite macho sort of way, would wear anything other than skirts. The answer was to nail the skirt to the car’s baseboard. One pauses to wonder what happened when accidents took place; it is a celebration of principle reminiscent of the British refusal to issue parachutes to their fighter pilots in the First World War, it being argued that the sight of officers bailing out (only officers flew) would be bad for the morale of the common soldier.
As a sign, the short skirt announces an era of disclosure as opposed to an epoch governed by the principle of implication and promise. Both conditions are of course simulations, one can’t talk of anything really happening where fashion is concerned—like the prognostications of the Left, fashion offers a condition which could be, or which one would like to exist: what is is always vaguer, slower to move or change or reveal itself, precisely not sensitive to History as the sign (or historical discourse rather than History itself) may be.
Nonetheless, it is signs which govern the world rather than the reverse, and as a sign for disclosure and mobility the short skirt imposes another gait on women. The gliding motion beloved of the 19th century, a relatively stately era of giant machines moving smoothly on rails while being powered by steam, whose culminatory expression is the dirigible rather than the airplane, is replaced, in the 1920s, by quite another kind of walk. An unstately motion performed by a figure whose legs are constricted at the knees (or just above) while being elevated by high heels—exposure is accompanied by exaggeration. The statue gives way to the marionette, the liquidity of gliding on feet which are concealed to the fluid sauntering of a body which must lean back in order to stay poised.
From the beginning the short skirt is an attack on the fetishism beloved by the Victorians, and by their spiritual descendants in the ’50s, and, currently, on the so-called Left, where one finds another version of that desire to remain in the 19th century which characterizes the Right. (The Right wears cowboy shirts and names its propaganda institute the Heritage Foundation; the Left clings to the phobias of Marx and Freud.) Its anti-fetishist character is demonstrated by the short skirt’s being, from the start, a garment which lowers the waist-line from the waist to the crotch—erasing fetishism’s dependence on contiguity and replacing it with the principle of straightforward juxtaposition. Once abbreviated, the skirt becomes capable of doing no more than concentrating attention on the upper thighs and on either, but not both, the hips or the waist. It announces the end of displacement and celebrates the irrelevance of exposure. In the 19th century fear of exposure, victory through exposure, provided the body with its prison, its security, its identity as a mystery. The 20th century proposes instead that the mystery is found not in concealment but in exposure. However much is exposed, however clearly one makes the case that there is nothing to expose, the power of the object of desire remains constant. It is a horrifying threat to the capitalist spirit (of which the Left is merely the underside) in that this constancy demonstrates that the object of desire cannot be bought, but only surrounded by, possibly buried by, buying.
The removal of the fetish occurs as a symbolic act, which plays with the symbol in order to simulate independence from it. In such a system power over the fetish rather than fascination with the object fetishized is both taken for granted as a goal, and persistently thrown into question in a “new” way. Actual power over the object being inconceivable—as inconceivable—as inconceivable, indeed, as actually knowing what it was that the object represented—its signification could no longer be involved with revealing anything about that for which it serves as a sign. The fashion photograph’s capacity to be any kind of photograph we want it to be permits it to constantly destabilize not its content, which is surely more constant than that of almost any other genre of cultural production, but the Subject which it both proposes and denies.
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Maison Martin Margiela Semi-Couture, F/W 1997
Lee Lozano (1930–1999)
BY the time Lee Lozano died in 1999, her last high-profile artwork could fairly be judged a success. “Drop Out Piece,” begun in 1970, had consisted of removing herself from the New York art world, of which she was a highly visible member, and eventually disappearing altogether from the public eye. Her choice of burial, in an unmarked grave outside Dallas, was arguably the work’s final flourish.
Around the same time, though, Lozano’s artistic reputation, which had faded into the same obscurity as the artist herself, was beginning to revive. After a show of her late-’60s “Wave” paintings at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford in 1998 there were several surveys in the United States; a traveling exhibition organized by the Kunsthalle in Basel, Switzerland, in 2006; and a retrospective at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden, last year.
A few of her paintings and drawings are on view (in spite of Lozano’s notoriously dismissive attitude toward other women) in “Seductive Subversion,” the Brooklyn Museum’s show about female Pop artists that runs through Sunday. And on Wednesday an exhibition of her drawings and paintings of weirdly distorted tools, from 1963 and ’64, opens at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York.
Lozano has become something of a cult figure, her works on canvas and paper celebrated for their urgent, angry energy, which seems to have culminated in later, increasingly radical conceptual “pieces” like “Drop Out.” In the view of some experts her ultimate rejection of the art world may have much to do with the renewed interest in her work.
“In an art world which, for many, is dominated by the logic of art fairs and billionaire collectors,” said Helen Molesworth, a curator who featured Lozano in a show at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University in 2008, “the fantasy of walking away from it all is a powerful one.”
And it’s hard, in retrospect, not to see pieces like the roughly two dozen drawings and large paintings in the Hauser & Wirth show — close-cropped, menacing depictions of a three-headed hammer, a stubby-handled ax and other deformed hardware — as early expressions of the defiance that came to define Lozano and ultimately pushed her, some believe, beyond the boundary of sanity.
“Robert Rauschenberg used to talk about the space between art and life,” said Alanna Heiss, who knew Lozano and was a curator of a 2004 exhibition, “Lee Lozano: Drawn From Life, 1961-1971” at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, in Long Island City, Queens. “Lee was cruelly caught in the space between art and madness.”
Lozano, born in 1930 into a staid, middle-class household in Newark as Lenore Knaster, began her career conventionally enough, with a B.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago after getting her bachelor’s in liberal studies from the University of Chicago in 1951. In her mid-20s she worked laying out ads for the Container Corporation of America, and met and married Adrian Lozano, an architect.
After the couple separated in 1960, she moved to New York, where she looked up Richard Bellamy, an acquaintance from Chicago who had just founded the Green Gallery, which would propel the careers of artists like Robert Morris, Donald Judd and Claes Oldenburg. Lozano quickly became immersed in the downtown Manhattan art scene.
“She was brought up with pearls and twin sweater sets, so I identified with her,” said Dorothy Lichtenstein who, before marrying the legendary pop artist Roy, worked at the Bianchini Gallery on 57th Street, where Lozano had her first Manhattan solo show in 1966. But Lozano was in the course of changing her style, preferring men’s white shirts and black leather jackets. “Lee was punk before punk,” Ms. Lichtenstein said.
From the start Lozano’s art was wild. After her classical training at the Art Institute she began producing paintings that mixed the frenetic brushwork of many Abstract Expressionists with cartoonish, sexually freighted imagery. Many peers, including Hollis Frampton, Sol Lewitt and Carl Andre, were drawn to both her work and her personality.
“Lee was brilliant as an artist and a person,” Mr. Andre recalled in a recent e-mail, “and utterly unique as both.”
In 1963 she began her large-scale tool paintings, which were exhibited at the Green Gallery a year later with works by Judd, Dan Flavinand Mark di Suvero. Although more restrained than her earlier work these paintings still felt oddly provocative and aggressive in the company of the minimalist works around them. Mr. Andre said he was particularly struck by their “powerful phallocentric content.”
By the late ’60s her own work had become more Minimalist, in the form of her “Wave” paintings, each of which was an undulating representation of an electromagnetic wave composed of multiple tiny rills of paint painstakingly applied with steel combs and stiff wire brushes in a single session so they would not dry out. It was as if the emotional intensity of her artworks — at least the physical ones — had shifted from the content they depicted to the way they were produced.
They were recorded on a surface “striated like a phonograph, but much coarser,” said the artist Stephen Kaltenbach, a frequent visitor to Lozano’s Grand Street studio. The series of 11 paintings — each one more complicated than the previous one — was completed when Lozano could no longer physically endure even one more striation, he said, adding that her final painting session involved three straight days of the grueling work.
The “Wave” paintings were featured in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970, then a notable distinction for a female artist. But Lozano’s appreciation of this achievement was largely undercut by her increasing disenchantment with what she saw as the hypocrisy and careerism of the art world. In a journal entry from May 1968 she wrote, “Artist, critic, dealer and museum friends, in fact, almost everybody: I still smell on your bad breath the other people’s rules you swallowed whole so long ago.”
Meanwhile she also was starting to practice a different kind of art: conceptual pieces turning on self-prescribed tasks, sometimes witnessed by no one but herself and often involving her accelerating drug use. In April 1969 she planned a series of identically sized paintings, never realized, that she would execute first high on a drug, then drunk and finally sober. (“Since I’m usually stoned or half-stoned when I paint,” she wrote in a notebook at the time, “the drug for this painting would have to be stronger or harder than grass or hash.”)
The same year, according to Mr. Kaltenbach, she embarked on a work requiring her to drop 30 hits of acid in 30 days. After this endeavor, her friends agreed, Lozano was a changed person.
“Sometimes I felt I was talking to whatever drug she had just taken,” Mr. Andre said.
Lozano’s use and abuse of her body in conceptual pieces was not unique in that era; in 1971, in the name of art, Vito Acconcimasturbated under the floorboards of a commercial gallery, and Chris Burden convinced a friend to shoot him in the arm. But many began to feel that she had passed a point of no return.
The artist John Torreano, a friend of Lozano’s, recalled a holiday party at the end of that year when, dismayed by the evening’s bourgeois atmosphere, she shouted, “I’m so bored!” and smashed a plate on a table, then threatened to cut her wrist with a shard. “She had gone over the top,” Mr. Torreano said.
Yet, according to Mr. Kaltenbach, when Lozano mentioned the incident to him afterward, she insisted her outburst was simply another artwork.
In August 1971, enraged by what she saw as the self-defeating isolationism of feminists in a leftist art group she had joined, Lozano scribbled in her notebook, “Decide to boycott women.” The piece that resulted, which began with a simple gesture — tossing a letter from the feminist critic and curator Lucy Lippard onto a stack of unanswered mail — eventually escalated to the point that Lozano refused to greet or take phone calls from female acquaintances and insisted on having (male) guards at her shows, from which she tried to deny women access, Ms. Heiss said.
“Lee wanted to be a bad boy very much,” Ms. Heiss said. “Then she got irritated because she always a girl in the end.”
Ms. Heiss recalls seeing “scraps of paper, stretcher bars, and then a painting” tumbling down onto the sidewalk as she was walking down a SoHo street years ago. Ms. Heiss looked up, and “there was Lee, throwing things.” she said.
Wondering if the attack was personal, Ms. Heiss recalled “holding up a scrap of something, and saying, ‘Hey Lee what are you doing?’ ”
Ms. Heiss said Ms. Lozano replied: “Get away from me! I wasn’t throwing anything at you. I wouldn’t take the time or trouble.”
Having briefly considered a return to the site to search for anything worth keeping, Ms. Heiss said, “it occurred to me that I could be discovered and — who knows? — killed.”
After all, she said: “Lee was such a great artist. But she was also a pretty dangerous person.”
Zoe Crosher’s photographs of all the hotels surrounding the Los Angeles International Airport.
Bolero style waistcoat in painted and quilted fabric depicting frolicking woodsmen and peasant women. Owned by Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas. Part of the Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas Archives at Yale’s Beinecke Library
If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement.
So scientists report after studying a phenomenon they call enclothed cognition: the effects of clothing on cognitive processes.
It is not enough to see a doctor’s coat hanging in your doorway, said Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who led the study. The effect occurs only if you actually wear the coat and know its symbolic meaning — that physicians tend to be careful, rigorous and good at paying attention.
The findings, on the Web site of The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, are a twist on a growing scientific field called embodied cognition. We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, Dr. Galinsky said, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear.
“I love the idea of trying to figure out why, when we put on certain clothes, we might more readily take on a role and how that might affect our basic abilities,” said Joshua I. Davis, an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College and expert on embodied cognition who was not involved with the study. This study does not fully explain how this comes about, he said, but it does suggest that it will be worth exploring various ideas.
There is a huge body of work on embodied cognition, Dr. Galinsky said. The experience of washing your hands is associated with moral purity and ethical judgments. People rate others personally warmer if they hold a hot drink in their hand, and colder if they hold an iced drink. If you carry a heavy clipboard, you will feel more important.
It has long been known that “clothing affects how other people perceive us as well as how we think about ourselves,” Dr. Galinsky said. Other experiments have shown that women who dress in a masculine fashion during a job interview are more likely to be hired, and a teaching assistant who wears formal clothes is perceived as more intelligent than one who dresses more casually.
But the deeper question, the researchers said, is whether the clothing you wear affects your psychological processes. Does your outfit alter how you approach and interact with the world? So Dr. Galinsky and his colleague Hajo Adam conducted three experiments in which the clothes did not vary but their symbolic meaning was manipulated.
In the first, 58 undergraduates were randomly assigned to wear a white lab coat or street clothes. Then they were given a test for selective attention based on their ability to notice incongruities, as when the word “red” appears in the color green. Those who wore the white lab coats made about half as many errors on incongruent trials as those who wore regular clothes.
In the second experiment, 74 students were randomly assigned to one of three options: wearing a doctor’s coat, wearing a painter’s coat or seeing a doctor’s coat. Then they were given a test for sustained attention. They had to look at two very similar pictures side by side on a screen and spot four minor differences, writing them down as quickly as possible.
Those who wore the doctor’s coat, which was identical to the painter’s coat, found more differences. They had acquired heightened attention. Those who wore the painter’s coat or were primed with merely seeing the doctor’s coat found fewer differences between the images.
The third experiment explored this priming effect more thoroughly. Does simply seeing a physical item, like the coat, affect behavior? Students either wore a doctor’s coat or a painter’s coat, or were told to notice a doctor’s lab coat displayed on the desk in front of them for a long period of time. All three groups wrote essays about their thoughts on the coats. Then they were tested for sustained attention.
Again, the group that wore the doctor’s coat showed the greatest improvement in attention. You have to wear the coat, see it on your body and feel it on your skin for it to influence your psychological processes, Dr. Galinsky said.
Clothes invade the body and brain, putting the wearer into a different psychological state, he said. He described his own experience from last Halloween (or maybe it should be called National Enclothed Cognition Day).
He had decided to dress as a pimp, with a fedora, long coat and cane. “When I entered the room, I glided in,” he said. “I felt a very different presence.”
But what happens, he mused, if you wear pimp clothes every day? Or a priest’s robes? Or a police officer’s uniform? Do you become habituated so that cognitive changes do not occur? Do the effects wear off?
More studies are needed, he said.
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Painting by Suzanne Duchamp, 1924