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Carolee Schneemann finally getting her due


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Hilarie M. Sheets writes a great (though unfortunately titled) profile on Carolee Schneemann for the New York Times, and reading it I was struck that the legendary feminist performance artist’s upcoming solo exhibition at Museum der Moderne in Salzburg is her first major museum retrospective ever. Sheets writes about Schneeman’s influence on younger artists such as Matthew Barney, as well as her upcoming collaboration with the Artists Institute in New York. Read Sheets in partial below, in full via New York Times.

Carolee Schneemann’s influence, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, is widespread, and the artist documents this beautifully in a binder she has kept for 20 years called “Influence, Plagiarism, I Forgot.” It juxtaposes her work with images she comes across in art and pop culture, and last month it was all printed as a magazine by the Artist’s Institute in New York.

Ms. Schneemann is infamous for using her naked body to challenge boundaries in her groundbreaking interdisciplinary performances and films of the 1960s and 1970s, such as “Meat Joy” (1964).

The magazine’s side-by-side comparisons include a 1974 picture of Ms. Schneemann, drawing on surrounding walls while dangling naked in a harness, next to an image of the artist Matthew Barney suspended from ropes in his studio more than three decades later. Another pairing shows a photo of Lady Gaga wearing her meat dress next to a photo from “Meat Joy,” in which performers revel ecstatically with paint, raw chicken, fish and sausages. “Her range of visual connections is great,” said Jenny Jaskey, director of the institute, which dedicated its six-month season last year to exhibitions and events related to Ms. Schneemann. “It’s high, it’s low.”

The magazine’s publication comes on the heels of Ms. Schneemann’s first major museum retrospective, this year at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in Austria. (The show travels to Frankfurt in 2017.) And on view in New York is a two-part exhibition of Ms. Schneemann’s lesser-known works from the 1980s to the present, at P.P.O.W. and Galerie Lelong.

After decades without much institutional support or a strong market for her work, the tide is finally turning for Ms. Schneemann, 77, at a moment of growing interest in female artists of her generation. Last year the Museum of Modern Art acquired her 1962 painted construction with moving parts, “Four Fur Cutting Boards,” an environment she then activated with her nude body in the photographs “Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions for Camera” (1963). That series set an auction record for the artist of $185,000 at Christie’s last year, although her work has sold privately for up to $900,000.

“That was the first time I felt I could position my body as an extension of painting and sculpture,” Ms. Schneemann said recently of “Eye Body,” sitting in her 1750 stone house and studio near New Paltz, N.Y. “I was reacting against Pop Art, with its slick mechanistic polish of the female form, and against masculine eroticism, which I felt was prurient and suppressive to what our lived experience could bring forward.”

As an art student at Bard College in the late 1950s, she was suspended for painting herself with her legs open, while it was standard for female students to model naked for male peers. The essential question her work posed early on was, Can a naked woman be both image and image-maker?

Stuart Comer, MoMA’s chief curator of media and performance art, who steered the acquisition of “Four Fur Cutting Boards,” called the piece “a watershed moment” in Ms. Schneemann’s career and for the Happenings movement, for feminism, and for a shift in understanding the relationship of performance and painting. “To say that Carolee was a visionary is an understatement,” he said. “She is crucial to the way so many artists are working now.”

*Image of Carolee Schneemann’s “Meat Joy” via columbia.edu