Lee Lozano was an artist who didn’t want to be one more piece in the gear of art, who by her blood and guts came to choose what type of buyer were suitable to acquire her work; who decided where, how and when to exhibit; who fixed the moment of get to the top of her career and the term to finish it.
Stubborn and irreverent, in 1970 managed to show in the most prestigious museum of New York a project that had devised especially for this type of institution (Wave series). Thus imagined the announcement of her exhibition in the Artforum magazine: “Lee Lozano at the Whitney Museum”, Ten years at the service of the art world; a photo of me naked or screwing or 69, etc. Or shot of me smoking grass, and underneath an arrogant caption.
She took these notes in one of her Private Books (with public vocation), whose reading is essential to understand the meteoric career of this artist-torpedo: mathematical formulas and reflections on quantum physics (when preparing her paintings on electromagnetic waves for the Whitney) coexist with personal opinions (about sex, men, yin and yang…) and with the writing of radical self-imposed patterns of behavior, which were works in themselves (Language Pieces, 1969-71). Notebooks about life and art, inextricable for her.
Sex and drugs were part of her artistic experience, either by excess (Grass piece, May 1969, Wave series, 1970) or by abstinence (No-grass piece, May 1969). He conceived the paintings of waves to carry them out for fifty hours without interruption, and to guarantee her endurance capacity a good supply of marijuana was needed.
For Masturbation piece (April 1969) an arsenal of objects for masturbating is specified, organic (carrots) and inorganic (motorcycle pedal, light bulb …), fucking with men (real and imaginary), looking the genitals in a mirror while masturbating (to observe swelling, turgidity, color change … until the orgasmic vibration).
Behind these psychosomatic investigations, even the most deliberately obscene ones, one finds in one way or another her fascination with energy (bodily, sensory, communicational, cosmic …), about its use, waste or wear, which begins with her first drawings of perverse biomechanical fusions (toaster plugging into a groove-vagina, masturbatory vacuum cleaner…), DIY tools as phallocratic images (wrenchs, hammers…, virile power caricatured by making them flaccid or dysfunctional) accompanied by word plays that emphasize the machismo inherent in the language itself (“he gave her a good screwing”); continues with her paintings of screws, drills … oversized, threatening … that announce her subsequent course towards scientific abstraction, quantum energy …, paintings that in turn end up punching to find the fourth dimension and a way to escape herself , metaphorically speaking, through those cosmic holes.
For Lozano, the ideal work of art is that which leaves the matter and transforms the energy into communicational synergy, dynamic exchange of ideas and sensations, interpersonal enrichment. She tried to realize with Dialogue Piece, but the paradox is that at the same time she embarked on the path of silence through a series of “strikes” (boycott of women and General Strike Piece), forbidding herself to speak with other women and attending artistic events.
The boycott had a pre-established start and end date, because her intention was letting loose its relations with the feminist groups (that integrated Art Workers Colition) so later could be reaped better fruits. But in practice she probably to realized that the land was barren, so she didn’t find the moment to retake the dialogue, and it seems that she never spoke again to female counterparts, except for her mother.
And so she did with art world, which officially quit in 1972 (Dropout Piece). It was an exile consistent with what she had written in her notebooks: I will renounce the artist’s ego, the supreme test without which the battle of a human being could not become (September 1971); There can not be an artistic revolution separated from a scientific, political, educational revolution, a drug revolution, sexual or personal … I am only willing to participate in a total revolution that is both personal and public (April 1969).
Her sense of non-belonging (at a time when artists joined forces through unions and coalitions) had to be almost sacrilegious in the claiming environment in which she was immersed.
From her notes it appears that what Lee most dreaded was to make life an habit and transform habit in art. In just a decade she was spending creative phases, all of them radical, and when she perceived the danger of getting stuck, left the ring.
Maybe the I Ching, what she regularly asked for, told her the moment to jump. But in spite of participating in the hippie esoterism of her peers, her spirit was too punk before time.
Lee Lozano, Forzar la máquina
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
until 25 th september 2017