Posts tagged Art History
FEMALE STUDY: JUDY CHICAGO'S MENSTRUATION BATHROOM
slide_womanhouse.jpg

I had known of Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party piece before I moved to Brooklyn, where the installation is now housed permanently at the Brooklyn Museum. But in a classic information age fashion, I had seen The Dinner Party at The Geffen Contemporary at The MOMA in Los Angeles during the WACK! exhibition in 2008 (an exhibition that in many ways influences this periodical regularly) and had read about how important The Dinner Party was, and had learned how flawed first wave feminists were college, so I decided Judy Chicago's work passé. I admit this is a bad habit, even if I can point to it being a combined result of too much information and progress within the feminist "movement."

For those who are unfamiliar, The Dinner Party is an homage to feminist pioneers in the form of a dinner table, shaped as an equilateral triangle to (symbolize equality). Each place setting has a motif that nods to the work of the female being honored with a placemat bearing their names. No two settings are alike, but each one is very intricate.

But the other night I found an installation by Judy Chicago that I had not seen before, and given that women are just starting to talk about their periods in everyday conversation, I thought I'd discuss Judy Chicago's Menstruation Bathroom.

Chicago (born Judith Cohen in 1939) created the first feminist art collective called Feminist Arts Program, or FAP, at Fresno State (CA) in 1971. A year later, they brought the program to the California Institute of Art outside of Los Angeles.

FAP's first piece was a collaborative installation, Womanhouse, was made by various female artists. The installation was a multi-media/performance art piece where each room in an abandoned mansion on Mariposa Street in Hollywood represented different living conditions of home-makers (which lest we forget, was still very much an occupation for women in 1971). Within Womanhouse, The dilapidated house was transformed by 23 women using construction tools for the first time in their lives. As the manifesto for the installation put it, Womanhouse became "the age-old female activity of homemaking... taken to fantasy proportions."

In Womanhouse Chicago created an otherwise sterile bathroom scene with the trashcan overflowing with bloody menstruation pads and a few bloody tampons, blood stains on the tile floor, blood-drenched pads neatly hanging from a clothesline, a heating pad hanging near the toilet, and the shelves covered with sanitary products for mensuration.

Menstruation_Bathroom_1995_reinstallation_1.jpg

Considering how little we discuss periods today, in 1971 this was a subject that was not discussed in public whatsoever, so the shock value, as well as the statement made by this work was immense. 

During the 1970s and through the 80s, women claimed blood as an artistic symbol of femininity and feminism but until this point no one had so overtly and visually discussed menstruation. And given the bloody nature of our cycles, I think a visual representation says a lot more than words can.

Today I can look on Instagram and see thousands of visual representations of menstrual blood, as well as nipples, pubic hair, vaginas, etc. But the timeliness and straightforwardness of Chicago's Menstruation Bathroom has a much greater impact. I'm trying to imagine what society's reaction might have been like in 1972 if photographs of this installation had the ability to be distributed at the rate in which photographs are today while maintaining the shock value of this being the first time something like this hit the public eye.

Now living in "fourth-wave feminism," (oh god, they say it's hashtag feminism) sometimes I look back at first wave feminists and think them silly, but it's because it's easy for a woman my age to forget how fucking oppressed my people were just 40 years ago. I think the use of blood as a symbol of femininity is still powerful because women are depicted as delicate and sweet, but it seemed so easy to me to use the female experience in one's work. I guess it feels naive, but that's because the first feminists were just working out the ideas that I now take for granted.

In the original essay that accompanied Womanhouse, I am struck by one key point:

[At the inception of Feminist Arts Program]...the women students had spent a lot of time talking about their problems as women before they began to do any work. We wondered if those same problems could be dealt with while working on a project.

Female art students often approach artmaking with a personality structure conditioned by an unwillingness to push themselves beyond their limits; a lack of familiarity with tools and artmaking processes; an inability to see themselves as working people; and a general lack of assertiveness and ambition. The aim of the Feminist Art Program is to help women restructure their personalities to be more consistent with their desires to be artists and to help them build their artmaking out of their experiences as women. Womanhouse seemed to offer the perfect context for this educational process.

What this excerpt suggests is that in general, women in 1971 didn't see themselves in the work field, let alone the art world. I have the hindsight to know celebrated figures like Anni Albers Georgia O'Keeffe, and Eva Hesse, but beyond them, it's hard for me to name off female artists who worked before the 1960s, and yet I'm still shocked to learn this perspective of women in the 70s. 

It doesn't take a scrutinizing genius to infer that Chicago's Menstruation Bathroom came out of frustration, (I just read that the average woman undergoes menstruation over 400 times in her lifetime, and while some females are somehow lucky and experience little issue in their cycles, not even a trans woman, when she experiences the ways in which women are treated as lesser or an object, can ever know the frustrations that female born women go through with their periods), but I can only imagine what kind of frustration women must have felt during this era where we were largely still asked to stay home. Rosy the Riveter got to work during WWII but she quietly went back to childrearing and homemaking "when the boys came home."

The early feminists commonly believed that a woman's body, specifically her vagina, was her source of greatness, which later feminists brushed off as erroneous biological or genetic essentialism. But I am seeing an uptick in modern gender essentialism with the hashtag feminists. Vagina cupcakes for international women's day! Free the nipple... (but then slut shame the shivering club girl in her tube dress, fake eyelashes and cheap stilettos). Today we are all about body positivity and the desexualization of the female body. In some ways, first wave feminists were trying to do the same things, but society hadn't been primed for the discussion. The first wavers hadn't cultivated the dialogue yet, so their ideas seem rudimentary. But out of all the "feminist" artwork I see out there on social media, I can't think of anyone who's rivaled the 'in-your-face-ness' of Judy Chicago's Menstruation Bathroom.

11431-842.jpg

Also, PS Judy Chicago made a piece called Red Flag as a parody of the Red Scare (of which her father was a victim of) in 1971 that was even more in your face.

 
chicago-red-flag-1971-photo-litho.jpg
 

Courtney Cady, © 2018



READ THE ENTIRE BLOG

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PERIODICAL


INSTALLATION STUDY: CLAES OLDENBURG'S CONSUMER GOODS
1947a6b00a5ddbc74d33fd81cbc16d2c.jpg

In elementary school I had the same art teacher from Kindergarden through the 5th grade. One year, she taught us about pop art. She told us to think of ordinary objects that we could make out of clay, so I made a glass 7 up bottle with a crack in it. (I decided since pop art was a movement from the 60s, I should do a vintage ordinary object. Plus my dad had a cool 7 up wooden crate and I wanted him to like my work, so it seemed linear at the time). The broken bottle was my favorite sculpture I ever made, but I was as terrible at glazing then as I am now, so it came out 'statue of liberty green,' leaving me slightly disappointed. This was one of my first lessons in how difficult it is to get something you see so vividly out of your head correctly.

Looking back at pop art is not always easy for me because a lot of what popularized it is really terrible in my opinion. And some of what pop artists did later in their careers (during the 90s especially) is unforgivable. But, growing up in Southern California, I've always had a thing for fake food displays, which were found at fast food restaurants like Foster's Freeze's. These little displays always seemed like accidental pop art to me.

 
o-1.jpg
 

In the vein of Foster's fake food displays, while poking around on pinterest recently, a friend of mine (Dorothy Hoover) posted a picture of Claes Oldenburg's The Store. I had never heard of Claes Oldenburg, but his work caught my eye, so naturally, I began researching.

The Store, 1961-1962 First Claes Oldenburg work to catch my eye

The Store, 1961-1962
First Claes Oldenburg work to catch my eye

Claes Oldenburg was born on January 28, 1929 in Stockholm. Son of a Swedish diplomat, Oldenburg spent his early years in New York until 1936, when his family moved to Chicago. In early adulthood, Oldenburg studied literature and art history at Yale between 1946 to 1950, and continued his education back home at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1956, Oldenburg moved to New York where he worked in the library of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. After three years of working in this enviroment, Oldenburg started to make figures, signs and sculptural objects out of papier-mâché, and everyday materials. This work led to his first exhibition, The Street in 1960-1.

 
 

The Street exhibited at the Judson Gallery (at the Judson Memorial Church, my favorite location for art in NY during the 60s and 70s). The exhibition showcased ordinary objects and everyday consumer goods made from cardboard, burlap, and newspaper that recreated scenes from street life in New York City.

Abstract Expressionists are credited for having introduced ordinary objects in their artwork beginning in the 1940s, but it wasn't until pop art hit New York that these ordinary objects were not only depicted, but they were also used as medium. During this time, Oldenburg fueled a movement that influenced other artists through the 1970s, opening up a variety of media as fair game.

The Store - First Gallery Exhibition at Green Gallery

The Store - First Gallery Exhibition at Green Gallery

In 1962, Oldenburg created my favorite exhibition, The Store, which was a comedic display of a somewhat distopic throwback to New York's Five and Dime stores where everything from mops and men's shirts, to canned foods and seasonal decor could be purchased. In a rented store front in the East Village, Oldenburg again used materials from everyday objects. 

Years after the exhibition, a compilation of Oldenberg's writings were published as Writing on the Side, including a 1961 diary entry where he discusses his concept behind The Store:

The Store, or My Store, or the Ray Gun Mfg. Co., located at 107 East 2nd St., NYC, is eighty feet long and is about ten feet wide. In the front half, it is my intention to create the environment of a store by painting and placing (hanging, projecting, lying) objects after the spirit and in the form of popular objects of merchandise, such as may be seen in store windows of the city, especially in the area where The Store is (Clinton St., for example, Delancey St., 14th St.).

This store will be constantly supplied with new objects, which I will create out of plaster and other materials in the rear half of the place. The objects will be for sale in The Store.

From the entries published in Writing on the Side, we learn that leading up to his creating The Store, he meticulously catalogued every sandwich, can of beer, box of cigarettes and brand of soap he purchased, as well as every cafe and restaurant he visited as a reference for his body of work. 

From here, Oldenberg continued to create and work with ordinary objects, making an ongoing series known as Soft Sculptures. These are some of the funniest pieces in my opinion, because with the help of his first wife, he sewed oversized everyday objects such as cake (which he hilariously calls Floor Cake), toilets, and household appliances. Considering the early 60’s was still feeling the affects of the 1950’s futuristic, perfect, automated, domestic ideologies, Oldenberg's almost grotesque, and very hand-made portrayal of these objects was a jab at the American Status Quo, and perhaps at the same time, an homage to what seemed like a dwindling way of American Life.

Around the same time that Oldenberg started making sculptures, he also participated in performance art at the Judson & then later at The Store. These performances made by pop artists were known as Happenings, and Oldenberg's particular theatre was called Ray Gun Theatre. The main idea behind pop art was to take art out of the 'white walled gallery' and 'off its pedestal;' an idea that had not yet become palatable to the everyday art lover. By turning the audience into "just another object" the performances were meant to express the frustrations artists had with the status of the art world at the time.

From the attention received between The Street, The Store, and Soft Sculptures, as well as his time working at the Judson, Oldenberg is now credited with helping create the Pop Art movement, which began in New York. But shortly after his first exhibitions, Oldenberg moved to Los Angeles in 1963, "because it was the most opposite thing to New York [he] could think of." (Funny because I left LA for NY for the exact same reason). 

 
image6-142FDDE28103F55A9CD.jpg
 

Once in LA, Oldenburg created a performance called AUT OBO DYS, a quintessentially Los Angeles performance done in a parking lot. After this work, Oldenburg shifted his focus to sketching and idealizing large-scale sculptural monuments in public spaces. In 1967 his first sculpture was afforded by New York city cultural adviser Sam Green. This was Oldenburg's first outdoor public monument known as Placid Civic Monument, which was a performance made behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a crew of gravediggers digging a 6'x 3' rectangular hole in the ground.

Oldenburg was met first with criticism and opposition, because his works he wanted to create were gigantic public sculptures of ordinary objects. But today, most of Oldenburg's recognizable work comes from this period and is displayed in public spaces throughout the United States.

To be honest, I appreciate his progression, but I LOOOOVE the 60’s work and just don't appreciate his later work as much. For this reason, I'm not posting any pictures here but you can find them very easily on the internet.

However, fast forward more than 50 years and Oldenburg's Store is showing up as a major influencer for in recent exhibitions, including a fake Bodega in NY's meatpacking district and at the Volta Fair in NY where clay/plaster mops, bottles of Tide detergent and an overturned studio stool covered in chewing gum directly recreate objects using Oldenburg's concepts behind The Store.

 
thirdrail_spring2014_07_coldenburg_akitnick-5.jpg
 

Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2017



READ THE ENTIRE BLOG

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PERIODICAL


FEMALE STUDY: MEREDITH MONK'S ORDINARY OBJECTS

I'm in design mode again, and this time I've been referencing performance artists working in the 1960s and 70s to help me shape the tone of my next collection.

Lately my main focus has been on Judson Dance Theatre, which was a repurposed church that housed a number of avant-garde dance and performance artists working between 1962-1964 in Greenwich Village, NYC. With the help of Choreographer Robert Dunn and composer John Cage, performers at the Judson Dance Theatre worked to re-envision modern dance by eliminating its compositional constraints to incorporate ordinary gestures, which effectively created what is now known as postmodern dance.

Among the artists working in the Judson Dance Theatre, Meredith Monk's early work with site-specific performance, and her postmodern approach to dance and music has really struck me. While pioneering an interdisciplinary approach to performance, Monk incorporated everyday movements and sounds in her work with a classic postmodern stance. However, Monk took her work beyond traditional postmodernism by combining her interdisciplinary approach with consideration for the venue her performances were held. This unique technique made for some very interesting work, especially while she was in her early experimental phases.

VIDEO: 16 MILLIMETER EARRINGS, 1966
(This video is unable to play on other sites, so click this link link to view)

16mm Earrings was one of Monk's first interdisciplinary pieces. The original performance was held at the Judson Church in 1966 which included sound loops that echoed in the theatre, and incorporated smells of formaldehyde and burning tires to provoke all of the senses of the viewers. The above video was a re-performance made in 1979 in effort to document the work. 

16mm Earrings was a sort of 'coming of age' work where Monk explored her sexuality, and began to form her own artistic identity outside of the influence of her postmodern predecessors at the Judson Dance Theatre. In an interview Monk explains her aim with the piece:

With the concept I had in 16mm Earrings I realized that anything in my life could be used as material: my hair, my body, my crossed eyes, anything about me physically or mentally. By reading [Wilhelm Reich’s 1940] The Function of Orgasm, I could objectify it. It wasn’t that I felt I was doing a confessional piece at all; it was just the opposite of someone like Karen Finley. It was taking anything of my being and making that a plastic material, like paint.

This distinctive interpretation of what 'ordinary objects' meant is what sets Monk's work apart from her contemporaries. Likewise, her willingness to reject minimalism in her theories and her aesthetic was a departure from her predecessors, making her work it's own niche of avant-garde.

After working with the Judson Theatre, Monk formed her own vocal ensemble. As Monk worked into the 1980s, her performance pieces pushed the limits of what she was accepting and rejecting from postmodernism even further, creating a number of bizarre, but provocative pieces. (I once read in an interview with David Lynch that in the 80s, the highest compliment one could give another person in regards to their art, was that it was "weird." Well Monk definitely wins the weird award for her work in the 1980s.)

The amazing strangeness I speak of can be seen here in Monk's Turtle Dreams(Monk doesn't allow her videos to be embedded on other sites, so please click this link to watch)

Turtle Dreams was recorded for television in 1983, and incorporated Monk's interpretation of postmodern movement, as well as her own music, which took multi layered vocals and minimal droning instrumental music to set the mood for the entire piece. I really love the gloves on the synth player, as well as the expressions on the performer's faces. It's hard for me to believe that this actually aired on television, it's just so strange. 

But what makes this piece important, to me, is that Monk uses sounds and lyrics that aren't generally considered 'musical' as one of the focal points of the piece. What might seem like uncommon sounds though, are actually basic noises that all humans make outside of speaking formal language. And the common, however non sequitur lyrics or words stand out as odd or unlyrical, despite their being used in everyday language.  This combination makes for an almost oxymoronic juxtaposition that the viewer is left to sort out on their own.

What also strikes me as significant about Turtle Dreams is that the performance was made with the camera in mind. This approach, which is known as dance for film, is a matured version of site-specific performance that is basically a side effect of the ubiquity of motion picutres at the time.

During the 1980s Monk also filmed two features, Ellis Island and Book of Days. Again using an interdisciplinary approach, Monk uses her personal sound and movement techniques, as well as a dance for film approach.

Excerpt from "Book of Days," 1988

Book of Days isn't easy to find in full length, but of the excerpts I've seen, it's my favorite of the two features Monk made because of her use of 1980s anachronisms in a "medieval" period piece. I also really like her application of dance for film. The movements go in and out of frame with intention, which is like a way of directly breaking the fourth wall, without the performers actually interacting with the audience. 

However bizarre Monk's work might seem, I find her to be extremely influential, any strangeness aside. All the Portland art school 'weirdos,' the non-burners in Oakland, and everyone at the Smell in LA and Weird in NY circa 2002-2010 can thank Monk for her ability to take the ordinary and obscure it. Without her contributions to postmodern art, pop culture of the late 1990s through the millennium wouldn't quite have the flavor it does. 


Courtney Cady ©Bagtazo 2015



MOVEMENT STUDY: 'DAS TRIADISCHES BALLETT,' OSKAR SCHLEMMER, AND THE BAUHAUS THEATER

In the early stages of design, I often study art history. This time around, I frequently looked to Bauhaus, a Modernist art movement that spawned from art schools in Germany, and eventually spread throughout Europe in the early 20th Century. My initial impression of Bauhaus was limited to architecture, typography, and design. And then I delved deeper, learning that the group's ethos combined art forms, similar to the American Arts and Crafts movement of the same era. This philosophy, which discarded academic traditions by giving equal weight to various arts, resulted in a multi-disciplinary corpus of work.

Most standard art history timelines omit mention of Bauhaus, and yet the group's work impacted society to such an extent that fonts developed by Bauhaus designers are still used today. Not to mention the returned interest in Bauhaus graphic and textile design, which is happening contemporarily. I also think that the current trend of calling oneself a “maker” indirectly adopts one of the core principles of Bauhaus, namely its attempt at uniting creativity and manufacturing. In melding these two components, Bauhaus was able to encompass various art forms, and so beyond architecture and graphic design, came textile and costume design, as well as dance, performance and theatre.

It is with the latter that I am most intrigued. Partly because many of the participating artists were female, but also because of the bizarre and beautiful nature of the work.

In 1922, Oskar Schlemmer, a professor in the Theatre of Bauhaus debuted Das Triadisches Ballett (The Triadic Ballet) in Stuttgart, Germany. Schlemmer used the human body as a medium, experimenting with pantomime and ballet with this performance, which toured Europe through the mid 1930s. By incorporating costumes that reduced the human figure to geometric, formalist shapes, Das Triadisches provided strange and humorous imagery via dance and dress. 

The Schlemmer Theatre Estate describes Das Triadisches Ballett choreography and color settings, stating that the origin of the title, "Triadic Ballet" derives from the division of the acts:

The first part, which takes place on a stage dressed in lemon yellow colors, is a comedic burlesque. The subject of the second part, on a stage dressed in pink, has a festival/ceremonial air. Finally, the third part is developed in a mystical/fantastical way before a totally black background. Three dancers, two men and a woman, perform twelve dances of alternating forms.

The costumes deliberately limit the participants’ freedom of movement due to the weight of the materials they are made from, their forms, and the masks worn. They are walking architectural structures that move in a comic fashion, playful, sharp, and clumsy across the entire stage. For his figurines, Oskar Schlemmer took advantage of the new technologies of the era, “the scientific apparatus of glass and metal, the artificial members that are used in surgery, the fantastic military and diving uniforms."

I often draw from military costume for inspiration, and so I am especially intrigued by Schlemmer's style in military design. It goes to show that artists can share influences with dissimilar results. I also really love working within certain restraints, like using a Polaroid camera instead of a digital, or in this case dancing in restrictive costumes. If dancers can perform a ballet without restriction, what happens when the artist places themself in a box? Schlemmer's approach in designing the costumes before the choreography explored just that.

In 1968 Das Triadische was reconstructed and performed in a thirty minute piece for German television by Margarete Hasting, Franz Schömbs and Georg Verden. The re-performance of this work was a major feat because it is said that about eight minutes of the original score by Paul Hindersmith remained at the time of reconstruction, and that if Schlemmer had made a more detailed record of the choreography, it no longer existed. Everything was pieced together from notes, mostly from the archive of Schlemmer's 1938 costume and design exhibition at MoMA. Thus the performance and the costumes may not be completely accurate, given these circumstances. It is unclear to me whether the costumes were reconstructed entirely at that time since a few of the original costumes remain in the archive, but there is record that some had to be remade from Schlemmer's drawings.

Regardless of whether the re-performance is entirely accurate, the work is incredible. It is funny to me that what was "modern" in the 1920s was just as modern in 1968, and remains modern today. Generally, what was once experimental later becomes the norm, though in this case the experimental elements of the work with regard to costume and movement remain.

Schlemmer's original work influenced the costumes in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), providing evidence that his designs were seen as futuristic from the start:

And in 1974, David Bowie appears as Ziggy Stardust wearing a costume designed by Kansai Yamamoto which closely resembles a costume from Das Triadisches

 
 

In both cases with Metropolis and Bowie's attire, the costumes are viewed as 'cutting edge,' despite being variations of Schlemmer's ballet costumes from the early 20th Century.

In 1977, Das Triadische was reproduced again, this time by German choreographer Gerhard Bohner. It looks like Bohner's version toured through the 80s because I found a funny review from 1985 in the New York Times on the piece, basically calling his version total shit.

Finally, in 2014 Das Triadische was performed yet again in Berlin, this time based on Gerhard Bohner's reconstruction. But since Bohner's work received such poor reviews, I'm not sure what resulted from the latest iteration.  

Being passed down in an almost folkloric way, Schlemmer's work has been preserved verbally and through imagery, leaving reperformances open to interpretation. While still relatively unknown, Das Triadisches has invariably influenced aesthetics, even at the end of the post-modern era. 


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo, 2015


READ THE ENTIRE BLOG

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PERIODICAL


MOVEMENT STUDY: MICHAEL CLARK AND ANTI-BALLET
MICHAEL CLARK & LEIGH BOWERY

MICHAEL CLARK & LEIGH BOWERY

Two years ago I was in pain to the point that I couldn't get out of bed. After numerous tests, I learned that the cause was due to an irreversible nerve issue in my brain. While searching for a remedy, I read that neuroscientists say with my condition, the brain responds well to movement, as long as the motions are not associated with pain or treatment for the pain. This made me realize that I could do ballet as therapy. I had danced for 17 years during childhood, but stopped in my 20s because I thought everyone was too square.

Since rekindling my interest in ballet, I've discovered choreographer, Michael Clark on the recommendation of a friend. Michael Clark's work is often referred to as "anti-ballet" or "post-punk ballet," which sounds like the best form of ballet I could think of.

In the 1980s Clark formed his own dance company after a brief stint with Ballet Rambert following his studies with the Royal Ballet School in London. Clark had danced since he was four years old, beginning with traditional Scottish dance in the town where he grew up. In the early days, his company performed with post-punk groups, The Fall (my fav), Wire, and Leibach. Their wardrobe was made by another of my favorites, Leigh Bowery, as well as designers Bodymap and Trojan, who later became known for their 'club kid' fashion in London and New York.

Among these, I find his work with The Fall and Leigh Bowery the most influential. In 1983, filmmaker Charles Atlas made a faux cinema verite film about Clark called Hail the New Puritan, in which some of Clark's best work was captured (in my opinion). The film is titled after The Fall's song "The New Puritan," and includes three dances to music by The Fall, with company members clad in Leigh Bowery costumes.

I think I love this work so much, in part because of the dances themselves, but also because of the conceptual art surrounding the movements. Clark remarks on this work in an interview saying, "It was easy provocation with costumes or props--like the middle finger, or costumes with bare asses, or dildos on stage. It was often about extraneous things, not necessarily about the dance. But back then these gestures were important, because ballet is so rigid." Beyond bringing a flexed foot to ballet, Clark's 'extraneous things' provoked timely statements regarding gender, 'normative behavior,' corporate advertising, and sexuality that went beyond a 'fuck you' to classical ballet.

Clark continued in this vein through the 90s, until he hit a wall and took a break for three years. (Leading up to this he had become a heroin addict, sort of on accident, as he had wanted to do a solo piece for The Velvet Underground's, Heroin, and thought it "disingenuous" to not do heroin during this process).

I find relief in knowing that someone so prolific had to stop to take a break, even if it was to kick heroin. That makes Michael Clark more human to me. People like to posture as if they're only their work, especially in creative industries, and I know from experience how difficult it is to put one's ambitions aside in order to take care of yourself. In this type of work, your creations consume you, and so to put this on hold, even for a good cause, is something like death.

In 2001, he resumed his work in choreography, returning with homages to Stravinsky, The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, The Stooges, and David Bowie.

Clark's last production came in 2013, and so I'm not sure what else he's working on, but I can't wait. I'm surprised that with how well-received his work is, he is not better known. Much of his productions are difficult to find on the internet, despite the media coverage he gets afterwards. However, there is a contemporary documentary on him that I highly recommend, as well as dozens of reviews on his various performances.

I think the best thing about being a designer, for me, is that I get to continuously study, and find out about new things as part of my process. Learning of someone whose work combines fashion, ballet, post punk, conceptual art, and performance art makes me giddy--the way I felt when I discovered these subjects independently of one another in my youth. Plus this growing knowledge of my creative predecessors will undoubtedly influence my work, which is what designing, to me, is all about.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo, 2015


READ THE ENTIRE BLOG

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PERIODICAL


FEMALE STUDY: ANA MENDIETA

Whenever I go into design mode, I think about gender bending and unisex or un-gendered fashion, which always takes me on a fun ride. While rifling through moodboards, I began studying the work of Ana Mendieta, the late artist whose work with the female body in the 70s and 80s forged the way for women in the contemporary art world.

Aside from a few images, I knew very little about Mendieta before my study, as I mostly encountered her work on tumblr. But Mendieta's story is actually quite compelling, and I now consider her a significant part of American art history.

Mendieta came to the US as a refugee from Cuba at age 14 with her sister. She lived in refugee camps her first few weeks in the US before being placed in foster care in Iowa, where she eventually went to art school before working in Mexico and New York City. At this time, identity was a big topic of discussion, and working with blood had become a medium exclusive to the feminist artist. Mendieta applied both mediums as a means to convey somewhat autobiographical performance works she called "earth-body" work.

Her early pieces made in Mexico, Silueta, included explorations with body art and land art, where the female body was used almost as a corpse that became part of the landscape.

Upon her return to the States, she produced, Chicken Piece, in reaction to the rape of a student at the University of Iowa, where she covered herself in feathers, using blood and a decapitated chicken.

Then in 1982 she performed works she called, Body Tracks, where she used her body as a stamp and blood as the ink

I really love how blood was used as a sign of femininity in her work.

But just as her reputation was growing momentum, Mendieta fell to her death in 1985. This topic is pretty controversial because it was during a drunken argument with her husband (artist, Carl Andre) and it is unclear how Mendieta fell out the window of their 33rd floor apartment. Some speculate that he pushed her out, but the court ruled after a three year trial that she accidentally fell out or perhaps jumped out because there was enough reasonable doubt that Andre didn't kill her.

Seven years after Mendieta's death in 1992, activists holding signs that read, "Where is Ana Mendieta?" blocked the entrance of the Gugenheim Museum's opening show as a means in part, to discuss her enigmatic death, but also to highlight the absence of female artists in high profile exhibitions. It is said that there were more than 500 women present, so I'm not sure why I can't find photos. (I guess mainstream media didn't cover it and people didn't have iphones. And also probably because the stuffy art assholes were bummed about it). But what remains as a legacy is included in a book released in 1999 called, Where is Ana Mendieta?: Identity, Performativity and Exile, by Jane Blocker.

I have yet to read Blocker's book, but as I said, I think Ana Mendieta is an important figure in American art history. Not just as a female, but also as a representative for immigrants exiled to the United States. She played a major role in performance in the 1970s and 80s, experimented with land art, brought blood to the white wall gallery setting and helped voice the feminist movement even after her death.

Bad. Ass.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo, 2015


READ THE ENTIRE BLOG

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PERIODICAL