Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eleanor Antin’s New Work

Eleanor Antin
is a conceptual artist, performance artist and educator. I took two courses with her during my graduate studies, and she was the most amazing teacher. I saw some of her work from the 1980s at Documenta in Germany last summer, but was underwhelmed—her nurses and ballerinas are shot in sepia tones, printed small. Polite.
Her new show, Historical Takes, is also rooted in the past, but is vibrant, raunchy and BIG. Huge photos, bright colors, garish make-up, lush scenes. In them she juxtaposes modern SoCal life with that of ancient Roman Pompeii, both civilizations on the brink of disaster. My “Winged Victory” even makes an appearance, on a eucalyptus secluded tennis court.
As with all her work, she’s telling stories, even commenting that these images are her “poor man’s cinema.” The photos are indeed productions; we understand and admire the scale, the amount of effort and time that went into making them. But they are also FUN and FUNNY.
The day I went, the museum was full of wide-eyed kids and old ladies saying, “How interesting.” I love that that there were no warning signs about how randy, sexy, and violent the stuff is. Humor softens it.
Antin still expresses strong feminist ideas about the male gaze, and who literally selects what is beautiful. She allows Helen of Troy to rewrite her history.
Interspersed in the galleries are videos showing Antin producting the work. They show how Eleanor just can’t get out of the picture, and thank God! She’s there, lumpy, short, laughing and cussing, adjusting hands and boobs of beautiful models. At one point she exposes an elderly man’s backside, lifting his toga a bit.
The only drawback for me was the wall text—it tells us too much. Otherwise, I say, get your beautiful tan body down to see this show!

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