Lee Lozano, or whatever name she was going by at the time.
  • Hauser + Wirth
  • Lee Lozano, or whatever name she was going by at the time.
Yesterday I got an email from artist Jamey Braden with the subject line: "do you know about this lady?" The lady Braden was referring to is Lee Lozano, the famous artist buried in an unmarked grave in Dallas.

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This is the same artist who did not speak to women for 28 years. The same one who dropped out of the art world at the height of her fame, at first refusing to attend events and then eventually wandering so far out of its orbit that even her dealers, who continued selling her works, can't account for years of her life at a time.

This is the artist whose biography threatens to overtake her art. She terrorized her parents; her elderly father had to issue a restraining order against her just shortly before he died.

Lozanos paintings installed at Documenta in 2007.
  • Hauser + Wirth
  • Lozano's paintings installed at Documenta in 2007.
Her work had a revival in the late '90s, before she died in 1999. Again in 2007, I noticed pieces popping up in prominent places: A series of paintings of bodies at Documenta in Germany, several pieces including one painting with a surface of patterned punctures in the traveling feminist survey "WACK!," and then, last year at Seattle Art Museum, that same punctured painting in the show "Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78." (My writings about those three events, respectively, here, here, and here.)

It's always something with Lozano: The punctured painting was hung vertically in "WACK!" at Vancouver Art Gallery, then horizontally at SAM. Which way was right? SAM curator Michael Darling maintains that horizontal was the artist's intention. The mixup seems typical of the general uncategorizability of Lozano. She made abstract and figurative paintings and drawings in juicy brushstrokes or precise graphite lines, she leaned paintings on the wall under dim lights in the hopes that they'd almost vibrate like sound waves, and her conceptual projects became classics of the genre.

Two more, very different, Lozano works at Documenta.
  • Hauser + Wirth
  • Two more, very different, Lozano works at Documenta.
On February 8, 1969, she began work on her "General Strike Piece"; she had decided she would no longer attend "public 'uptown' functions or gatherings related to the 'art world.'" As she explained in her journals, she was about to embark on a life of "total personal & public revolution." She began withdrawing even from shows that her closest friends were putting together. She wrote in her journals, "I have started to document everything because I cannot give up my love of ideas." As Rondeau points out in his essay, Lozano, like many of her colleagues, believed art "could be created in conversation, in political action, or even in thought."

In the months that followed came "Grass Piece" (smoke pot continually for more than a month and keep a record of her state of mind); "Cash Piece" (what would happen if she passed around money to her visitors as though it were an appetizer); "Party Piece" (describe your latest art idea to a failing artist to see whether he "cops" it for himself); "Dialogue Piece" (invite people over and just talk). She insisted that the last was "the closest so far to an ideal I have of a kind of art."

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By Lee Lozano
  • Hauser + Wirth
  • By Lee Lozano
Lozano's most mystifying project was her life, and the email Braden sent me yesterday included a link to a 1999 Dallas Observer story piecing together as much of it as possible—which is where that excerpt comes from. It's here.

Once you start reading it, you won't be able to stop.