posted by Christopher Howard — Oct 03, 2012
Janine Antoni, an artist based in New York, will participate in CAA’s next Annual Artists’ Interviews, hosted by ARTspace during the 2013 Annual Conference in New York. This session will be the thirteenth installment of the popular series, which features two major practicing artists in back-to-back interviews. The other artist who will be interviewed is the painter and writer Mira Schor. The talks will be held on Friday, February 15, 2013, from 2:30 to 5:00 PM at the Hilton in New York. Klaus Ottmann, director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and a curator at large at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, will interview Antoni.
Janine Antoni, Loving Care, 1992, performance with Loving Care hair dye Natural Black, dimensions variable (artwork © Janine Antoni; photograph provided by the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, and taken by Prudence Cumming Associates at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London, 1993)
Janine Antoni’s work is an amalgam of shamanistic ritual, quotidian task, and daredevil action. Her performances include using her dye-soaked hair to mop a gallery floor; sleeping in a bed set up in a gallery and then weaving a blanket based on the pattern of her rapid eye movements; and walking across a tightrope of hand-plied hemp that she made herself, suspended eight feet above the ground. The arduous process of the performance is often combined into installations with sculpture, photography, and video. It is Antoni’s desire that her artwork be understood as a felt experience, one that combines emotional content and intellectual engagement. In each piece, no matter the medium or image, a conveyed physicality speaks directly to the viewer’s body.
In a conversation published in 2011 in the Brooklyn Rail, she elaborates on the importance of this imagined relationship with her work’s audience: “When I’m making work I spend a lot of time fantasizing about what the viewer will do and think; I enter their body, and imagine them walking up to my sculpture. My work is a way for me to feel connected and to feel present in the world. I try to make work that elicits empathy. I’ve been known for chewing 600 pounds of chocolate, being dumped in tubs of lard, and mopping the floor with my hair. I do these extreme acts because I feel like it puts the viewer in a very emphatic relationship to my sculpture.”
In Antoni’s work, a charged relationship between the symbolic nature of her preferred materials (chocolate, lard, soap, hemp) and the artist’s given task to transform raw material, results in a highly personal, metaphysical evocation. For the installation Gnaw (1992), Antoni wanted to use her own body as a tool to redefine what a figurative sculpture could be. She chewed on a block of chocolate and a block of lard, spitting out pieces of each to be melted down and respectively repackaged as heart-shaped chocolates and lipstick. In Lick & Lather (1993), she sculpted two self-portrait busts out of chocolate and soap, generating a nearly tangible sensation of taste and touch.
Janine Antoni, Gnaw, 1992, 600 lbs. of chocolate, gnawed by the artist, 24 x 24 x 24 in.; 600 lbs. of lard, gnawed by the artist, 24 x 24 x 24 in.; 45 heart-shaped packages for chocolate made from chewed chocolate removed from the chocolate cube; 400 lipsticks made with pigment, beeswax, and chewed lard removed from the lard cube displayed in glass case (artwork © Janine Antoni; photograph provided by the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York)
Another recurring theme in Antoni’s art is the lasting enigma of the family. She has staged photographs of her parents dressed in drag as each other, which results in a comical yet strangely moving portrait of a couple. In 2008 she photographed her toddler daughter attempting to feed her mother through her bellybutton. The doublings and life cycles in both series transcend mere performance or enactment to become lasting meditations on human relationships. In a 2009 interview in Art in America, she states, “My work occupies the territory between object, performance and relic. For each piece, I ask myself what the piece needs, how much I should tell and how much I should leave to the viewer’s imagination. With earlier projects, I spoke through the work in a very direct way, and I thought that was a generous gesture. Now, I’m more interested in leaving a space for the viewer’s imagination.” This new, more open-ended approach to her practice is evident in Tear (2008), an installation that pairs a video projection of a close-up of Antoni’s eye blinking in unison to a thudding sound. The video is screened in a room which contains a visibly scarred, lead wrecking ball that had been used in the demolition of a building. The artwork implies a triangulated relationship among all three components; tension and mystery are built from the unseen elements in the narrative.
Antoni was born in 1964 in Freeport, Bahamas. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1986 and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. Mira Schor was an influential professor for Antoni in graduate school, introducing the younger woman to the work of three feminist artists from the 1970s whose physical bodies were integral to their art practice: Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, and Carolee Schneeman.
Janine Antoni, Slumber, 1993, performance with loom, yarn, bed, nightgown, PSG machine, and artist’s REM reading, dimensions variable (artwork © Janine Antoni; photograph provided by the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York)
Antoni has shown her work in more than twenty-five solo exhibitions across the United States and abroad. Her most recent was Touch (2011) at the Museum Kunst der Westküste in Alkersum/Föhr, Germany. She has participated in international biennials in Venice, Johannesburg, Istanbul, and Kwangju and domestically in the Whitney Biennial in New York, SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico, and Prospect.1 in New Orleans. The artist has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Larry Aldrich Foundation Award, a Joan Mitchell Painting and Sculpture Award, a Creative Capital Grant, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. She is represented by Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York.
Antoni lives and works in New York. She participated in the 2011 Annual Conference, speaking on the popular Centennial session “Parallel Practices: When the Mind Isn’t Focused on Art.”
Klaus Ottmann is director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and curator at large at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. He is the author of Yves Klein by Himself: His Life and Thought (Paris: Éditions Dilecta, 2010), The Genius Decision: The Extraordinary and the Postmodern Condition (New York: Spring Publications, 2004), and The Essential Mark Rothko (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003). In 2006 he translated and edited Yves Klein’s complete writings for the book Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, published by Spring Publications.
Ottmann has curated more than forty international exhibitions, including Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture; Still Points of the Turning World: SITE Santa Fe’s Sixth International Biennial; Life, Love, and Death: The Work of James Lee Byars; Wolfgang Laib: A Retrospective; Rackstraw Downes: Onsite Paintings, 1972–2008; and Fairfield Porter Raw: The Creative Process of an American Master.