Is there something in the character of female artists that they are more able to examine their feelings, experience and concerns and represent them in their art than male artists. If this is true, then they bring something new and refreshing, which is being increasingly explored by galleries and curators, following on from the success of artists such as Louise Bourgeois. Note to all artists (and politicians): it is fine to show emotion and something of yourself in your work – this is your essence.
Hauser & Wirth in London is showing work from the 1960’s and 70’s of two American artists, born in 1929 and 1939 respectively, Lee Lozano and Ida Applebroog at a time when both were investigating relationships, psycho-analysis and introspection.
Lee Lozano’s (1930-1999) works from 1962 explore the relationship between men and women, with sinister dark overtones. Teeth, lips, fangs and other parts of male and female bodies are interlocked with a strange assortment of paper bags, cardboard boxes and cups in aggressive sexual positions as Lee Lozano used thick layers of paint to raise the mystery and darkness of sexual relationships and, perhaps, implied abuse of power between men and women.
In the adjacent galleries, the walls are full of a sequence of drawings by Ida Applebroog (born 1929)’s from a period of deep introspection in 1969 and 1970 with the theme of “Mercy Hospital”. Discovered by Applebroog’s studio assistant in 2009, these are very personal drawings reflect Applebroog’s struggles with her identity and with the world around her at the time and have a parallel with work of the work of German artist Joninde Voigt almost fifty years later, on show at the Lisson Gallery with a focus on the sensation of feeling the sensation, the joy and the worries of being alive, while other works relate back to memories and experiences.
With all the artists, each work is a story in itself and shows how much power can be packed into a small drawing or painting.
The exhibitions also show the problems curators have with the modern white-box gallery aesthetic. Looking upwards in Hauser & Wirth, it has responded to Lozaro’s dark works with new lighting that draws out the colours in the paintings. Visually it is a little heavy, but technically it works well, though it would have been better to have had the courage to go one more step further and either paint the walls a darker colour or add a coloured board on which to hang the paintings, to reduce the visual contrast for the viewer. Tate Modern should take note, with its relentless ubiquitous lighting in the older building, which may provide flexibility but kills the sprit of the art.