During our recent visit to Madrid we decided to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a beacon of contemporary art, not only in Spain but throughout Europe.
The building itself is majestic with a minimalist interior which I have to confess I found difficult to navigate around (it’s probably an age thing). One of the featured exhibitions was by the American artist Lee Lozano, and although I have a reasonable knowledge of contemporary art and artists I had never heard of her. Picking up a brochure about the artist I then read the following:-
Throughout the 1960s, and across only twelve years, Lee Lozano (Newark, 1930–1999) developed a radically provocative body of work, actuated by the staunch questioning of each and every socially imposed structure. Her career unfolded alongside the emerging civil rights and anti-war movement and the protest, free and pacifist spirit that sprang up through the political landscape and aesthetics in America during that period. This retrospective surveys Lozano’s ability to understand and incorporate casuistry in a period which redefined the changing conditions of art and its progressive disintegration in life. Her identification with Herbert Marcuse, and his championing of sensuality and play in Eros and Civilization (1955), as well as her ongoing interest in science, especially the phenomena related to energy and mathematical rigour, underpinned her brief career and shape this exhibition.
The selection of works presented includes an exceptional volume of highly erotic drawings and paintings produced between 1961 and 1963, pieces which merge body organs and work utensils in an aggressive and devouring hybrid form. In Lozano’s work 1964 represented a turning point, both in format and in a colour scheme which veered towards a starker palette. Enlarged parts of industrial tools predominated her early surfaces, suffusing them with a menacing tension characteristic of the mass production chain. These objects of disturbing ambiguity and defined contours still maintained vague sexual connotations and bore a certain sense of risk. Around 1965 her work became more abstract and minimalist, focusing on what the artist termed “energy paintings”, whereby the experience of spatiality is obtained via the intersection of geometric planes which produce optical effects. Early on, Lozano started to conceptualise her pictorial practice through mathematical calculations, leading her to perforate the canvas. The rigour and precision of this method culminated in the Wave Series (1969–1970), work that was particularly relevant to her investigations into energy and the impact of electromagnetic waves. In parallel, between 1968 and 1969, she made a number of conceptual and performance linguistic works based on the strict adherence to self-imposed rules. The outcome of this irrepressible dematerialisation was Drop Out Piece (1972), a disenchanted manifestation in which Lozano refused to be part of the art system, thereby bringing an end to her meteoric career and forever distancing herself from the art scene.
Well, I have read some intellectual bullshit in my time but this is up there with the best (worst!) of them.
I can say in all honesty that this is the WORST exhibition I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. It is the work of a self-centred narcissist to whom the word “talent” could never be used to describe. The works (I use that term very loosely) on display are, in many cases childlike, naive, insulting, patronising and seem aimed at shocking the viewer by the use of obscene language in the drawings. There is a strong element of the artist shouting “look at me, look at me….arn’t I cool because I can use obscene language”……..all rather pathetic really. AVOID THIS LIKE THE PLAGUE.
The saving grace of the visit was that I finally got to see Picasso’s “Guernica” which has become such an iconic painting. The paining is much bigger than I expected and covers a whole wall, as a piece of art I have my doubts, but as an expression of political outrage it packs a real punch.
As I entered the room with the painting, there were a good many people viewing, but in total silence. It seems to have that kind of effect on people.
All in all (despite the Lozano exhibition) a museum with visiting, and if you do, see if you can find the coffee shop……………….