Visible Bodies

 This Autumn, New York’s MoMA PS1 hosts a comprehensive retrospective covering over six decades of work by Carolee Schneemann, one of the most prolific and provocative artists of the second half of the 20th century. Despite her reputation for controversy, Schneemann’s most inflammatory challenge to the art world establishment was simply to bring female bodies and sexuality to the forefront of her work, investigating the ways in which these are constructed and conceived of socially in a way few if any artists had before.

Beginning with rarely seen examples of the artist’s early paintings from the 1950s, Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting traces their evolution into the assemblages of found objects, mechanical elements and painterly interventions that characterised her practice a decade later. Whilst working in New York in the 1960s, Schneemann became a central figure in the city’s well known downtown avant-garde community, and began to explore the potential for incorporating other art forms into her pieces. This eventually led her to become interested in positioning her own body within her creations, playing with the possibilities of being “both image-maker and image” at the same time. Refusing to adopt traditional ways of presenting the female body as she did so, this resulted in some of her best known and most significant works, such as the painting-construction Four Fur Cutting Boards (1963), the related photographic portfolio Transformative Actions (1963) and the landmark installation Up to and Including Her Limits (1973-1976).

Including iconic performances and films from the 1960s and 1970s, and multimedia installations from the following three decades, the exhibition seeks to give a full impression of the artist’s response to both personal and political concerns. In addition to an in-depth exploration of Schneemann’s feminist iconography, it will also include her works dealing with intimacy, personal loss, political events, and her impassioned reaction to the catastrophic Vietnam War. Providing a thorough look into the career of an artist whose works are, more often than not, presented with an emphasis on their individual impact, this show represents a rare opportunity to consider the pioneering artist’s oeuvre as a whole.

Ned Carter Miles

Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting opens 22 October at Moma PS1, New York. For more information:

1. Carolee Schneemann. Interior Scroll.