Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Iannone’

Dorothy Iannone


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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Last fall, I saw the New Museum’s small show of work by Dorothy Iannone. A quick introduction. Iannone is a Boston-born artist, born in 1933, who started painting in 1959 and has since also made video installations, sculptures, and drawings. Her work uses explicit imagery—highly stylized, resembling Egyptian art and fertility goddesses—to describe both the “ecstatic unity” achieved with fellow artist and lover Dieter Roth and the female sexual experience. (Shows of her work have long been plagued by censorship; she’s seventy-five and, this show was her first solo exhibition in an American museum.)

The work from the New Museum show that has really stuck in my mind is An Icelandic Saga, forty-eight bound drawings depicting her trip by freighter, in 1967, to Reykjavik, where she and Roth first met. But it isn’t just pictures; there are words, too. Though plenty of critical accounts have called the drawings “narrative picture stories,” for me it adds up to comic book. There’s comparatively little written about Iannone and her work (considering she’s been making art for half a century), but from what I can tell, she never read comics. And that’s what makes An Icelandic Saga all the more interesting: She arrived at the medium from a completely different path.

Dorothy Iannone, "An Icelandic Saga." Installation view, New Museum.

Each page in the Saga roughly stands as a single panel (or panel-less page). Iannone uses hand-lettered text—commentaries, flashbacks, and interludes as well as detailed lists and shipboard menus—in cursive and block fonts to tell the story, and the black-and-white images mainly consist of flattened, front-facing figures. There aren’t any word balloons, but Iannone’s writing, in first- and third-person, moves between narration, reminiscence, and introspection.

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