Welcome to our show is the title of the latest solo exhibition of Dorothy Iannone at Air de Paris. The exhibition gathers together an extensive body of work, spanning from the 1960’s until our days: this partly retrospective look allows to discover how her artistic, yet highly personal narrative has evolved throughout the decades.
Iannone is a multidisciplinary artist: her variegated activities include painting, drawing, films, sculptures and books. The loves and life of this 82-year old American artist is unfolded through her work: themes of erotic love and sexuality between women and men and the idea of an ecstatic unity are important themes for Iannone. Most of her works reveal a figure of a woman next to a man, depicted in erotic ways, yet their union is joyful and equal. An ornament-like approach is revealed in the work’s approach to bodily expressions: visual stimuli and inspiration seem to be drawn from her several trips outside Europe.
As expected, her work doesn’t propose a soft meditational approach in the gallery space: there is an edgy tingle present, it feels like the artist herself would be physically implicated in this encounter. The retrospective approach creates an interesting layer in the exhibition, allowing the visitor to move away from the immediate surroundings, and respectively, abolishing the generational reserve. It’s not too late to remember who I am is written on one her major pieces right at the entrance of the exhibition: this is a part of the work aptly entitled An Explosive Interlude (1979), which particularly delves into the beginning of an emerging relationship that she was bound to construct with Berlin, after having moved there in the 1970’s.
A self-taught painter, the work of Dorothy Iannone is assured of its own rightness. From an early work Wiggle your ass for me (1970-1971), a large-scale painting unfolding her interest in the figure of Eros, to a more recent acrylic painting Luminous (2012), the works constitute joyful figurations with spasms of joy, constantly on the move. These works unfold an altar for joy and fertility, celebrating and revolting within the white gallery walls. At first, it seems like if the artist has brought the exotic near the visitors, but at the end it reveals to be its opposite: instinctive feelings such as sexuality, are rendered exotic and celebrated.
Despite the highly self-narrative approach, Iannone also borrows elements from political climate, calling for sexual emancipation and freedom of speech. In the past, the explicitly sexual content of her work drew frequently the attention of authorities and thus faced censorship problems; such was the case of the exhibition Friends organized at Bern Kunsthalle in 1969.
Iannone’s work echoes extensively the themes of popular culture. Her recent work Lolita dating from 2009, made of gouache and acrylic paper on wood, takes a reflective yet playful way when treating the question of sexual roles and figures known through popular culture: this is the same artist who successfully sued the United States government on behalf of several of Henry Miller’s books censored in the U.S.A. to allow their importation into the country. The exhibition reveals to be more than a collection of personal experiences by leaving her works open-ended. Certainly, some of her works follow time-bound models of eroticism and emancipation, being linked to a certain historical mood. Nevertheless, the whole is an ensemble that is fluctuating and bound to evolve in our days: this narrative praxis filled with euphoria and sensorial understanding feels more than welcome these days, dominated by clinical corporate aesthetics in visual arts.
Born in Boston in 1933, Dorothy Iannone lives and works in Berlin. Her first solo show at Air de Paris She Is A Freedom Fighter was organized in 2007, and in 2009 the New Museum presented Lioness, her first one-person show in the United States. Her mixed media work I Was Thinking Of You was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. She has recently had major retrospectives, notably at the Camden Art Centre in London (2013), the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin (2014) and the Migros Museum in Zurich (2014). Many monographs have been devoted to her work, among them the recent «You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends», which focuses in particular on the textual aspect of her oeuvre.
Welcome to our show on view until May 16.