May 21 2010

Paint It Black

Lauren O'Neill-Butler


Lee Lozano, Untitled, 1970, ink on notebook paper. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Lozano and Hauser & Wirth.


These books by artists—mostly painters—read like diaries. They reveal the successes and failures, highs and lows, of working in the late 1960s up through the '80s. Rather than telling studio stories, the artists focus on art and life; some, like Lee Lozano, make a case for fusing the two, while others offer a subtle acknowledgement of and attitude of defiance against the "idiocy of painting," as Gerhard Richter put it in his collection of writings The Daily Practice of Painting. The recent revival of these artists adds yet another layer of complexity, but their narratives speak to something larger: the way individual lives float into and out of art history through a cycle of remembrance and forgetting.

Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia by Richard Hertz

Hertz, the former chair of graduate studies at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, assembles a wide range of first-person accounts in this oral history about Jack Goldstein's roller-coaster career, chronic depression, and withdrawal from the art world in 1990. (The artist died in 2003.) Amid Goldstein's own recollections are passages from John Baldessari, his teacher at CalArts, as well as from his classmates Troy Brauntuch, Matt Mullican, David Salle, and James Welling. Howard Singerman has aptly noted that this book wants to "give the artist priority, the right of first history," and it powerfully succeeds at this task.

The All Night Movie by Mary Heilmann

Heilmann created this book in 1999 in tandem with a major exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Zurich. It includes her paintings, her photographs, and stories of her life, from the 1940s onward. In an interview with Ross Bleckner in Bomb magazine, Heilmann said that she wanted the text to be "designed like paintings, or to have a similar effect as paintings, where you put forms and colors together to get a certain emotional hit." With any luck, she'll assemble a sequel to this volume and share her thoughts from the new millennium.

Lee Lozano: Notebooks 1967–70

"In terms of actual Conceptual art, the major female figure in New York in the 1960s was Lee Lozano," wrote Lucy R. Lippard in 1995. This endorsement seems odd for an artist who was barely known, if at all, after she dropped out, left New York, and moved to Dallas around 1972. Recently published by Primary Information, Lozano's notebooks––one marked PRIVATE––contain sketches for her paintings alongside her seminal language pieces, and notes including the exceedingly astute WIN FIRST DON'T LAST, WIN LAST DON'T CARE.

The No Texts by Steven Parrino

Steven Parrino died in 2005 in Brooklyn, and left behind a body of work that has been extremely influential to a later generation of artists. One hopes they take his words to heart: "An artist should not feel content sitting in utopian armchairs, lounging in the mindlessness of geometric gymnastics, mesmerized by technology, reaping the benefits of band-wagonning. Self-righteous and ineffective, the new court artists serving the master capital: Your only worry is your only comfort. You are a performing monkey in designer clothes, fiddling while Rome burns. When did thinking become as disposable as fashion?"

Lauren O'Neill-Butler is the managing editor of artforum.com.

Advertisement