MADDIE GILMORE | DATE 1/17/2017
In the 1960's, Lee Lozano was living and working in New York, painting her own kind of heavy, bodily, manic work – rather than conforming to the then-dominant modes of Abstract Expressionism and Pop – and garnering the recognition of the art world corpus of galleries, museums and magazines. Simultaneously, she initiated a body of aesthetically opposite conceptual artworks called Language Pieces--scribbled, mostly instructional or task-oriented notes generally written in ink on standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Lozano considered these works "'drawings,' eliminating any distinction between them and her more traditional studio practice," according to Helen Molesworth's excellent text in Karma's illuminating new monograph, Lozano c. 1962. And yet, except for the fact that they were singled out as art objects, the Language Pieces are nearly identical to the journal pages that Lozano penned around the same time.
Nearly 50 years later, for our reading pleasure and general delight, Karma has reproduced the first of Lozano's journals in a wonderful pocket-sized facsimile edition. If one was to stumble upon this 3x5-inch, spiral-bound notebook on the street, it would be hard not to assume it was someone's lost, secret diary, as the varying weight of Lozano's pen on the page and her energetic scribbles and little drawings are all rendered exquisitely.
Whether one knows Lozano's work or not, there is an immense, inevitable joy to flipping through this tiny, very private-feeling volume packed to the brim with ideas for paintings, random inventions, phone numbers and addresses, meetings times and people's names, thoughts, manifestos, scientific inquiries, dreams, and, if you can believe it, much more. Through her unfiltered thoughts and idiosyncratic vocabularies, we are able to experience the inner-Lozano as a true force of nature, impossible to contain within a single mode of expression.
Unlike the Language Pieces, Lozano's Private Book 1 was not created to be a commodity, a unit of exchange to be used within the existing system of art and culture. Perhaps one of the most fascinating threads in the book is the beginnings of her now famous rejection of the art world, which manifested itself in a move from New York to Dallas in 1971 and the eventual decision to "boycott women."
This particular notebook chronicles the years 1968-1969, when the seeds for this conscious reinvention are already beginning to take root. On April 7, 1968, Lozano summarizes an Artforum article: "Another concept of paint is its being matter in solid state. A painter who thinks of it this way is Lee Lozano, whose bowels function magnificently." In her classically irreverent and humorous manner, Lozano negates the art critic's attempt to classify her not only as "artist," but also as "artist who paints in x manner." She goes on to write, "Any kind of art can utilize materials in any state of matter, energy too." In slipping out of our hands, in denying us ownership over her art and her identity, Lozano remains even today a fascinating chase. Just as she considered the Language Pieces to be works of art on par with her paintings, so, too, we must consider her private journal to be the same, a shifting, effervescent portrait of the artist.
Whether Lozano would have been happy with the publication of her private notebook feels like the wrong question to ask of Private Book 1. The deed is done. Accept this gift and take it wherever you go.
KARMA, NEW YORK
Pbk, 3 x 5 in. / 136 pgs.