Susan Walicki on Janine Antoni

Susan Walicki, artist lecture review

Janine Antoni

            Janine Antoni is an artist from the Bahamas working with her body and material to create sculptures that incorporate the use of her body and the process of performance in works that reflect culture, the history of art and the presence of the self. The first work she showed, Wean depicts a negative cast of her breast, her nipple and bottle nipples to represent the moment of a child weaning from its mother’s breast to the world. I find her work very compelling in her ability to showcase a moment in time and also the process and use of her interaction with a material. She marries her body with a smart use of material through processes that are both very intimate and primal human actions. Her piece Gnaw combines the use of a seductive material of chocolate and repulsive material of lard with this primal act of biting, but intimate use of the mouth. This comment on the minimalist cube is quite funny and genius in the way she maps out her interaction with this form by carving the corners with her teeth. Playing with the minimalist cube that once existed as a factory made form that made the audience aware of its presence and their presence in a space, she pushes the boundary between the object and the artist with this intimate interaction and comments on the change in material and the emphasis on the artists interaction with it, where before the cube was not necessarily made by the artist, just placed in the space by the artist. I’m inspired with by her ability to create feminist art that confronts her material with her strength as a woman, her body as architecture, with a very beautiful and delicate presentation. She doesn’t incorporate her body in her work through the power of feminine sexuality, but uses her body as a figure of strength, care, and in her later work a vessel of life.

            Her piece Loving Care was successful in her vulnerability through the act of mopping the floor with her hair. Then takes control of her audience and of her space by controlling and expanding her acting space, and taking power from her audience by forcing them out of the room. This in itself is very powerful, but inspired by the male dominated movement of abstract expressionism, gives her the power of action painting and pushes this idea by acting/action painting on the gallery floor. I get the impression the abstract expressionist movement is one of the first times the artist uses the canvas as a space of performance where the artist physically enters the canvas in the process of painting, well Antoni takes this to the next level making the gallery floor her canvas, making her canvas both a space for her performance, but also one of the audiences’ performance. The documentation of this work reminds us of this history by documenting it in black and white much like the famous photographs of Pollock painting.

            Her piece Conduit, is inspired by her perception of her body as architecture, and monumentalizes her feminine body. For this piece she took the model of a travel mate and created a sculpture in copper that allowed her to pee standing.  This piece is in the form of a griffin, she uses this form for it hybridity. The griffin is a hybrid, and Antoni is a hybrid when she uses her peeing aid. This piece makes her a hybrid of man and woman, as well as a hybrid of human and architecture, she makes her self a decorative fountain. She pushes the concept of her body as architecture with the material of copper, which is often used as artistic detain in buildings, and would also demonstrate the impact of her use and her body on the piece in copper’s tendency to rust green. She used this copper sculpture in a photograph taken of her peeing off of the Chrysler Building in New York.

            I find Janine Antoni’s work to be extremely interesting powerful, and well thought out. She finds strength and compassion in her female body and creates powerful feminist art by emphasizing this rather than using her sexuality. He materials she uses enable her to create powerful pieces in their physical qualities, and their meaning and history. Her pieces Gnaw and Loving Care would fill the gallery with the scent of chocolate and lard or hair dye, commanding the space with her arts’ presence. Her work is understandable to the common viewer that knows nothing about art in their aesthetic appeal and their presence, and provides another treat for those that know art history and recognize the references she makes to her predecessors. I found her lecture very informative and it provided a personal insight into her work and her development as an artist over time. Janine Antoni is an artist with an undeniable presence in life as well as in her work. She empowers the female form in her work, conceiving her body as architecture and commanding her performance space.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Susan,
    Good job on your essay! I really enjoyed learning about Janine Antoni! it is wonderful to learn that her works can fill a space with smell. it really adds to the experience!

  2. I also attended this lecture, and I really enjoyed her as well. I also appreciated her use of her physical femininity without just emphasizing the overtly sexual aspects of it. She is an incredibly powerful female artist, but I was also really struck by her humility and fantastic sense of humor about her work.

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