Currently, the big draw at Hauser & Wirth is the collection of Philip Guston’s Nixon Drawings in the North Gallery. But don’t overlook this joint show in the South Gallery of American artists, Ida Applebroog and Lee Lozano, as it’s another welcome exhibition that seeks to re-examine often overlooked female artists from the twentieth century.
The display from Ida Applebroog is a collection of drawings Ida completed during 1969 and 1970, a period of intense introspection for her as she struggled with her mental health. The Mercy Hospital drawings, as they are known as, combine black india ink, pencil, watercolour and pastel. Some are figurative, featuring the naked body or limbs, whilst others are more abstract. They are, though, an emotional collection of drawings that betray the internal battles she was fighting.
Throughout the drawings, a recognisable framework of motifs and forms develops: amorphous shapes interlock or tumble together, while embryonic beings and bulbous figures are protected (or restricted) by enveloping, rippling layers of matter. Many are annotated with questions, pleas and statements that load the works with additional readings, hinting at the artist’s fragile state of mind. For example, in one of the watercolour works an indistinct form seems to cry out from within the orange, pink and green mass that encloses it. Scrawled around it are the words ‘whoops! It’s that time again… bye’
The drawings themselves were not known about until 2009, when they were discovered by her studio assistant. Now, as we look at them with the benefit of hindsight, they are considered to anticipate Ida’s focus on disconcerting scenarios that address the politics of power and sexuality that she completed throughout the 1970s – work that brought her an element of notoriety at the time.
For Lee Lozano, twenty-seven works from the artist’s first oil series are on display, and these are paintings densely packed with sexually charged imagery. Phalluses of varying sizes and colours are surrounded by mouths. But these are not sensuous red lips, for these mouths all show large white teeth preparing to bite and rip. These seem ferocious. The brushstrokes are also seem hastily applied and made with brushes thick with oils. That angry energy – a sense of volatility – leaps out of these tiny paintings.
These paintings were completed in, probably 1962, about ten years before Lee sealed her own notoriety by withdrawing completely from any kind of communication and interaction with women. The plan had been for this to an art project, a conceptual performance art project of sorts, of a one month duration. Ironically with the aim of improving her communication with women. Only this state lasted the rest of her life as Lee cut herself off from all female contact – friends, family, supporters, the lot.
Hauser & Wirth, London, to July 29, 2017
1 Mercy Hospital, 1969, Ink and watercolour on paper 35.6 x 27.9 cm / 14 x 11 in © Ida Applebroog. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
2 Pantone marker on paper 34.6 x 26.7 cm / 13 5/8 x 10 1/2 in © Ida Applebroog Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
3 Lee Lozano, No title, ca. 1962 Oil on plywood panel 15.3 x 8.2 x 0.6 cm / 6 x 3 1/4 x1/4 in