Eleanor Antin Redux
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
through July 28
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
Eleanor Antin’s Time’s Arrow is on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in what may be one of the last shows to hang in the Art of the Americas building before it is razed to accommodate the proposed Zumthor building. If that proves true, it is a fitting act of synchronicity, as the show chronicles a physical loss in unhurried detail. Antin’s work leaves no doubt about its longevity however, unlike the building it is housed in.
Time’s Arrow exemplifies the artist’s conceptual approach to sculpture and how she used her body as both subject matter and raw material. The exhibit revisits a work originally made in 1972 that is ostensibly about changes to her figure through the act of losing weight, though the real subject is more complex. In “CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture”, Antin documented the changes in her body as a figurative sculptor might remove material from a block of marble to reveal the form within. In a sort of static Eadweard Muybridge sequence, she photographed herself in the same four poses under identical conditions. There is no discernable difference from picture to picture, taken over a period of thirty-seven days, only the slightest change in her body and countenance. Fast forward forty-five years, and Antin, now in her early eighties, decided to recreate “CARVING” using similar parameters. “CARVING: 45 Years Later”, her more recent version, was made over one hundred days in which she recorded herself in five hundred black and white photographs.
Just as these two versions are not exactly what they appear to be, they take on additional meanings from being shown together. Antin once again sets her unflinching gaze on herself. What initially was a de-sexualized look at the female body, now also grapples with the reality of aging. Employing the same dispassionate stance towards the female figure as she had forty-five years earlier, she keeps her focus on truth telling but reveals her self-deprecating humor in two explanatory notes that accompany each piece. While she may suffer from vanity as much as the next person, she is willing to offer herself up to expose either the presumed failings of the human flesh, or perhaps its triumph. Both series desensitize the viewer to the body as an erotic object, not because of aging or any physical attribute, but because of their matter-of-factness and the normality in the manner they are presented. Touching upon feminist concerns, ageism, conceptual and performance art, Antin strips the figure of sensationalism by showing everything. The conceit is that she treats her body as her material, but what the viewer experiences is the undeniable persistence of time upon our corporal selves. Antin’s sprightly presence at the show’s opening proves what her art demonstrates, that we shouldn’t fear the passage of time, but embrace it as we accept ourselves.