Though Marjorie Strider (1934-2014) exhibited her bold Pop paintings of pin-up girls and produce alongside Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the 1960s, she is only now gaining critical recognition comparable to that of her male colleagues. Renewed interest in her work has been spurred by its inclusion in recent exhibitions that present expanded views of Pop, notably “Seductive Subversion” (2011) at the Brooklyn Museum and “International Pop” (2015) at the Walker Art Center. Conceived as a retrospective, the show at Broadway 1602 provided a significant, if far from exhaustive, selection of Strider’s work from the late 1950s through the 1970s, urging further research and exhibitions.
The earliest work on view, Flat Plant III (1958), delineates potted plants on a table in crisp, geometric silhouettes, displaying a modernist vocabulary of flatness that Strider would promptly reject. Retaining the plant motif, but violating the two-dimensional picture plane, Lilli Marlene (Yellow Rose), 1962, bears two yellow roses, one flat, the other blooming out of the canvas in carved wood—a formal device she termed a “build-out.” Her husband at the time, theater scholar Michael Kirby, wrote about her sculpture-painting hybrids in the context of a widespread desire among young artists to “break the frame,” an impulse that led to Happenings, in which Strider was a participant.
Strider further developed the build-out method in her series of “Girlies” and “Vegetables” from the early to mid-1960s. In addition to wood, she used commercial plastic foam, which allowed for smoother, rounder forms, such as the voluptuous peas emerging from a pod in Green Horizontal (Jolly), 1964. Like Lilli Marlene, named after a popular song, this work’s title projects a pop reference—to the Jolly Green Giant used by General Mills to market green beans—onto a traditional still-life subject.
The “Girlies” draw more directly from popular imagery, as demonstrated in studies for Girl with Radish (1962), which include a magazine clipping of Jean Shrimpton holding a radish between her teeth. In the pencil sketches based on the photo, Strider apparently did not intend to capture the likeness of the iconic model, but to abstract her features into those of a generic woman. Come Hither and Welcome (both 1963) likewise feature anonymous, sexualized heroines of popular advertisements and movies. The flat, sleek calligraphic style, borrowed from comics and fashion illustration, contrasts with the built-out breasts and lips, which serve to exaggerate the focal points of the male gaze.
Works on paper from the mid- to late 1960s reveal Strider’s continued exploration of the tension between pictorial and real space. Drawings depicting nude women whose breasts and buttocks protrude from wooden “frame” dresses, a garment Strider designed for a 1969 performance, expand upon the “Girlie” paintings. Sketches of clouds with window frames bending around their surfaces play with the trope of painting-as-window. Portrayals of waves enclosed in boxes suggest the non-sites of Robert Smithson, a friend of Strider’s whose work also investigated representation and literalness.
Perhaps Strider’s fascination with water and clouds, substances resistant to being framed, led to her experimentation in the 1970s with multicolored urethane foam. She applied this material to paintings of brand-name product containers, out of which it appears to seethe, and poured it into ready-made domestic objects that fail to contain it. She flowed the oozing substance down staircases and out of windows in installations that call to mind the Blob of the 1958 science-fiction movie. While Pop references remain, formal concerns with uncontrollable matter emphasize her relevance to Post-Minimalism, and her larger aesthetic (and political) commitment to boundary breaking.