“I’m a painter. I’m still a painter and I will die a painter. Everything that I have developed has to do with extending visual principles off the canvas,” the feminist performance and video artist Carolee Schneemann has famously said. This two-part show offers a chance to see quite a few of her small collage paintings. Among them were the series “Diario Cada Dia” (2007), at PPOW, and “Caged Cats” (2005), at Galerie Lelong. In both of these brushy abstract series, the artist prioritizes expression over precision, which aligns with her youthful embrace of sensual liberation as a means of resisting systemic oppression.
These shows were also an opportunity to get to know some of her post-1970s video work better. In the eleven-minute video Fresh Blood – A Dream Morphology (1983), at P.P.O.W., which is based on a dream she had, the nude artist holds an umbrella and gesticulates while a projection of various symbols and images hits her body on its way to the surface behind her. The complex layering creates an appealing confusion between two and three dimensions. The same effect is captured in several framed photographs made concurrently with the video, where the umbrella’s shadow punctuates a spectral image of a leaf’s veins. In one photo, it is difficult to tell whether the chalice running along the artist’s belly is painted or projected on her skin. At Lelong, Devour (2003–04) is in an alcove gallery and consists of two projections on screens and four monitors. The conglomeration of imagery mixes colorized and negative film and shows repeating, sometimes barely legible scenes and faces, both from the media and from her personal life. The piece can meet the viewer like a dream, impelled by the rhythm and variation of the changing images.
Pictured: Carolee Schneemann: Fresh Blood – A Dream Morphology, 1981-86, gelatin silver print, 8 by 10 inches. Courtesy P.P.O.W., New York. Photo Lisa Kahane.