Kunstmuseum acquires large painting by Lee Lozano


Kunstmuseum Den Haag has purchased the painting Slide, two drawings and a sketch by Lee Lozano (1930-1999) with the help of the Rembrandt Association and the Mondrian Fund. In contrast to the work of her friends Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre, no museum in the Netherlands has work by Lozano in its collection. As such, this American artist is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the post-war avant-garde. The Kunstmuseum collects work by international artists produced in the 1960s and 70s which is rarely, if ever, seen in Dutch or even international museums. This new acquisition is in line with the Kunstmuseum’s ambition to give these artists a new platform.

In a period spanning just a single decade, Lee Lozano developed from a figurative artist to an abstract painter, ending up as a dedicated conceptual artist after a brief flirtation with minimal art. As such, her career neatly encapsulates modern art history. Slide, purchased with the help of the Rembrandt Association, with thanks to the Titus Fund and its Modern and Contemporary Art Fund, and the Mondrian Fund, is one of her famous ‘verb paintings’. In these abstract paintings planes of colour, panels and paint vectors chafe, collide and slide against each other, forging a single sexually-charged whole.

Male dominance

In 1961 Lee Lozano debuted on the New York art scene with drawing and paintings full of penises and vaginas, often depicted in combination with electrical equipment. Repulsion and attraction were important themes. In one image a plug would be attracted towards a vagina, while in another a coin would seek the slit in a money box, located between a woman’s legs. This was Lozano’s criticism of a male-dominated society in which sex served as a means of oppressing women. In later works tools would play a more central role: first drills, hammers and spanners, later detailed elements like screws, nuts and bolts.

Abstraction: Verb paintings and Wave series

Lozano’s work became more and more abstract, though tools remained recognisable in their most basic form. She gave the paintings verbs as titles – Lean, Pitch, Slide. These ‘verb paintings’, produced between 1964 and 1967, mark an important phase in Lozano’s development, featuring elongated cones alongside carefully positioned diagonals. Sharply rendered shapes appear to glide alongside each other, their movement extending beyond the edge of the canvas. This abstract style culminated in the Wave Series (1967-1970), a series of abstract paintings on the physics of light (an electromagnetic wave pattern).

Disappearance into conceptual art

Gradually, Lozano’s focus shifted to ‘language pieces’: documents discussing artistic acts or ideas. For her Dialogue Piece (1969), for example, she invited artists Robert Smithson and Carl Andre to meet in her studio to discuss an undetermined subject. The notes of their discussion are the artwork. Once Lozano stopped producing physical works of art, the art market’s interest in her work waned. In protest, she turned her back on the art world for good with her 1971 Drop Out Piece.

Overlooked by the art world

Slide is a unique acquisition for the Dutch collection’, says director Benno Tempel. ‘With acquisitions of work by Lee Bontecou, Paul Thek, Louise Bourgeois and Fred Sandback we are building an outstanding collection of international artists who were shaped by the 1960s. Many of them have long been overlooked because they did not conform to any of the major artistic movements. It is the Kunstmuseum's ambition to give these artists a new platform in the Netherlands. Slide by Lee Lozano is not only an important addition to a group of recently acquired work by rediscovered artists from the same period, it will also provide links with other parts of the museum’s collection, like our minimal art.’