The artwork of Joyce Kozloff is a beautiful arrangement of patterns, ideas, combinations and critiques. In the early 70′s she was strongly influenced by the feminist movement and her art began to express these views. Her work placed value on media and imagery that was considered unworthy of a place in the high art world and it’s connection to femininity and non-western influences challenged the the sexist, minimalist establishment of the 1970′s.
When her work was gaining multi-national attention in the late ’70s she decided to focus her energy on public work that could reach a greater audience than the gallery or museum could offer. When she shifted back to a studio practice her work took on problems of gender, sexism, racism as well as strong critique of the United States roll as a military aggressor. For more than three decades Joyce Kozloff has made enticing, attractive, intelligent work that has continually found interesting ways to make people aware of their surroundings.
Can you tell us a little about yourself. You live and work in New York right? How did get started in art?
I come from a small town in New Jersey, went to Carnegie Mellon (then called Carnegie Institute of Technology) in Pittsburgh during the 1960s, then came to NY, worked in art galleries and the UN and attended grad school at Columbia, where I got my MFA in 1967. At that time, I was making hard edged, geometric paintings, the dominant painting style of the moment.
You began working with patterns from many different so called “non-western” influences in the 1970s. Do you think this work was just a reaction to minimalism or were there specific motivations behind the paintings you made during this time?
My thinking was turned around by the feminist movement, which shook my life and the lives of many others in the early 1970s. I questioned everything about my education. I began to look at the traditional arts of women from many different cultures, what we in the west call the decorative or applied arts. I wanted to make work that paid homage to, and learned from those often anonymous sources.
In the time that has passed since you first began making art that questioned women’s rights and the legitimacy of certain craft and design elements, have you seen positive changes to some of these issues that your work has addressed?
Absolutely! There is much interesting art that is re-contextualizing craft now. I see it everywhere, and the dialogue around it is much more sophisticated than it used to be. It’s gratifying.
How did the feminist movement influence your art and maybe some of your views on the world?
Dramatically. I first participated in the women’s movement in Los Angeles, 1970-71, then in New York thereafter. I still have many close friendships from those years. The energy, enthusiasm, optimism and support was invaluable. We gave one another permission to explore territory that had been previously un-mined.
I really admire the decision you made to get away from the gallery scene and move into public art. You were having some really successful shows in the late 70′s. What was it that pushed you to this change?
I wanted to expand my decorative art to a public scale. It had already moved off the canvas and onto the walls and floors. (I was making ceramic tiles and printed textiles in the late 70s.) And I was excited about reaching a broader audience than the people who visit galleries and museums. I was almost messianic about grand scale public decoration.
What made you decide to move back into the gallery?
I never stopped showing in galleries altogether, but my focus throughout the 80s and into the nineties was on public art. My exhibitions were often related to the commissions (models, drawings, photographs, or ideas for unrealized, even visionary projects). I ultimately burned out. I created 16 ambitious public projects that I’m proud of, but toward the end, there were battles over content that were devastating to me. And I had lots of ideas for private work that I never had time to realize in those years. Each project took over my life for a year or more. I was getting older, and felt a new urgency to return to an intimate studio practice. I can imagine doing a public art piece again sometime, but that is not where my passion lies now.
Does the cartography you use in much of your recent work help to connect people with some of the problems that may seem to be half way around the world?
I truly hope so! Many artists utilize maps in their work, in all kinds of different ways. Mapping is one of the chief forms of communication in the 21st century. For me, a map is like the scaffold of a building. It is a structure into which I can infuse content. Medieval and Renaissance maps are full of stories, and they have been my models. I have become an amateur student of the history of cartography. Maps reveal the biases and attitudes of their time, if one looks closely. I want to reveal today’s political realities and conflicts through re-mapping and re-inventing the world as it is presented to us daily.
Your work has been direct in it’s opposition to many things, including the U.S. roll in military action. How much power does an artist have in causing change to political decisions in your opinion?
Hah! Very little, I’m afraid. Whenever there is talk about art that had a powerful impact, people mention “Guernica,” which was painted in 1937. Film and digital media may be having that kind of effect today, but we do not yet have the historical distance to know. I just now came home from an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, “Found in Translation,” in which there were several video pieces that made one think about language, history, culture and this current moment (particularly the works of Omer Fast and Steve McQueen).
Any thoughts to share on the unrest in North Africa and the middle east right now?
I believe that each country will evolve differently. Egypt and Tunisia seem to be off to a good start, so I’m hopeful.
Who are a few people who have inspired you in your work or in life generally?
So many things: I have a voracious appetite for the visual world. The great mosques of Isfahan. The Alhambra. The paintings of Duccio and Cimabue and the Lorenzetti and Giovanni Bellini. Mackintosh and Fortuny and Sonia Delaunay and Persian miniatures and the 20th century paintings of the Baroda school (India). And movies: I grew up on Godard, Truffaut, Varda, Antonioni, Fellini. If you asked me this question on another day, I’d come up with a different list.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I’m thinking of doing a piece about Christianity next (I’m a secular Jew). I grew up in a Catholic town, where we were the only Jewish family. I’m always fascinated by “the other”, and where I stand in relationship to those others.
See more of Joyce Kozloff’s work at: http://www.joycekozloff.net/
From The Citrus Report
Posted By The Citrus Report