The artist Lee Lozano wrote in her notebook on December 20, 1969: “Confinement is the near root of all my rage.”
Recently, I’ve been trying to imagine her name as a verb. Lee Lozano. Do you know her work? I think you would like it. She’s mostly known for her tool drawings and paintings—big graphic sucker punch hammers and silvered screw drivers with dicks and cunts (I know I’m being crude, but it’s fitting).
One drawing is of a cross necklace hanging between two breasts. The cross at the end is morphing into the head of a penis. Next to this image Lozano scrawled “A tits man he was not.”
She exhibited in New York from 1965 to 1971. She was kind of a big deal, which is amazing since most people never know who I’m talking about when I mention her name. She had a one-woman exhibition at the Whitney in 1970—huge Wave paintings that were mathematically planned and loosely based on electromagnetic wave theory.
Lozano would work on one canvas for days, non-stop, applying flat waves of paint after flat waves of paint. A reviewer for Artforum described the works as “off-putting” and ”oppressively decorative.” Lozano wrote to a friend: “Turns out the Artforum critic is a Bennington girl!” Bennington is a college in Vermont that was known in the 1960s for its interest in formalism. Rosalind Krauss, for instance, is a Bennington girl.
Lozano was tough, but I think this review hurt her. She moved to Dallas and quit making work the next year. She “dropped out.” The act of leaving was her last definitive piece.
I think the art world missed her. Sometimes I think I miss her, even though I know she could never miss me. She quit speaking to women in 1972.
Carl Andre missed her. In 1983, Andre wrote that Lee Lozano, born Lenore Knaster, now wanted to be known as “E” for energy. In a notebook page dated 1964/67 Lozano created a list titled All Verbs: “ream, spin, veer, span, cross, ram, peel, charge, pitch, verge, switch, shoot, slide, cram, goad, clash, cleave, fetch, clamp, lean, swap, butt, crook, split, jut, hack, break, stroke, stop.“
What happens when someone leaves? Are they forgotten forever? Does dropping out mean leaving the people you love? Can agency exist in absence?
She wrote in her notebook on May 9, 1968 “Once and for all, the sum of myself to date is in terms of the verb.”
As “E” she left the world of pronouns forever. Andre wrote, “To me matter must stand on its own, not be an image, not disappear when the lights go out. Lee could and did make pigment matter. I thought that unholy. We argued. Her paintings were and are right. “
“I was wrong, Lee Lozano’s notebooks of the 1960s contain some of the most beautiful depictions of matter I have ever seen. Then, mattering pigment was no longer enough. Matter outside of the mind became unimportant. It became necessary to dye the canvas of the brain. Lost were four vowels and four consonants. Literally. “
What Andre isn’t saying here, although I think it is felt, is that Lozano was mad. It is rumored that she went crazy and in 1999 died homeless and alone. This is a familiar story, but you can hear Andre’s regret.
She was a shifting yet truly honest character, Lee Lozano. No paper tiger for her. She wrote on May 9, 1968: “Art does not need to be monumental, but movement (change) does.”