Minimalism: a masochistic playground only occupied by men? Hell, no. Just visit Ratio 3 this month for two shining examples of women whose practices give Sol Lewitt a run for his money. Abstract works by contemporary, San Francisco-based artist Ruth Laskey appear in conjunction with drawings and sample pages from the notebooks of Lee Lozano, a conceptualist who quit making material art in the late 1960s/early 1970s. On display: form and color versus mass.
Lozano's notebooks are full of drawing exercises and language play. "Which is heavier, red or blue?" she wrote in August of 1968. Following that thought are two comic book-esque strips made up of two panels apiece, one at the top of the page and one towards the bottom. Inside each panel is a circle. The notebook is reproduced in black-and-white, so for all we know Lozano cheated and used purple in her experiment, but it's still obvious that one color has more mass -- more grey value -- than the other. "Red seems heavier," she concluded.
At first glance, Laskey's works are the opposite of Lozano's: individual, brightly colored forms stand out against white backgrounds, slowly shimmering due to the fact that the color saturation is graduated. The images appear to be colored pencil on heavy-stock printing paper, but upon closer inspection, the pieces are made entirely of linen. Every last one of the works is hand-woven, and I'm still not one-hundred percent clear how Laskey is able to so effectively change the directions of warp and weft in order to create the geometric shapes. The transition from background to foreground (or negative space to structure) is not seamless; a fissure surrounds each form, indicating where the direction of the weave has been forcibly shifted.
Ironically, I doubt that Lozano would have appreciated this show, or my take on it. According to both the New York Times and Frieze magazine, Lozano refused to interact with women. She considered this a form of living art and called it The Boycott Piece, performing it from 1971 until her death twenty years later. I'm not sure what she found so troublesome, but in this show, at least, the pairing of Lozano and Laskey adds depth to each woman's individual oeuvre.
Ruth Laskey and Lee Lozano: Notebooks 1967 - 1970 are on display at Ratio 3 until October 23, 2010.