Kathy Acker was the voice of her time, a writer who seemed to capture all the upheaval and change and sexual discourse of the 1980s. Though none of her novels is conventional, drawing as she did from William Burroughs and others, they have made their way onto the canon of reading for post-modern art that emerged in the late 20th century. Though she died in 1997, her work is far from forgotten.
In fact, another exceptional writer Chris Krauss published her biography last year, After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography. (KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt interviewed Krauss) A group show at Maccarone in downtown L.A. pays homage in a smart and sassy manner. Pussy, King of the Pirates is the title of Acker’s last book, a riff on Robert Lewis Stevenson, as well as this show.
The artists in the show, women of several generations, refer to the body, to domestic relations, to sexual choice. The icon here is Eleanor Antin, an artist whose work in performance, sculpture and photography has influenced countless artists but specifically Kathy Acker, who studied with her and her poet-theorist husband David Antin at U.C. San Diego.
Eleanor Antin, Alice's Dream, 2004. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles.
The show includes several large pieces made by Antin as visual equivalents of certain women. An easel draped with red velvet and posed before a mirror on the wall is named for the performance artist Carolelee Scheemann. It is from 1971 but the show also includes Antin’s 2004 large color photograph of Grecian robed women hung from a tree, Alice’s Dream.
Eleanor Antin, Carolee Schneemann, 1971. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles.
The show offers a range of media including Jennifer West’s seductive and smart hanging colored film strips, Nipple Film Quilt (2018) and Alison Saar’s sturdy unclothed woman in patinated green copper standing impassive as one hand pulls down the front of her abdomen to reveal cotton balls and moths.
Jennifer West, Nipple Film Quilt, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles.
Alison Saar, Foison, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles.
Others are less representational such as April Street’s modestly sized relief paintings daubed with color or Gracie Devito’s watery, impressionistic fields of soft color with shaped frames.
April Street, Blue vase with profile, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles.
Gracie Devito, Pilgrimage drawing with Green Guitar, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles.
As summer draws to a close, group shows give way to solo presentations at gallerys. This show continues to the end of the month, however. Organized by the gallerist Michele Maccarone, who had decided to make this her primary venue, instead of New York, it brings Acker and her influence alive. It continues through Sept. 29