The Many Selves of Pioneering Feminist Artist Eleanor Antin
In Eleanor Antin’s portrait of Yvonne Rainer, a stationary exercise bicycle with a basket, flowers, mirror, and a horn playfully references the dancer, whose choreography is characterized by repetition and quotidian gestures. The accompanying text recounts aspects of Rainer’s appearance and behavior as well as random details of her family history. While bearing no clear relation to the group of objects, the gossipy anecdote adds another dimension to the construction of the portrait subject’s identity. Together, the sculptural and verbal vignettes reflect identity as complex and enigmatic.
"This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today"
Collection of the artist, San Diego, California
The core of Eleanor Antin’s performances, films, photographs, written texts, and installations is her wide cast of alter egos from both historic and contemporary times, who explore issues of age, race, sex, and class. As critic Kim Levin aptly said, by “impersonating the past, Antin personalizes the issues and dilemmas of the present.” Antin began creating Conceptual art in the 1960s, and in the ’70s became widely known for using then-unconventional narrative forms in her artwork, such as autobiography and impersonation, always with a transgressive, deadpan humor. One of her most famous characters was Eleanora Antinova—an imagined forgotten black ballerina from Sergei Diaghilev’s productions—as whom she has written a fictitious memoir and made films, drawings, and performances.
American, b. 1935, Bronx, New York, based in New York, New York