Jo Applin’s Monograph on Art World Drop Out Lee Lozano Wins $50,000 Mellor Prize

Lozano was known for her boycott of other women.

Lee Lozano (1971). Photo: © the Estate of Lee Lozano, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

A monograph on American conceptual artist Lee Lozano by Jo Applin has been awarded a $50,000 grant as the 2014 winner of the Suzanne and James Mellor Prize for distinguished scholarship on women artists, presented by the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA).

Now in its sixth year, the annual award recognizes the best proposed research project for a scholarly book on a female artist, without any restrictions on time period or country of origin. Previous winners have included publications on Frida Kahlo and Marguerite Gérard.

Applin’s proposal, a titled Not Working: Lee Lozano Versus the Art World 1961–1971, explores Lozano’s unusual decision to cease making work after a successful decade-long career as a painter. Lozano began her General Strike Piece in 1969, cutting all ties with the New York artistic community, and eventually moving to Dallas.

Lee Lozano, <em>General Strike Piece</em> (1969).  Photo: © the Estate of Lee Lozano, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Lee Lozano, General Strike Piece (1969).
Photo: © the Estate of Lee Lozano, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

“In an art world which, for many, is dominated by the logic of art fairs and billionaire collectors, the fantasy of walking away from it all is a powerful one,” Helen Molesworth, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles curator, told the Times in 2011.

Another strike titled Boycott Women, in which the artist abstained from contact with other women, began in 1971. It was originally planned as a short experiment, but as the Times noted in Lozano’s obituary in 1999, “For unexplained reasons, she continued this piece to the end of her life, despite the great inconvenience and, one supposes, even greater rudeness.”

Lee Lozano, <em>Boycott of Women Piece</em> (1969).  Photo: © the Estate of Lee Lozano, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Lee Lozano, Boycott of Women Piece (1969).
Photo: © the Estate of Lee Lozano, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

“Applin’s project is to be praised for reframing Lozano’s work and career in a way that really contributes to the field,” Heather Slania, the NMWA’s library and research center director, told artnet News in an email. “The project and the approach are particularly innovative, and Lozano is an interesting figure who speaks to the complications of women artists choosing to self-identify with feminism or not.”

A senior lecturer in modern and contemporary art at the University of York, Applin is the author of Eccentric Objects: Rethinking Sculpture in 1960s America (Yale University Press, 2012) and Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field (Afterall and MIT Press, 2012).

The Mellor Prize selection committee included Joan Marter, editor of the Woman’s Art Journal; Catherine Morris, curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; and Virginia Treanor, NMWA associate curator.

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