Licentious and Junoesque women example of the bold expressiveness of the American artist
Camden Arts Centre
8 March – 5 May
What is the role of Art? And how is Creativity linked to Love? These are the main questions of Dorothy Iannone: Innocent and Aware. The art exhibition dedicated to the painter, currently at the London Camden Arts Centre, brings together main works between the 1970s and 1980s, including her last designs in which she stressed her attention on Tibetan Buddhist and its vision of life and ecstasy.
In the first room of the building a retrospective on Iannone’s favourite films called Movie people is displayed. The Berlin-based artist painted wooden supports in which she combines colourful and psychedelic images of famous characters of movies like Morocco, Nabokov masterpiece’s Lolita movie interpretation, Brokeback Mountain, Les Amants, Piano, Pandora, with epigrams in which she explains the plot to the art visitor, with an undeniable retro- vintage touch.
Dorothy Iannone’s Brokeback Mountain, 2010. Photograph: Courtesy Air de Paris
At the back of the room several wooden human shaped figures are displayed: they are famous characters and the visitor could easily recognize, for example, famous British moviemaker Charlie Chaplin, President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, and British King Henry The 8th.
Going ahead in the exhibition, the spectator can understand in depth the world of Dorothy Iannone, populated by feminine figures. Plump Women seem like ‘enchanted’ by a promiscuous and lascivious atmosphere. They are portrayed twisted to men with blue and golden backgrounds, which remind the medieval mosaic technique.
For Iannone sexuality is joy and freedom, and along with art, the best device to overcome ‘mortality’. Art and passion are pure energy, an endless flux of vitality and attempt to overcome the transience of existence. Varied and multi cultural the inspirations for her works: from the Hindi world to the byzantine mosaics, Iannone’s colourful vision of life is contagious and eager and involves the spectator into an unusual journey into the deepness of the complexity of love, sex and relationships.
Her style is flamboyant and eccentric: she loves mixing together funny epigrams with beautiful women, contorted with their partners. Her works are a unique combination of text and decoration, which is an ode to free eroticism and libertinage. The artist vision of life is clearly displayed by her works: hippie dippy style and colourful eroticism scenes show her willingness to stress the pivotal role of the women in the history of the world. Subversive and odd, she reverses all the stereotypes of men and women roles, celebrating in many of her works the joy of her sexual and love relationship with the painter and poet Dieter Roth, met in 1967 in Reykjavik.
In works such as Love the stranger and Let the light from my lighthouse shine on you painting techniques and use of golden remind us Klimt artworks and Austrian artist’s obsession with strength and potentiality of eroticism. Iannone’s bodies are twisted together and bring us back to Indi Kama Sutra images and Naïve echoes.
Dorothy Iannone, ‘Let The Light From My Lighthouse Shine on You’, 1981
Dorothy Iannone, Love the Stranger, 1981. Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris
The next great moment in history is ours is a critique towards Western society and also an attempt to unchain all the prejudices linked to free eroticism and raise women’s awareness. It is a joyful manifesto dedicated to women’s complexity and power, addressed to renowned women in the field of art and culture such as Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Isadora Duncan and Edith Piaf.
The Next Great Moment in History Is Ours, 1970 Photograph: courtesy Air de Paris, Paris
The exhibition closes with a huge sheet in which Iannone painted her entire life, once again combining funny and explicit erotic images with brief tales and private anecdotes. Regardless conventions and common censorship, her art is pure and free expression of ecstatic and original creativity, released from prejudices.
Despite the massive concentration on eroticism and sex scenes, which helped her to gain the nickname of ‘Bad Girl’, it is clear the importance of art as a powerful device of consolation. ‘Painting’ is a kind of ‘rescue’ for Iannone. As the artist states the creativity helps her to overcome sadness, ‘Art is the world I have created which never lets me down, a world which I can return again and again and smile, and be immortal’.