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 Eleanor Fineman Antin  (1935 - )

About: Eleanor Fineman Antin


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Lived/Active: California      Known for: sculptor-post conceptual autobiography

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Conceptual, performance and assemblage artist Eleanor Antin seems to have dedicated her career to the attempt to discover what she seems to declare is her missing "Self." She describes herself as a "post-conceptual artist".

In the effort to discover her missing self, she created a series of performance personas, including an evolution into a man that appeared to her to be very much like Anthony Van Dyke's portrait of Charles the First, King of England. This evolved into her "King of Solana Beach (California), also a bearded character she took into the streets to interact with passersby. Antin also uses the "Ballerina," "Nurse" and "Black Movie Star" as personas in attempts to discover or create a Self.

Eleanor Antin was born in New York City with the maiden name of Fineman and was an imaginative child, somewhat disenfranchised, who sought fulfillment in fantasy. Working with paper cut-out figures of Rhonda Fleming and Esther Williams, Antin dressed them up, playing out roles and scenarios through them. When they "died" from wear and tear or some violent act, they were "buried" in a cheese box.

she studied at the High School of Music and Art in New York City and earned a B.A. in creative writing. Then, also in New Yor, she studied philosophy at the New School of Social Research and took drama lessons at the Tamara Daykarhanova School for the stage. Described as a lost soul, Antin tries briefly to find herself in acting and for two years in the ballet (she studied dance at the Martha Graham studio). She modeled for painters Isabel Bishop, Moses Soyer and husband-wife artists Jack Levine and Ruth Gikow. Then she found some kindred spirits in Dadaism and the Pop Artiststhe work of Marcel Duchamp and his 1960s' followers, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Antin began writing poetry. Her first effort, "Painter Poems," was published by John Ashbery in Art and Literature. Antin began to paint Dada paintings she describes as hard-edged valentines. She spent years making collages from scraps from magazines and books. She considers her first mature work to be "Blood of a Poet's Box," which she worked on for three years from 1965 to 1968. The piece involves blood samples taken from the fingers of 100 poets filed in a green slide box.

Antin had moved from New York to California in the late 60s. She had her first show at Long Island University, back in New York, at that time and was teaching full-time. She began ordering items from the Sears catalogue, turning them into tableaux groups of groups of objects that became portraits: "California Lives" and "Portraits of Eight New York Women," both exhibited in New York City.

Antin took photos of "Adventures of 100 Boots" in various settingsblack, knee-high boots that are unemployed, in a circus, have committed crimes, join the army, go to church, etc. The work was ultimately exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1973, she performed in Los Angeles for the first time before an art-world audience at the Woman's Building. Over the years, she has done performances accompanying her exhibitions. Eleanor Antin lives in California where she and her husband, poet David Antin, have one child and are tenured professors in the Visual Arts Department of University of California, San Diego. She is also a viisting lecturer at the University of California in Irvine.

She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1997. She has had one-woman shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Connecticut.

In 1999, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held a retrospective of her work. Her installations have been seen at the Jewish Museum, New York City, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.


From "American Women Artists" by Eleanor Munro
Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, "American Women Artists"

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