Eleanor Antin. 100 Boots. 1971-73. 51 halftone reproductions (postcard), Each 4 1/2 × 7" (11.4 × 17.8 cm). Transferred from The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York. © 2022 Eleanor Antin

“When Conceptual art arrived, suddenly there was a feast of possibilities....”

Eleanor Antin

Working since the early 1960s, Eleanor Antin has created a body of work that explores history, contemporary culture, and identity from a feminist perspective. Before devoting herself to the visual arts, Antin was a poet and an actress. Drawing on this background, she has integrated language, character, costume, and voice into the mediums of painting, sculpture, and photography. Her disregard for the boundaries between art, performance, and theater opened possibilities for younger generations of artists working between the studio and the stage.

Initially developing her practice amid New York’s artistic and literary avant-garde, in 1969 Antin moved to San Diego, where she became deeply involved with the local feminist movement and participated in activities at the Woman’s Building, an arts and education center in Los Angeles. She was also a key figure within the vibrant community of leftist artists and writers affiliated with the University of California, San Diego, where she taught from 1975 until 2002.

In 1974 Antin wrote, “I consider the usual aids to self-definition—sex, age, talent, time and space—as tyrannical limitations upon my freedom of choice.” From the early 1970s through the early 1990s she challenged these limitations by creating and embodying multiple alter egos of different genders, races, professions, historical eras, and geographic locations. She presented this motley group, whom she called her “selves,” in works across mediums. The primary selves—a disenfranchised king, two frustrated ballerinas, and a helpless nurse—are the protagonists in a series of narrative videos, including The King (1972), The Ballerina and the Bum (1974), The Adventures of a Nurse (1976), and From the Archives of Modern Art (1987). In transforming herself into one character after another, she performed the proposition that gender, class, and racial identity are fluid. If such categories are unstable, the works suggest, then so too must be the social hierarchies that are built upon them. This position, shared by many feminist artists of Antin’s generation, was foundational for politically engaged art of the 1980s and 1990s and continues to reverberate in art today.

Since the early 2000s Antin has been making large-scale photographic tableaux that mine classical history and art history to reflect on current issues such as environmental destruction and modern warfare. These bodies of work, like the ones that precede them, are often marked by wit and humor, even as they engage serious, even dark, matters.

Note: Opening quote is from Morse, Erik, “With a Bang: An Interview with Eleanor Antin.” The Paris Review (blog), October 22, 2017. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/10/22/bang-interview-eleanor-antin/.

Emily Liebert, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, 2016

Wikipedia entry
Eleanor Antin (née Fineman; February 27, 1935) is an American performance artist, film-maker, installation artist, conceptual artist, feminist artist, and university professor.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Considered a key figure in conceptual, feminist, and performance art practice. She attended Music and Art High School in the Bronx, New School for Social Research, and City College of New York, where she met the poet David Antin, whom she married in 1961. She began as a painter and asssemblage artist, but soon turned to conceptual works, often involving photography and performance. Her work has been exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Kunsthalle Wien, and documenta 12, and is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Jewish Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Artist, Author, Actor, Conceptual Artist, Performance Artist, Photographer, Sculptor, Video Artist
Eleanor Antin, Eleanor Fineman, Eleanora Antinova, Yevgeny Antinov
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


61 works online



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