Contributed by Heike Moras / A strand of melancholic stillness runs through each of Mira Schor’s early Californian paintings, on view at Lyles & King through May 19. Done roughly around the time the artist spent at Cal Arts in the early 1970s and heavily influenced by her work with the fabled Womanhouse Project of Feminist Art, Schor’s austere paintings embrace the vastness of the empty plains of the American West and the sobriety of the desert as the backdrop for eroticized exchanges between herself and nature.
Her “Story Paintings,” among the best in the show, demonstrate a sobering reciprocity between sexual desire and isolation. Here, stillness casts an unnerving spell much like the sudden hush of nature before a storm. In Bear Triptych (Part III), 1973, a naked woman is in a cocoon-like embrace with a bear amidst an arid desert landscape. The scene holds a rare, still moment of true sexual equilibrium before the bear realizes the woman as prey and devours her.
Mira Schor Bear Triptych (Part I), November 1972, Gouache on Arches paper, 22 x 30 inches
Mira Schor, Bear Triptych (Part III), March 1973, Gouache on Arches paper, 22 x 30 inches
A series of nocturnal exchanges up the Surrealist ante. Car Triptych (Part I), 1972, is an extraordinary scene of animated suspense where a naked woman emerges from a lake into a pack of wolves. A car on a pedestal seems expecting her to take its place. The woman looks at the wolves, but they look past her through the painting as if to wait for a cue from the viewer, daring us to be accomplices in an ever-evolving misogynist culture.
In all respects, Schor’s painterly language skews self-referential but is simultaneously infused with the keen understanding that dreams and obsessions by women have historically been declared a public domain, relentlessly analyzed and dissected to meet patriarchal needs. Her paintings are the lyrical residues of female sentience that remain stuck in our own consciousness.
“Mira Schor: California Paintings 1971-1973,” Lyles & King, LES, New York, NY. Through May 19, 2019.
About the author: Heike Moras is an independent contemporary art advisor, curator, and author based in New York. She was the founder and director of HMA Salon, a contemporary art space in London and received a Masters in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute in London where she wrote her dissertation on the Cuban Contemporary Art Market Structure.
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