Magazine article Artforum International

Ana Mendieta and Hans Breder: Galerie Lelong

Magazine article Artforum International

Ana Mendieta and Hans Breder: Galerie Lelong

Article excerpt

A salutary foray into the history of postwar performance art and video, this pairing of work by Ana Mendieta and Hans Breder conjured an informative, if somewhat uneasy, reunion between the late, celebrated Cuban-born artist and her former professor, longtime romantic partner, and frequent collaborator. The work on view--mostly photographs but also films and videos made by the two during the course of a relationship that spanned the 1970s--did share the same central fascination: the female body, specifically Mendieta's. But the dramatic distinctions between the two artists' tone and approach, and the divergence in the way the two strands of work regard their dominant subject, produce a study less of collaborative congruence than of fundamental difference.

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The forty-odd works and twelve pieces of documentation shown come from the decade after the artists met in 1969--Mendieta, a twenty-year-old graduate student in the fledgling Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa; Breder, a charismatic German emigre thirteen years her senior, the program's founder and director. Breder had arrived in Iowa, after a stint in New York, with an awareness of Fluxus, Actionism, and other boundary-blurring international trends, and initiated the intermedia department in 1968 to spread the new doctrine of interdisciplinarity to adventurous Midwestern MFA students like Mendieta (who had grown up in foster homes in nearby Dubuque after arriving in the US from Cuba when she was twelve). He introduced his classes to artists with strong iconoclastic streaks--Vito Acconci, Mary Beth Edelson, Allan Kaprow, and many others visited Iowa City over the years--and Mendieta clearly internalized the chance-taking approaches she encountered there, inflecting them with her own terrestrial feminism to produce a ritualistic, revelatory brand of performative art.

Breder, meanwhile, became Mendieta's collaborator and documentarian, roles with apparently considerable overlap between their functions. Yet for all his pedagogical skill and progressive thinking in terms of process, Breder's own art often demonstrates an oddly retrograde surrealistic romanticism, as in the works on view from 1970 and 1971 featuring various models (including Mendieta) shot in and along the shore of an Iowa stream. …

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