Curator Wim Waelput on Dorothy Iannone’s current show at KIOSK in Ghent

With art writer Sophie Verhulst now overseeing our monthly Curator Talk series, we begin with a timely talk with Wim Waelput, founding director of Ghent-based non-profit KIOSK and curator of the art space’s current show, Lineage of Love by Dorothy Iannone, which is on until the end of the month. American-born artist Iannone has been creating trouble both in and outside the art world since the sixties and seemed to us very deserving of the title.

All photography by Tom Callemin (c).

With only one day to go before Trump’s inauguration as the US’ 45th president, it’s somehow hard to choose between the many deplorable – and downright despicable – things the real estate mogul turned licensing magnate has recently said. One of the more jarring moments though, one that sticks out, was when he called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman, during the final presidential debate. This insult, muttered under Trumps breath, was quickly appropriated by Clintons supporters, turning it into a title to be worn with pride.

In a way, Dorothy Iannones show fits with the new direction we want to take with our next exhibitions,” says Wim. “We continue showing artists who work more figuratively and narratively, and Iannone is the first of a series of artists we’ll show whose work is more critical of our society. KIOSK is an artist-oriented space, but we want to be an active part of our world today. This show goes against KIOSKs usual spiel to show contemporaries, because Iannone, being a woman in her 80s, could be considered a historical artist. She started her career in the 60s and came to her own during the 70s, when she developed a more figurative style, taking in developments from her own life as most important subjects. You could say her work is very autobiographical. I personally feel her work is very contemporary, the themes she still explores in her work are very relevant today.

The work seems to be more about love than about sex, more about vivaciousness and playfulness and less about provocation and demoralization.

Thats why we felt it was worth showing her now. Artists today are not afraid anymore to work figuratively, to draw from their own lives. Young artists like Nel Aerts (who had a show at KIOSK together with Miet Warlop at the start of 2016) look to the work of Iannone as inspiration. I first saw Dorothy Iannone’s work at a presentation of Air de Paris in Turin, Italy (Air de Paris is also the gallery of her mother, the artist Sarah Pucci, who creates small but impressive baroque pieces with pearls and gemstones). I visited her home in Berlin and most of her works are right with her in her home. At the same time, her work is gaining in popularity. One of the works I wanted to use for the show was recently sold to an important collector and a major arts centre is starting to acquire one of her works. So, at 83, shes having some sort of breakthrough. Iannones paintings, drawings and videos incorporate many luscious female forms, erect penises, swollen labia and explicit scenes, fitting neatly into the wave of sexual liberation of the era. However, ‘feministwould be too limiting a description of her view on the world. To us, the work seems to be more about love than about sex, more about vivaciousness and playfulness and less about provocation and demoralization.”

Iannones professed love for artist Dieter Roth has influenced every aspect of her artistic career, says Wim, although this influence needs to be nuanced; not every depiction of a man and a woman is Iannone and Roth, but should be read on a higher plan as being about a male-female relationship. Because Iannone loved Dieter Roth passionately, but she loved all men: “You will not be vanquished although you are a man,” she jots down on one of her works.Centuries of gazing at your fragility have augmented my love for your sex.

Buddhism is very important in this all-encompassing worldview. The idea of an aesthetic unity proclaiming not only a unity between life and art but between man and woman as well, was very important to Iannone. This equality does not mean a leveling but rather an appreciation of the duality between a patriarch and a matriarch figure,” continues Wim. To her contemporary feminists, this idea of a strong man was not so easy to accept.

Choosing to wear neither the title of feminist nor of provocateur, it seems that Dorothy Iannone has always been above and beyond categorization.

Both Iannone and her work were censored, adjusting our idea of the 1960s and 1970s as free-for-all ages of anything goes. The artist herself remains stoic in the face of this censorship. In an interview with Maurizio Cattelan from 2014, she claims that “In no way was my content affected by censorship. I completely ignored it and kept my eyes on my heart. I still do. More than ignoring the censorship, Iannone set out to change some of it. After the U.S. Customs had taken her copy of Henry Millers book Tropic of Cancer in 1961, she sued them and not only got her book back but also lifted the ban on Miller. That, says Wim, “is maybe more known in the U.S. than for her artistic work.” Her Story of Bern, an artist book on display at KIOSK, tells the story of another bout with censorship. Iannone was invited to join Freunde, one of the final exhibitions infamous curator Harald Szeeman made before his resignation from the Kunsthalle in Bern, in 1969. Iannone’s work was found to be too sexually explicit. After the suggestion came to cover the offending parts of the work with brown tape, both Iannone and Dieter Roth chose to withdraw from the show. Szeemann suggested that he, too, opposed the censorship, but from what we can gather from Story of Bern, Iannones doesnt believe a word of it.

Choosing to wear neither the title of feminist nor of provocateur, it seems that Dorothy Iannone has always been above and beyond categorization. Maybe the best description of a nasty woman is she who is comple and herself. Or, to quote that other forceful nasty woman, Carrie Fisher, “one who takes whats in her heart and makes it into art.” Make sure to go see for yourself.

Lineage of Love
Until Sunday 29th January
KIOSK, 2 Louis Pasteurlaan (9000)
kioskgallery.be