A pioneer and provocateur since the 1960s, Eleanor Antin slyly destabilizes the authority and objectivity of documents through a variety of media—photography, performance, video, and writing.
Her landmark early feminist work, CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture (1972)—part of the Art Institute’s collection—comprises a grid of 148 photographs that sequentially capture the artist’s journey to lose 10 pounds over a 37-day period. Antin’s deadpan, pseudo-scientific self-portraits mock the objectivity of Conceptual Art while alluding to the conceits of Classical sculpture, which claim that the ideal form lies within a block of stone, waiting to be freed by the artist.
Time’s Arrow marks the first time CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture is shown with CARVING: 45 Years Later (2017), an expansive reprisal of the original work through 500 photographs over four months. The pairing of the two works offers a meditation on aging and the passage of time. “It now took forever to lose a single pound,” Antin commented. “I believe that my older body was in a valiant and existential struggle to prevent its transformation into the skeleton beneath the protecting flesh … death.”
The CARVING works are joined by other self-portraits, The Eight Temptations (1972), also in the museum’s collection, as well as her recent self-portrait in a red cape, !!! (2017). Together these pieces offer reflection on aging, transformation, and the conception of the self.
Image: First day of 1972 performance, July 15, 1972, 8:43 a.m., 125.5 pounds