Lee Lozano: Slip Slide Splice (3 stars)

Lee Lozano: Slip Slide Splice

Photo: Ruth Clark

Retrospective puts the work of the American artist in the spotlight

In 1969, at the age of 39, the American artist Lee Lozano undertook a series of conceptual actions, the last of which she called 'Dropout Piece'. In it, she proposed to withdraw from the art world and stop making art. She was as good as her word – Lozano let New York for Dallas, Texas, and died in 1999, having made nothing more.

In recent years, there has been an increased interest in work she left behind, evidence of an intense decade of development and experimentation. Early drawings, confident and playful (there is a prevalence of genitalia, and other kinds of 'tool') give way to small, occasionally surreal oil paintings in which objects morph into body parts.

In the mid 1960s, she makes a striking shift to large-scale abstract paintings, meticulously planned and sumptuously coloured with sharp imperative titles like 'Cram', 'Clamp' and 'Lean', in which straight-edged forms (again based on tools) seem to cut across and fold into one another.

Her final works were conceptual performances which she called 'Life-Art'. In 'Dialogue Piece', she invited artist friends over for 'Dialogue' (Richard Serra got stoned and fell off a chair). Other proposals include: 'Stay high all day, every day, see what happens', investing her grant in the stock exchange, and describing her work to a 'famous but failing' artist and waiting to see if he (sic) steals any of her ideas.

We are left with the sense of a person with a lively imagination, a questing mind and a wicked sense of humour who was prepared to push her art to the limits. Would she have become a major artist, had she continued? We simply don't know. By taking her conceptual experiments to their logical (and terminal) conclusion, she secured a reputation as an enigma, a figure whose personal story is in danger of being more interesting than any of the work she made.

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 3 Jun.

Lee Lozano

A look at the work of the rigorous New York artist who began as a maker of expressive drawings and paintings, then pioneered conceptual art, created language pieces and finally, as part of her 1972 work Dropout Piece, left the art world completely and died in 1999. This is the first exhibition in Scotland of her work.

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