Born 1932, Boston, Massachusetts; lives in Berlin, Germany

Since the 1960s, Dorothy Iannone has been making vibrant paintings, drawings, prints, and objects depicting male and female figures in states of physical union and ecstasy. These works narrate the artist’s life in intimate detail and, departing somewhat from the dominant feminist discourse of the 1960s, emphasize personal freedom and spiritual transcendence through complete devotion to, and union with, a lover. In 1967, Iannone met the artist Dieter Roth in Reykjavík, Iceland. They fell immediately in love and began an intense seven-year relationship that became the primary subject matter of her artwork (the two remained close friends until Roth’s death in 1998). Iannone’s artist’s book An Icelandic Saga (1978–86) illustrates in vivid detail her journey to Iceland and fateful encounter with Roth, her decision to leave her husband and comfortable life in the United States, and her move to Reykjavík to begin her new life.

Her paintings during that period convey the couple’s everyday life and activities, with primacy given to the sexual aspect of their relationship. The abstract patterning in At Home (1969) provides a two-dimensional map of the couple’s home, replete with plants, shelves full of books, and furniture. In paintings such as I Begin to Feel Free (1970), Iannone depicts herself and Roth in a number of sexual positions, the colors and patterns of their bodies echoed in the abstract forms that surround them. The titles of these paintings, suggesting intimate words spoken between the lovers, are inscribed on their bodies. Although they allude to timeless themes of love and spirituality, Iannone’s paintings were immediately read as politically radical in the European art world of the 1970s. She famously pulled her works from a 1972 group exhibition in Berlin after the organizers attempted to censor imagery they found offensive.

Although painting remains her primary medium, Iannone has also incorporated time-based media into her work. In the large painted box I Was Thinking of You III (1975/2005), a video monitor serves as a surrogate head and shows the artist’s face as she reaches orgasm. She has also made audio-based painted boxes that play the sound of her singing and music by members of the German band Kraftwerk. Such works lend immediacy to the states of ecstasy and spirituality so prevalent in Iannone’s work.

GCM more about this artist in the Biennial Catalogue

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Suck My Breasts I Am Your Most Beautiful Mother, 1972. Acrylic and canvas collage on canvas, 74 13/16 x 59 1/16 in. (190 x 150 cm). Private collection