Joan Jonas

1936 | New York, United States
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Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: Bridgeman

American performance and video artist.

Following her studies in art history and her training in visual art (primarily in sculpture), Joan Jonas turned towards performance and video art, in which she would become an important pioneer. Her work attempts to express inner life and repressed emotions. Whether as a dancer, witch, or narrator, she adopts in her performances the persona of characters she considers troubling and subversive, and, through these diverse portrayals, she questions her role as an artist and a woman. She opposed the minimalist trends prevalent in the American art scene during the 1960s and 1970s by progressively integrating words and narratives capable of describing highly expressive psychic landscapes. The direct involvement of her self, as the physical and psychological source of her work – both vulnerable and literal – becomes a central tenet of her performances. Thus, starting in 1968, she created multidimensional works using sound and video images, combining choreographed movements, improvisation, drawings and accessories. The mirror, the mask, and the video monitor are three constants of her eminently theatrical work.

From Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll (1972) to her more recent work such as Revolted by the Thought of Known Places… Sweeney Astray (1994), a plethora of female characters succeed each other, drawn from ancient or contemporary lore, the artist often choosing to revisit medieval fables or epic poems. Between illusionism and colourful carnival, she never stopped exploring new narrative forms. She received many prizes and grants, namely from the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1994, an important retrospective was mounted by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in her honour. Her work is displayed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

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Clara Schulmann

Translated from French by Toby Cayouette.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, Double Lunar Dogs, 1984, video, 24’, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, May New Theater 1, 1997, video color, sound and mixed media in miniature, 166.4 x 50.8 x 185.4 cm, MoMA, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, Mirror Piece II, 1969-2018, performance at Tate Modern, 13 March 2018, © Photo: Stephen Chung / Alamy, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy, 1972, single-channel video, black and white, sound, 17’ 24’’, MACBA, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word (Bees), 2014-2015, installation view, Pavilion of the United States at the 56th International Art Exhibition, Biennale di Venezia, © Photo: Moira Ricci, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word (Mirrors), 2015, installation view, Pavilion of the United States at the 56th International Art Exhibition, Biennale di Venezia, © Photo: Moira Ricci, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word II, 2015, performance, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word II, 2015, performance, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word, 2015, film, Courtesy Joan Jonas, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word, 2015, film, Courtesy Joan Jonas, © Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Joan Jonas, Wind, 1968, 16 mm film transferred into video, black and white, silent, 5’ 40’’, MACBA, © Joan Jonas

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