Rosemarie Castoro

19392015 | New York, United States
Rosemarie Castoro — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Rosemarie Castoro in front a ‘Free Standing Wall’ in her studio, Spring Street, New York, 1970, vintage black and white polaroid photograph, 8.26 x 10.80 cm, 3.25 x 4.25 in., © Estate of Rosemarie Castoro & Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

American visual artist.

While studying graphic design at the Pratt Institute in New York, Rosemarie Castoro was drawn to the experimental contemporary dance scene, in particular some of Yvonne Rainer’s choreography. After graduating, she decided to become a painter, but her work throughout her career reflects a special interest in the moving body. In the early 1960s, she joined conceptual and minimal art movements and was closely involved with their members. From 1961 to 1970, her life companion was Carl Andre (1935-), and a 1969 photograph shows other artists who were part of her close circle, such as Lawrence Weiner (1942-), Richard Long (1945-), Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), Robert Smithson (1938-1976) and Jan Dibbets (1941-). In 1971, she exhibited at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery a series of self-supporting wooden panels covered with graphite patterns imitating the marks of a brushstroke, repeated all over. Arranged as screens in the exhibition space, the pieces are more or less the same size as a human body. Their arrangement can be altered, influencing the way viewers walk, and it changes their environment by “sculpting” the space.

R. Castoro made those pieces the start of her “brushstrokes” series, massive brushstrokes spreading at random over her studio walls. One of them, Armpit Hair (1972), is a long sculpture made of a layer of plaster covered with graphite and applied to a wooden background with a broom. This imprint of the artist’s gesture looks like something growing organically from the existing structure. The works, hanging on their own or in a group and extending over every part of her living and working space, are called after parts of the body, an amused reference to the artist’s fragmented physical self. The title of the Armpit Hair sculpture-painting, deriding the smooth, hairless feminine ideal, echoes calls for the liberation of women’s bodies in the second wave of feminism in the United States. R. Castoro’s abstraction falls within the scope of the informal-looking eccentric abstraction backed by Lucy R. Lippard, who showed her conceptual pieces in the “Numbers Shows”: “557,087”in Seattle and “955,000” in Vancouver. At the start of her career, R. Castoro used the formal, pared-down, and mathematical language of the minimalists, but hers was a subversive version, infusing her work with a biographical and emotional content. In 1970, she wrote: “I think of myself as a container, and what I do as an eruption of what I am.” Although the idea of work embodying the subjectivity of the artist makes hers akin to feminist art, she refused to be categorized by her gender: “I do not consider myself as a woman artist. I am foremost an artist and do not want to be segregated in a quota system.” Her work, for many years underrated by art historians, is now enjoying renewed attention, as evidenced by a major retrospective at MAMCO in Geneva in 2019 and by its acquisition by the Centre Pompidou in the same year.

Laure Chauvelot

Translated from French by Thames & Hudson Ltd.

As published in Women in Abstraction © 2021 Thames & Hudson Ltd, London

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