Eleanor Antin

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Eleanor Antin
Eleanor Fineman

(1935-02-27) February 27, 1935 (age 86)
Bronx, New York
Spouse(s)David Antin; 1 child

Eleanor Antin (née Fineman; February 27, 1935) is an American performance artist, film-maker, installation artist, conceptual artist and feminist artist.[1] Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, exhibited The Little Match Girl Ballet (1975) and archived an essay dedicated to Antin and her work on their website [2]

Early life and education[edit]

Eleanor Fineman was born in the Bronx on February 27, 1935.[3] Her parents, Sol Fineman and Jeanette Efron, were Polish Jews who had recently immigrated to the United States.[1]

She attended the Music and Art High School in New York,[1] New School for Social Research, and then the City College of New York,[4] graduating in 1958.[5]

There she met David Antin, a poet who would become her husband in 1961.[6][7] She studied acting and had some roles, including performing in a staged reading with Ossie Davis at the first NAACP convention.[7] She and her husband moved to San Diego in 1968.[4]

She taught at the University of California at Irvine from 1974–79, and from 1979 was professor of visual arts at the University of California at San Diego.[8]


When she began her artistic career in New York, she started off as a painter and later turned to making assemblages, but starting in the 1960s she began to do the conceptual projects that would become her focus. The first was Blood of a Poet Box (1965-1968), in which she took blood samples from poets and put them on slides. The work, which was inspired by Jean Cocteau’s film Blood of a Poet, eventually held 100 samples, including blood from Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti,[9] and is in the collection of the Tate Modern.[7]

In 1969, she created a portrait, Molly Barnes, out of "a lush lavender bath rug, a noisy electric Lady Schick razor, a patch of spilled talcum powder and a scattering of pink and yellow pills."[10] Molly Barnes was just one of a series of "semantic portraits of people, sometimes real, some-times fictional, [made] out of configurations of brand-new consumer goods" that Antin created.[10]

100 Boots is Antin's best-known conceptual work.[11] In this project, she set up 100 boots in various configurations and settings,[12] photographed them, and created 51 postcards of the images that were mailed to hundreds of recipients around the world from 1971-73.[13] 100 Boots relied on the recipients to remember and construct the boots' adventures, as the postcards were mailed out at intervals ranging from 3 days to 5 weeks "depending upon what [Antin] took to be the 'internal necessities' of the narrative."[10] It documents the boots in a mock picaresque photo diary, beginning at the Pacific Ocean and ending in New York City, where their journey was presented in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

In a famous performance work of 1972, Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, Antin photographed her naked body at 148 successive stages during a month of crash-dieting.[14] The somber, almost classical work is a staple of early feminist art, according to the New York Times art critic Karen Rosenberg.[15]

In The Eight Temptations, 1972, Antin poses in mock histrionic gestures, resisting the temptation to eat snack foods that would violate her diet. In the 1970s/80s, she created several videos in which she played invented personae, including an Elizabethan-style king, a Romantic-era ballerina, a contemporary black movie star called Eleanora Antinova, and Eleanor Nightingale, a character that is a combination of Florence Nightingale and the artist herself.[9]

In 1974, Antin described these impersonations as part of her overarching interest in the transformational nature of the self: "I was interested in defining the limits of myself. I consider the usual aids to self-definition—sex, age, talent, time and space—as tyrannical limitations upon my freedom of choice."[10]

From the 70s until the 90s Antin embodied multiple alter egos in a project that she called "Selves" that implemented through several art forms. This project encompassed four videos: The King (1972), The Ballerina and the Bum (1974), The Adventures of a Nurse (1976), and From the Archives of Modern Art (1987).[16]

More recently, Antin completed two large scale photographic series inspired by Roman history and mythology: The Last Days of Pompeii, 2002, and Roman Allegories, 2005. Her work was profiled in Season Two of the PBS series Art:21.[17]

She has had dozens of solo exhibitions and has been represented in countless group exhibitions, including at the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Kunsthalle Wien, and documenta 12 in Kassel.[18] Her work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Jewish Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.[19]

Her work is largely concerned with issues of identity and the role of women in society.[14] "I was determined to present women without pathos or helplessness," she wrote in a feminist artist statement for the Brooklyn Museum.[18]

In a 2009 interview, Antin described her path to becoming an artist: "When I was a kid, I didn't know what kind of artist I was. I knew I was an artist, I just didn't know if I was an actor, I didn't know if I was a writer, I didn't even know if I was a painter. I was fortunate that I grew up as an artist in a time when all the barriers were falling down. It was a time of invention and discovery. I was lucky."[7]

In 2013, Antin published an autobiographical novel, Conversations with Stalin, about "a young girl's struggle to find her way from her crazy dysfunctional family of first generation Jewish Stalinist immigrants", and "her desperate, endearing, often hilarious quest for art, self, revolution and sex, abetted by a kindly avuncular Stalin dispensing bizarre advice."[20]

Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

  • "100 Boots" at MoMA, 1973, New York, New York.[21]
  • "Eleanor Antin, R.N. (Escape from the Tower, It's Still the Same Old Story)" at the Clocktower, 1976, New York, New York.[21]
  • "The Ballerina" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1978, New York, New York.[21]
  • "Eleanor Antin" at Marianne Deson Gallery, June 15-July 1979. Chicago, Illinois.[22]
  • "Angel of Mercy" at Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, 1981, Los Angeles, California.[21]
  • "The Man Without a World" at San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, 1991, La Jolla, California.[21]
  • "Eleanor Antin Retrospective" at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, May 23-August 30, 1999, Los Angeles, California.[9]
  • "Multiple Occupancy: Eleanor Antin's 'Selves'" at Columbia University's Wallach Art Gallery, September 4-December 7, 2013, New York, New York.[15]

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

  • "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution" at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, March 4-July 16, 2007, Los Angeles, California.[23]
  • "Elles@CentrePompidou: Women Artists in the Collection of the National Modern Art Museum" at the Pompidou Center, March 23-May 23, 2010, Paris, France.[21]
  • "State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970", "Pacific Standard Time" at the Getty Center, October 1, 2011 – February 5, 2012, Los Angeles, California, and Bronx Museum of Art, June 23-September 8, 2013, Bronx, New York.[24]
  • "Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1954-1977" at the Art Institute of Chicago, December 10, 2011 – March 11, 2012, Chicago, Illinois.[21]
  • "Correspondances" at the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, February 1-May 5, 2013, Paris, France.[21]


Popular culture[edit]

Her name appears in the lyrics of the Le Tigre song "Hot Topic."[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Meeker, Carlene (March 1, 2009). "Eleanor Antin profile". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  2. ^ "Eleanor Antin". LANDMARKS. 2014-08-04. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
  3. ^ "Eleanor Antin", Jewish Women's Archive; retrieved February 23, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Ollman, Leah (April 2, 1995). "ART : Ever the 'Wicked Little Girl' : Eleanor Antin's works may be on the fringe, but her audience isn't. Her latest alter ego is a demonic little angel". LA Times. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  5. ^ "Eleanor Antin, Artist". The Getty. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  6. ^ Handy, Amy (1989). "Artist's Biographies - Eleanor Antin". In Randy Rosen; Catherine C. Brower (eds.). Making Their Mark. Women Artists Move into the Mainstream, 1970-1985. Abbeville Press. p. 238. ISBN 0-89659-959-0.
  7. ^ a b c d Antin, Eleanor (May 8–9, 2009). "Oral history interview with Eleanor Antin, 2009 May 8-9". Archives of American Art (Interview). Interviewed by Judith Olch Richards. Smithsonian.
  8. ^ Spivey, Virginia B. (1997). "Antin, Eleanor". In Delia Gaze (ed.). Dictionary of Women Artists, Volume 1. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. pp. 193–95. ISBN 978-1-884964-21-3.
  9. ^ a b c Knight, Christopher (May 16, 1999). "Picture the Concept... Eleanor Antin, the subject of a 30-year LACMA retrospective, has made a mark playing with ideas in myriad personae. But who is she really?". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ a b c d Stiles, Kristine (2012). Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: Sourcebook of Artist Writings (Second ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 892–894. ISBN 9780520257184.
  11. ^ "Eleanor Antin profile". Pacific Standard Time at the Getty Center. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  12. ^ Phaidon Editors (2019). Great women artists. Phaidon Press. p. 36. ISBN 0714878774.
  13. ^ "100 Boots". Pacific Standard Time at the Getty Center. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Stein, Judith E.; Ann-Sargent Wooster (1989). "Making Their Mark - Art with an Agenda". In Randy Rosen; Catherine C. Brower (eds.). Making Their Mark. Women Artists Move into the Mainstream, 1970-1985. Abbeville Press. pp. 136–38. ISBN 0-89659-959-0.
  15. ^ a b Rosenberg, Karen (September 5, 2013). "She Creates Herself in Multitudes: Eleanor Antin's Selves at Columbia University". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Eleanor Antin | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  17. ^ "Eleanor Antin". Art in the Twenty First Century. Art21, Inc. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Eleanor Antin". Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  19. ^ "Eleanor Antin profile". University of California at San Diego. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  20. ^ Hoberman, J. (2014). "Eleanor Antin's Conversations with Stalin". Bookforum. 20 (4): 46.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h "Eleanor Antin profile" (PDF). Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  22. ^ Artforum 1979, page 10
  23. ^ "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution". The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Archived from the original on June 5, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  24. ^ Deimling, Kate (June 13, 2013). "The California "State of Mind": A Q&A With Curator Karen Moss". Blouin ArtInfo. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  25. ^ Oler, Tammy (October 31, 2019). "57 Champions of Queer Feminism, All Name-Dropped in One Impossibly Catchy Song". Slate Magazine.

External links[edit]