Honoring Carolee Schneemann (1939–2019)

MoMA April 9, 2019
I lived what I call double knowledge: what I felt was true and could be life experience, and then what the culture told me was absolutely not possible and had to be marginalized or denigrated.
Carolee Schneemann

Since her death on March 6, we’ve been thinking about the kinds of truths that Carolee Schneemann revealed through her art: the way that she created a space for a new kind of bold female creativity—infused with sexuality—in art. In 1961, after completing her MFA in painting at the University of Illinois, Schneemann moved to New York. There she joined a new Downtown art scene that had emerged as as small-scale manufacturing in the city declined and old industrial lofts became available to artists. Schneeman and others found space that allowed them to live, work, gather, and rehearse, the kind of space that nurtured a new type of art that joined performance and object-making. She often used her own body in her work, both as a tool for extending the “action painting” of her predominantly male predecessors and as well as a way of, in her words, taking on “cultural taboos and repressive conventions” that existed in a sphere “starved in terms of sensuousness.”

Schneemann was featured most recently in MoMA’s exhibition Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done and in MoMA PS1’s Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting, the first comprehensive retrospective of her prolific career. During that show’s run, Schneemann visited the exhibition and discussed her work and life with curatorial associate Oliver Shultz. To honor her art, legacy, and spirit, we’ve excerpted a few moments from that conversation that capture the witty irreverence of her deeply embodied cross-media practice.