"Suddenly," Mira Schors first one-person exhibition in New York in over a decade, reveals an artist in the process of reevaluating her trademark interests. For well over 20 years, Schor has developed a practice in which language assumes multivalent roles. In her spare but luxurious oil paintings, sentence fragments, single words, and even punctuation are transformed into image by the artist’s elegant hand. In her writing, the political agency of text becomes the critical nexus in such groundbreaking works as Wet: On Painting, Feminism and Art Culture (Duke, 1997) and M/E/A/N/I/N/G, the popular journal of artist writings that she coedited with artist Susan Bee from 1986 to ’96.
Instead of the fleshy semicolon or succulent nouns we have come to expect from Schor, the dominant image in "Suddenly" is a graphic speech bubble. A loose, narrative relationship among the 25 oil paintings, which tend to be small, begins to develop, complete with "pauses," or extra space between works to bracket humorous sidebars or emphasize important "thoughts." The sequence begins with Marker (2008), in which interlocking bubbles form a tombstone inscribed with the name schor, and ends with an astonishing pair of pictures titled I’m Fine (2008) and Portrait of My Brain (2007). In between, the artist uses her mutable speech-bubble shape to track the endless and often painful fluctuations of lived experience: from the scratched-out, blackened face of Anonymity to the gritty, Gustonesque Black and Grey Thought to the ephemeral As a Cloud. The nuanced range of feeling generated by Schor’s mute and often brutally funny "self-portraits" feels hard-won and new. They form a poignant counterpoint to her many years as one of the most articulate feminist voices in the artworld.
"Mira Schor" originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Modern Painters. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Modern Painters' Summer 2009 Table of Contents.