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NMWA awards $50,000 Mellor Prize to Jo Applin for groundbreaking research on women artists

Oct 07 2015

WASHINGTON—The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) announces the 2014 award of the Suzanne and James Mellor Prize for distinguished scholarship on women artists. In its sixth year, the Mellor Prize is given annually to the best proposal that disseminates the highest quality of groundbreaking research on women artists from any time period and country of origin. The winner of the $50,000 grant is Jo Applin, Ph.D., for her proposed monograph Not Working: Lee Lozano Versus the Art World 1961–1971.

Applin’s monograph focuses on the ways in which American conceptual artist Lee Lozano engaged with, challenged, explored, played with, and ultimately rejected the notion of “work,” culminating in her final decision to stop working entirely. In 1969, Lozano announced that she was going on strike from the New York art world. Two years later, she declared another strike—this time from all contact with other women—beginning as a six-month-long “experiment” that Lozano hoped would make relations between women “better than ever.” She continued, with varying levels of success, until her death in 1999. She was reacting to the feminist movement, by which she, along with many other women, felt alienated. With the General Strike Piece and Decide to Boycott Women, Lozano ended a 10-year-long career during which she produced a prolific, idiosyncratic, and dynamic body of work. Lozano’s interest, which she shared with many of her peers, was in intimately intertwining or “blurring” her art and life.

Lozano’s decision to “drop out” makes her a striking figure through which to examine the 1960s New York art world. Her deliberately resistant practice, in which she rejected feminism just as it entered public and popular consciousness, and stopped making art at the point Conceptualism was beginning to challenge the status of the material object, demonstrates a keen awareness of both the contemporary artistic and political scenes, even as Lozano opted to abandon both. Lozano’s project offers a powerful counter-narrative to familiar heroic Modernist narratives of success and development, for her career was marked by resistance and refusal, attempts to start and decisions to stop. Lozano’s career offers a powerful new example of how agency and authorship, and art and politics, came together during this dynamic decade of artistic production. This book explores the problem that Lozano’s art strike presents both for feminism and art history, and it will be a tremendous resource for scholars.

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National Museum of Women in the Arts