Photo Essays

The Amazing Erotic Art of Dorothy Iannone

by Jillian Steinhauer on June 2, 2014

Dorothy Iannone, "The Next Great Moment In History Is Ours" (1970), 73 x 102 cm (Courtesy die Künstlerin, Air de Paris, Paris, and Peres Projects, Berlin) (photo by Joachim Littkemann)

Dorothy Iannone, “The Next Great Moment In History Is Ours” (1970), 73 x 102 cm (courtesy die Künstlerin, Air de Paris, Paris, and Peres Projects, Berlin) (photo by Joachim Littkemann)

As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has written, we live in the age of the art revival — a time when all sorts of artists are being recovered from their forgotten corners and brought into the art-world limelight. Perhaps predictably, many of those artists are women, many of them passed over by the establishment the first time around for reasons ranging from the style of their work to sexism (and often both).

Dorothy Iannone (2002) (photo © Rolf Walter) (click to enlarge)

Dorothy Iannone (2002) (photo © Rolf Walter) (click to enlarge)

One of those women is Dorothy Iannone. Now 80, Iannone has been making and exhibiting brash, magnetic, erotic art since the 1960s, but it’s only in the last five years that she’s started to gain the major attention she’s due.

In 2009, the New Museum gave her her first solo exhibition in a US institution. It was tiny, but complemented by a more comprehensive show at Anton Kern Gallery. Another retrospective gallery show, This Sweetness Outside of Time, opened at Peres Projects in Los Angeles in 2010, and was followed by exhibitions at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo and London’s Camden Arts Centre. Now a new retrospective, also called This Sweetness Outside of Time, is on view in Berlin, at the Berlinische Galerie Museum of Modern Art, showcasing Iannone’s paintings, objects, and books from over five decades of her career.

As her art may suggest, Iannone is a self-taught painter; she learned the skill while married to painter James Upham. But in 1967, she took a trip to Iceland that changed her entire trajectory: there she met the artist Dieter Roth, and after one week she left her husband to be with him. In a welcome twist on the typical artist-muse gender relationship, Roth became Iannone’s muse (and he called her his “lioness,” which was the title of the 2009 New Museum show). Iannone made nonstop art about herself and Roth, and then other couples, making explicit, erotic love; her art became a kind of advocacy for what she calls “ecstatic unity.”

Naturally, this led to her work being both censored and ignored. Happily, that’s no longer the case. Iannone blends ancient erotic art with the formal sensibilities of a 20th-century self-taught artist; she puts painting, comics, illustration, and porn into a startling mix. In lieu of being in Berlin, below are some of the works on view in the current show at Berlinische Galerie, which closes this weekend. And if you want to read more about Iannone, Karen Rosenberg’s New York Times review of her 2009 shows is a great place to start.

BG_Dorothy_Iannone_I_Dreamt_There_Was_An Emperor_Antony

Dorothy Iannone, “I Dreamt There Was An Emperor Antony” (1970), 200 x 130 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, "On And On" (1979), 70 x 65 cm (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie 1999 Schenkung Mike Steiner, © Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, “On And On” (1979), 70 x 65 cm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie 1999 Schenkung Mike Steiner (© Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, "The Sheltering Sky" from 'Movie People' series (2010), 53 x 55 x 16 cm (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Hans-Georg Gaul)

Dorothy Iannone, “The Sheltering Sky” from ‘Movie People’ series (2010), 53 x 55 x 16 cm (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Hans-Georg Gaul)

Dorothy Iannone, "Singing Box" (1972), 52 x 34 x 26 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Jochen Littkemann)

Dorothy Iannone, “Singing Box” (1972), 52 x 34 x 26 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Jochen Littkemann)

Dorothy Iannone, "The Statue of Liberty" (1977), 83.5 x 60cm, Herausgegeben von Studio Galerie Mike Steiner, Berlin - 76/100 (courtesy the Künstlerin, Air de Paris, Paris, and Peres Projects, Berlin; photo: all rights reserved)

Dorothy Iannone, “The Statue of Liberty” (1977), 83.5 x 60cm, Herausgegeben von Studio Galerie Mike Steiner, Berlin – 76/100 (courtesy the Künstlerin, Air de Paris, Paris, and Peres Projects, Berlin; photo: all rights reserved)

Dorothy Iannone, "Love the Stranger" (1981), 142 x 102.5 cm, Privatsammlung Schweiz, (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Friedrich Rosenstiel)

Dorothy Iannone, “Love the Stranger” (1981), 142 x 102.5 cm, Privatsammlung Schweiz, (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Friedrich Rosenstiel)

Dorothy Iannone, "People" (1966/67), approx. 36 x 21 x 1.2 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, “People” (1966/67), approx. 36 x 21 x 1.2 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, "Hommage Aux Femmes Et Aux Hommes" (1983), 160 x 120 cm, Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea – CRT on loan from Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin, and GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin, (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Marc Domage, Paris)

Dorothy Iannone, “Hommage Aux Femmes Et Aux Hommes” (1983), 160 x 120 cm, Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea – CRT on loan from Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin, and GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin, (© Dorothy Iannone, photo by Marc Domage, Paris)

Dorothy Iannone, "I Was Thinking of You" (1975), 233 x 173.5 x 54 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, “I Was Thinking of You” (1975), 233 x 173.5 x 54 cm, ahlers collection (© Dorothy Iannone)

Dorothy Iannone, "Brokeback Mountain" from the 'Movie People' series (2010), 53 x 54 x 18 cm (courtesy the Künstlerin, Air de Paris, Paris, and Peres Projects, Berlin, photo by Hans-Georg Gaul)

Dorothy Iannone, “Brokeback Mountain” from the ‘Movie People’ series (2010), 53 x 54 x 18 cm (courtesy the Künstlerin, Air de Paris, Paris, and Peres Projects, Berlin, photo by Hans-Georg Gaul)

Dorothy Iannone: This Sweetness Outside of Time; Paintings, Objects, Books 1959–2014 continues at Berlinische Galerie (Alte Jakobstraße 124, Berlin) until today, June 2.

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  • Tony Pinto

    I believe that the New York Times art critic referenced at the beginning of the article is Roberta Smith, not Robert Smith.

    • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

      Yes, it has been fixed. Thanks for catching the typo.

    • guest

      dreamed of all the different ways I had to make her glow

  • Chris Egan

    this is hardly erotic… I don’t think im gonna be spanking it to this any time soon.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Speak for yourself.

  • Norma Desperate

    fantastic stuff – definitely has some elements of “outsider” folk art to a lot of the pieces…

  • hotandbothered

    “outsider” folk art? Ooooh. Cutting.

  • Jaxson14

    Cool stuff… seems like a little Art Deco mixed with Persian/Greek Vase and a bit of 60’s Psychedelic.

  • Martin Ries

    CONGRATULATIONS DOROTHY! !!! and best of luck in all
    your endeavors! and everything throughout the millennia ! – and into the cosmic
    future!

    Peace Love & Info

    mARTin Ries

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