Vito Acconci, Eleanor Antin, Jacki Apple, Lynda Benglis, Chris Burden, Colin Campbell, Ian Carr-Harris, Mary Beth Edelson, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, Suzy Lake, Rita Myers, Tania Mouraud, Dennis Oppenheim, Carolee Schneemann, Michael Snow, Lisa Steele, Colette Whiten, Hanna Wilke and Martha Wilson Whiten, Hannah Wilke

Curated by: Barbara Fischer

23 May 1996 - 29 June 1996
Opening Reception 23 May 1996 8pm

Love Gasoline

The exhibition Love Gasoline presents a close look at issues of subjectivity and identity as they suddenly erupted in contemporary art in a few concentrated years around 1970. Presenting seminal works by artists such as Vito Acconci, Hannah Wilke, Eleanor Antin, Michael Snow, Dennis Oppenheim, Lisa Steele, Tania Mouraud, Colette Whiten, Suzy Lake and many others, the exhibition focuses on the unprecedented eruption of images of the self in the late 1960s. Rather than following the practice of splitting subjectivity along gender lines this exhibition seeks to show important material connections between, as well as ironic contestations of gender definitions in the works of both men and women.

The title of the exhibition is an ironic appropriation of one of Marcel Duchamp’s notes accompanying his most important work, The Large Glass (also known as The Bride stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even). Depicting the machinations of erotic desire as an unpredictable (frustrated) play between forever separated bachelors and bride, Duchamp figured that the sparking commands of the bachelors, who imagine the virgin’s stripping (onanistically), would eventually cause the explosion of the bride’s love gasoline, that is, the bride’s orgasmic, or cinematic blossoming. If in Duchamp’s work consummation is suspended forever, and the bachelor suitors are left hanging high and dry, this exhibition maps the machinations of desire on the art of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s to witness ironic detachment evaporate in a cross-fire of detonating sparks.

Love Gasoline includes works in a diversity of media (sculpture, photo-based work, performance, and video), and traces several common themes. A general crisis of the object (registering in the dematerialization of the art object) corresponds with a loss of the love object, and an attendant (narcissistic) spiraling inward on a wounded self. Chris Burden nails himself to a Volkswagen Beetle, and exposes himself to the risk of being electrocuted; Dennis Oppenheim gets himself sun-burned; Michael Snow stages his own “death” in Venice; and Lisa Steele shows off all the scars on her body. Other themes include a sense of self-consciousness, evident in the play in front of and for the camera; it is accompanied by an emergent role-crisis, role-change and gender-transgression in art. Martha Wilson poses in drag and Vito Acconci stages himself as a woman. Registering the effects of the camera, the works in this exhibition exchange erotic glances for a sometimes violent cross-fire of looks, and in that process draw attention to subjectivity as a social fact, as a role played out in the visual field.

– Barbara Fischer

Mercer Union is publishing a catalogue in conjunction with the Love Gasoline exhibition that includes an essay by guest curator Barbara Fischer. The catalogue is produced with assistance of the Canada Council through the Exhibition Assistance Program.