Shock of the Nude

Turning bodies into paint brushes, Carolee Schneemann’s performances, films and art still startle, as a retrospective at MoMA PS1 shows.

Some people in the art world say that #MeToo has gone too far. What modern misogynist will be yanked from museums next? Gauguin? Picasso? I say, sure, why not? Let’s set them aside for awhile, give them a rest, make room for what we never see, which means art by almost any woman you can name.

Carolee Schneemann is an artist I’d move right into the cleared-out spotlight, not just because she has star quality, which she does, or because she has majorly shaped art history, which she has. I’d put her there because, in a career of some 60 years, she’s been one of the most generous artists around: generous with her presence, her thinking, her formal and political risk-taking, and her embrace of embracing itself — across genres, genders and species.

You find evidence of all of this in “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” at MoMA PS1, the artist’s first comprehensive career retrospective. The show, which comes from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in Austria, has problems. It is, disorientingly, installed in reverse chronological order. This means you encounter not-always-strong recent work on the first floor, and the now-classic early pieces only later on the second.

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