Nancy Buchanan, Barbara T. Smith, Marcia Hafif: 50 years of art


The first MFA program class in 1969 at the University of California, Irvine was small, probably less than 12. Three of the students — Barbara T. Smith, Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif — The divorced single mother went against gender expectations while pursuing an art career. So they built decades of friendship by building conceptual art, friendships in the feminist art movement of the time, and art opportunities to support each other.

From the late ’60s to the’ 70s, women became creative artists in the Southern California art scene as part of groups such as Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, Larry Bell, and Robert Irwin.They are known specifically for research and reclamation, respectively. The body of the work, mainly paintings Hafif and performances, videos, text-based works and installations Smith and Buchanan.

The new exhibition “Time and Space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, Barbara T. Smith” at the Armory Arts Center opens on January 28th, exploring the intersection of artists and their deep story. .. Discover creative impulses and turning points that share the same work and ambitions. Historical research, Organized by guest curator Michael Ned Holte, it emphasizes their friendship and includes drawings, photographs, collages and videos, along with documents from performances and architectural proposals created over 50 years.

Presenting half-century works by three particularly prolific artists It was a challenge, says Holte. He focused on three recurring themes in his work: body, communication and housing.

Nancy’s Cannan’s “Twin Corner” (1975).

(Artist and Charli James Gallery, from Los Angeles.)

One of the early days of Buchanan The work “Twin Corners” is an upside-down, naked drawing of the lower half of the artist’s photographs from 1975. It also includes sculptures of metal shavings that resemble public mounds.

Smith’s “Holy. Marten: Paragraph” A 1990 plywood wall hanging, featuring a row of shells found by the artist on a Caribbean beach. Shell composition replaces words and phrases and forms a meaningful language.

A board containing a lineup of seashells.

Barbara T. Smith’s “St. Marten: Paragraph” (1990).

(From Fredrik Nilsen, Barbara T. Smith and Box in Los Angeles)

Hafif’s 2002 sculpture “The Oval House” is a cream-colored cloth architectural model with a rounded room and a sewn bed. The minimal ideal space is a dwelling for lonely contemplation.

An architectural model of a structure with rounded walls.

Marcia Hafif’s “The Oval House” (2002).

(From Fredrik Nilsen, Marcia Hafif and Fergus McCafree’s mansion in New York.)

Ultimately, the depth and scope of the show is a testament to the artist’s lasting friendship and lifelong commitment to art production, and how it affected the larger artistic landscape.

“They are all artists who should be better known than them,” says Holte. “They are artists who deeply define California at that time.”

In this edited conversation, Buchanan (90) and Smith (75) talked about the Times, their friendship with each other, Hafif, who died in 2018, and art and its early days.

As a graduate student who is also a single mother, have you experienced any backlash from others by going against traditional gender expectations?

Buchanan: no.But I think I was very conscious — it was an evolution of this work I made [Paul McCarthy’s magazine] Called Chris Ross Double Cross “Wolf Woman” — I was always familiar with the fact that there are certainly more men who stand out far more than female artists.

Smith: I was also vaguely aware that there were some differences in the expectations and choices of men and women. But that didn’t really happen to me. I think it was true, but we just jumped out of work.

How much did you support each other creatively and in your life at the time?

Smith: I babysat for the page, Nancy’s son.

Buchanan: When Marcia was making a movie “Notes about Bob and Nancy” — she moved to Claremont — she came and stayed with us and brought her son, Peter, And he was hanging out with my son, Page. And I often met Barbara’s son, Rick. But other than that, we were all very serious about trying to do our job. This was our life and it was like we were doing our best.

Smith: I agree. We were very focused on what we were doing as graduate students.

Buchanan: One of the really important things was to open up opportunities for each other.Barbara and I participated Women’s Building together [the non-profit cultural hub founded by Judy Chicago, Arlene Raven and Sheila de Bretteville].. It was in 1974, shortly after graduating from graduate school.Judy Inviting Barbara, Barbara invited me to split my membership. It was pretty cheap at $ 100, but in return there was a show every year.There is a video in [Armory] Exhibition called “Sing along,” that was the performance I went there. Actually, it was my first performance work.

Did you inspire each other’s artwork?

Buchanan: Marcia lived in Laguna, not far from where I lived, but I still remember — I was surprised and thought it was amazing — once I visited her, she got a pencil. I used to fill the shadows on the wall from the pencil by the window by her window when the light moved. She wanted to do that and thought it would be great to track the light like that.

Smith: Those two were in Laguna and I was far away We didn’t see each other very often because we were in Costa Mesa miles away.It was like the innovative nature of Nancy’s work, or some other Chris. [Burden], It will inspire me not to be lazy. It’s like playing tennis. You hit the person with the ball, and — oops — you hit it back and forth and you’re playing a game together.

The still image in the video shows two pairs of hands.

In the video work “From A to B with Love” (1976) by Nancy Buchanan and Barbara T. Smith, one hand tries to romance the other.

(From Nancy Buchanan and Charlie James Gallery)

You are considered an important figure in feminist art and performance of that era. But at the time, did you consider yourself a feminist?

Smith: I didn’t think of myself as a feminist. My work has the importance of feminists. I consider myself a feminist artist.

Buchanan: I think I was enlightened by participating Woman’s Building. I really got a lot from that experience. Because we all get together to discuss each other’s work. [Later] In addition to showing off their work, there were also groups who wanted to support female artists in the area and hold events.So we formed a new coalition called DoubleX. And it was designated as a feminist entity.

What other female artists did you respect at the time?

Buchanan: When I was a college student, I studied under Vija Celmins and was definitely inspired by her. After that, I got involved in video and there was a video artist like Celia. [then Sally] Shapiro was doing something really interesting.

Smith: Mary Beth Edelson, Carolly Schneeman, Yvonne Reiner. I got to know them all. Yvonne Rainer had a great influence on me. Seeing her early performance here in LA, there was music, pop songs and she did this dance. But the weird thing is that she didn’t make any music-related moves. She was just moving. I thought it was great to separate dance moves from dance music.

How was it like to see your 50 years of art at the Armory Exhibition? Were there any early works you forgot or each other’s works you’ve never seen before?

Buchanan: There is an erotic painting in a room. It’s from a series I started in graduate school based on the pictures of the Swedish marriage manual that Barbara borrowed. They were shown only once in the early 70’s.They revived in 2017 [in the L.A. artist space Rogers], And since then, they have lived a kind of unique life. It’s very strange when such things sink to the surface of the swamp again.

Smith: There are three very strange color drawings in terms of seeing what I haven’t seen in a long time. I was thinking about how to draw the word “that”. I forgot to do them!

Buchanan: Here’s a video of Marcia that I’m really excited to see, and some of Barbara’s Vitrine works that I’m not familiar with.

Smith: I’ve never seen Nancy [miniature mansion] There is a small little video there. It’s very different from some of her other works and I’m thinking, what do they have in common? How does this relate to her other work? She has a very accurate and detailed way of working, and it takes such a spirit to make space in her mansion.

Please tell us about Hafif. What would you say to her if she was still here?

Smith: I think I’m constantly in awe of her work, her meticulous technique and focus. It’s like a meditative life related to her work.

Buchanan: It’s completely encapsulated.

Smith: The quest for her colors and pigments, and the size and shape of her framed work. Her lifestyle was very similar to her work. She cooked a nice, almost Zen meal. She was just this really nice person. I loved her very much.

Buchanan: And her intellectual curiosity about so many different things and traditions. She may always look like she did the same thing, but no, she did millions of different things. She was amazing.

How did your friendship shape you as an individual and, by extension, as an artist?

Buchanan: It was encouraging for me not to be afraid to do many different things. That is the trajectory of my career. I wasn’t just in one area, and I don’t want to.

Smith: It was very important to really focus the three of us and be a serious female artist. It gave me a sense of depth and implicit support that was there.

“How about us …”

Where: Armory Center Forge Arts, 145 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena
when: Fridays from 3 pm to 7 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. Until June 12th. Reservations are required.
price: free


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here