Critics’ Picks

Eleanor Antin, Portrait of the King, 1972, silver gelatin photograph mounted on board, 13 3/4 x 9 3/4".

Los Angeles

“Identity Theft: Eleanor Antin, Lynn Hershman, Suzy Lake 1972–1978”

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Bergamot Station G1 2525 Michigan Avenue
May 19–August 11

A blond wig and a polka-dot dress. A driver’s license, a residential address, and a bank account. Romantic interludes, physical insecurities, and an impending emotional breakdown. These were elements in the “Roberta Breitmore” project in the mid-1970s, in which artist Lynn Hershman went far beyond creating an image; she constructed a full-blown identity. At around the same time, Suzy Lake adopted the personae of her friends and colleagues, documented through painstaking photographic progressions, while Eleanor Antin became a monarch, a ballerina, and a nurse, oscillating between sexpot and saint. These radical acts of role play are the subject of this sharp, precise exhibition—organized by Jori Finkel, a Los Angeles–based writer making her curatorial debut—which knowingly complements MoCA’s “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution.” The show pulls out a single strand from that tangled survey of feminist art and explores it at length.

Hershman, Antin, and Lake each invented alter egos as artistic endeavors. Their experiments, performances, and inventions—and, perhaps most important, the surveillance-style photographs that documented them all—prefigured Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills,” 1977–1980, by three to five years. “Identity Theft” thus excavates a feminist art practice that has been lost or at least vastly overlooked; it steals practice from biography and geography, proving itself a good thief indeed.