PRINT November 2010


Marlene McCarty

STARTING IN THE LATE 1980S, New York–based artist Marlene McCarty signaled her rejection of modernist abstraction by heat-transferring onto canvas the freighted verbiage that fueled and undermined struggles for women’s and gay rights. With texts such as I MAY NOT GO DOWN IN HISTORY BUT I MAY GO DOWN ON YOUR LITTLE SISTER rendered horizontally in a diminutive font across a canvas, a perverse reorientation of a Barnett Newman “zip”; or SHOOT A WOMAN SAVE A JOB curling in whorls like Kenneth Noland targets on two canvases hung at what McCarty calls “tit height” and quoting the message now familiar for having been stenciled on a beam at an American Cyanamid factory in the mid-1970s, her early art is best categorized as plumbing the banality of verbal degradation. More comic than the work of either Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer, this appropriated sloganeering—a kind of reverse propagandizing—announces

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