PRINT September 2013


OVER THE PAST HALF CENTURY, JOAN SEMMEL has pursued a painterly enterprise that brings extraordinary wit and acumen to representations of the body—most often the artist’s own. And this oeuvre has grown increasingly visible in recent years, thanks to a series of institutional exhibitions such as Semmel’s solo show at the Bronx Museum of the Arts this past spring. Yet a key moment in the artist’s early work, marked by a complex engagement with photography and sexuality, remains relatively little known. Here, art historian RICHARD MEYER considers this period in Semmel’s career and traces its importance for her ongoing output as a painter and self-portraitist.

A COLOR PHOTOGRAPH shows a young woman peering through a camera to snap a shot of two naked bodies—one male, one female—intertwined. Horizontally aligned such that neither is on top, the nude figures are severely cropped

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