new-york

Pat Steir

New Museum of Contemporary Art; M. Knoedler & Co.

For her installation at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Pat Steir had the movable interior walls taken out and the permanent surrounding walls painted with a dilute solution of India ink that was then wiped away. The resulting feathery or windblown-looking gray ground received, from the hands of Steir herself and of several coworkers, about 140 images of human facial features drawn with black Conté crayon and oilstick. These images were adopted from various books ranging in date from the 17th to the 19th centuries, mostly books about how to draw human anatomy. The installation’s title, Self-Portrait, 1987, refers not to an individual but a communal selfhood, and the array of images constitutes a collaborative self-portrait of Western humanity.

The use of all the inner walls as pictorial surfaces redefines the museum space, placing it in a category with painted paleolithic caves, Egyptian

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