Molly Zuckerman-Hartung at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Though I really enjoy Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s paintings, it was her 95 Theses on Painting on the wall outside the gallery that really engaged me. I would normally walk right by that much text on a wall, but I read every word. She explained to the Artsmart (a group for young people interested in art at the MCA Chicago) crowd that these were written because she was grappling with the idea of being in a museum for her first museum show. She stated that “a museum is a public space in a way that a gallery is not.” Some examples of the theses are: ” # 66. Work typically done by women, with the hands, is not valued. #70. We do not value work because we do not value ourselves. And we regard the objects made and lived with as depressed, depleted mirrors of our sorry self-hatred.#88. I am hard and soft, gentle and dense and dispersed, bright and sharp, contrasting and undulating, acidic and toxic and soothing. As is the world.”
Just as Martin Luther tacked his 95 theses about indulgences up for a public audience, Molly believes that we are in that time again. A writer before she became a painter, she has not had a linear path to becoming an artist. Due to an inability to express herself as a writer in the way she desired, she began painting while a part of a music community. She still feels the need to explain her work and also take a stand about what it means to make paintings. She now considers herself a painter but is interested in the relationship between the disciplines of painting and sculpture and she plays with that in her work.
She asks herself what it means to make a mark and what it means to be human. That inquiry used to be about the body and its mark, now it is about the activity of making something with her hands. She sometimes uses exacto knives to cut the centers out of paintings and exchange them. That is how a painting can get activated for her.
Going back to the theses, her thinking in the creation of them is the same process when she paints. The same themes come up for her all the time. She “pushes for density in a painting and can work on one for up to five years. She told us, ” all painting, poetry and writing is a quotation of something that came before” and she has had many influences. But she tries to inhabit her quotations rather than distance or isolate herself from them.