Joyce Kozloff

After my mother died in December, 2014, I and my sister-in-law cleaned out the family home, one day a week for seven months. On the last visit, we found my childhood art. As my folks were packrats, I was not surprised. I didn’t remember that I had made maps from ages 9-11 as subjects for social studies classes, but I recalled loving geography and history. (Coincidentally, for the last 25 years, most of my art has involved cartography.) These map drawings were in organized folders with other assignments inside a rusty filing cabinet lying on its side under the eaves of the dark, unlit attic.

Some months after gathering them up, I gingerly brought them out to study. There was much I recognized about myself: a compulsive attention to detail; fascination with strange, inexplicable images; and experiments with different kinds of representation. Back then, I appropriated meticulously from books, as I still do today from the Internet. This led to a visual dialogue between my childhood and adulthood.

I began to incorporate these schoolroom exercises into paintings. At first, the correspondences were obvious – both the new, painted ground maps and the old, collaged drawings represented New York and New Jersey, for instance. But then, I moved further afield, as my childhood charts covered the globe. I chose antique maps that are geographically incorrect to contemporary eyes for my backgrounds, as I had done on a much smaller scale in a 1998-1999 series of frescoes, Knowledge. Their “wrongness” gave them a childish quality that complemented my elementary school hand.

From our different stages of life, the young girl and the adult woman began to shift back and forth within the pictorial space. I’d also retrieved my childhood doll collection, and some of those toys found their way into the work, parading along shallow stage-like platforms.

I then began to appropriate my other (non-map) childhood drawings, originally book reports or science assignments. Sometimes I arranged them in a row across the top or bottom of the painting, like the predellas in Renaissance art, stories within stories.

I copied tiny animals and sea creatures from my girlhood studies onto the dominant maps; they are visible to the viewer if he/she moves up close. Later, I started to copy entire childhood drawings - which were by then attached to the paintings - directly onto smaller canvases, creating enclosed, subsidiary works excerpted and reinterpreted from the first series. Paint did not capture the nubby, grainy look of the sources, so I bought children’s art supplies – crayons, chalk, cray-pas - and invented for myself a hybrid art-making process.

The worldview of my naïve public school pictures is that of early 1950s America – cowboys at their bonfires in the wide-open west; factories and smokestacks in small town settings; Eskimo girls and Alpine girls and Brazilian girls in their native costumes. The mindset is further away from me today than the places were then. These false scenarios have unraveled for many in my generation, although not everywhere nor for all Americans. And that’s why my conventional grammar school innocence felt weirdly relevant - within our polarized society, where so many people hold onto fantasies about recovering an imaginary past.

Art Girl

Acrylic, collage and found object on canvas, 2017, 65" x 54" x 6 1/2," collection Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
(Photo by Stephen Bates)


Acrylic, collage and crayon on canvas, 2017, 48" x 48," private collection
(Photo by Stephen Bates)

The Giant of New Jersey

Acrylic, collage, crayon and photograph on canvas, 2017, 49" x 37," courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY
(Photo by Stephen Bates)


Acrylic, collage and found object on canvas, 2017, 62 1/2" x 54" x 3 1/2," courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY
(Photo by Stephen Bates)

My Girls

acrylic, charcoal, pastel and oil pastel on canvas, 2017, 30" x 34," courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY
(Photo by Stephen Bates)

Calm Sea Rough Sea

Acrylic and collage on canvas, 2017, 60" x 60," courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY
(Photo by Stephen Bates)

Red States, Blue States

Acrylic and collage on canvas, 2017, 36" x 48," courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY
(Photo by Stephen Bates)


Acrylic and collage on canvas, 2917, 46" x 36," courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY
(Photo by Stephen Bates)


Joyce Kozloff was a major figure in both the Pattern and Decoration and the Feminist art movements of the 1970s. Her artistic practices have included photography, collage, drawing, painting, ceramics, mosaics, artists’ books, frescoes, sculpture and printmaking. Her range of interests encompasses cartography, history, material culture, and politics. In 1979, she began to focus on public art, increasing the scale of her installations and expanding the accessibility of her work. Since the early 1990s, Kozloff has utilized mapping as a structure for layering multiple meanings.

Kozloff has executed 16 public commissions, including Parkside Portals, 86th Street and Central Park West Subway Station, MTA Art and Design (2018); Dreaming: The Passage of Time, United States Consulate, Art in Embassies Program, Istanbul, Turkey (2003); The Movies: Fantasies and Spectacles, Los Angeles Metro’s Seventh and Flower Station, CA (1993); New England Decorative Arts, Harvard Square Subway Station, Cambridge, MA (1985); and Bay Area Victorian, Bay Area Deco, Bay Area Funk, International Terminal, San Francisco Airport, CA (1983).

Her work is in many museum collections in the United States and abroad. Some recent solo exhibitions were Joyce Kozloff Cradles to Conquests: Mapping American Military History, Rowan University Art Gallery, Glassboro, NJ (2014); Joyce Kozloff: Co+Ordinates, Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA (2008); Joyce Kozloff Voyages + Targets, Spazio Thetis, Arsenale, Venice, Italy (2006); Joyce Kozloff: Exterior and Interior Cartographies, Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA (2006). 2015, she had two solo exhibitions in New York, Maps + Patterns at DC Moore Gallery and Social Studies at the French Institute Alliance Francaise; and in October, 2017, another solo exhibition at DC Moore, Girlhood.

Kozloff's work has been shown in countless group exhibitions: Less is a Bore: Maximalist Art and Design, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2019; With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972-1985, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Bard-Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (2019-2020); Pattern, Decoration and Crime, MAMCO, Geneva, CH and Le Consortium, Dijon, FR (2018-19); Pattern and Decoration: Ornament as Promise,” Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst, Aachen, DE, MUMOK, Vienna, AT and Ludwig Museum, Budapest, HU (2018-20), across boundaries, Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen, DE (2019); Window to Wall: Art from Architecture, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2017); XL: Large Scale Paintings from the Permanent Collection, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY (2015); Mind the Map, PUNKTAS, Moss, NO (2014); The Map as Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Louis, MO (2012); Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism, The Jewish Museum, New York, NY (2010); HereThereEverywhere, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL (2008); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, The Geffen Contemporary, MOCA, Los Angeles, CA, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, PS 1 MoMA, Long Island City, NY and Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, CA (2006-8).

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