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A gallery wall shows a grid of photographs of a naked yound woman.

Eleanor Antin: Time’s Arrow



A pioneer and provocateur since the 1960s, Eleanor Antin slyly destabilizes the authority and objectivity of documents through a variety of media—photography, performance, video, and writing.

Four black-and-white photographs show a naked young woman from the front, back, and each side.

First day of 1972 performance, July 15, 1972, 8:43 a.m., 125.5 pounds

CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture (detail), 1972. Twentieth-Century Discretionary Fund

Her landmark early feminist work, CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture (1972)—part of the Art Institute’s collection—comprises a grid of 148 photographs that sequentially capture the artist’s journey to lose 10 pounds over a 37-day period. Antin’s deadpan, pseudo-scientific self-portraits mock the objectivity of Conceptual Art while alluding to the conceits of Classical sculpture, which claim that the ideal form lies within a block of stone, waiting to be freed by the artist.

Five black-and-white photographs show a naked older woman from the front, back, and each side.

First day of 2017 performance, March 17, 2017, 9:25 a.m., 130.6 pounds

CARVING: 45 Years Later (detail), 2017 © Eleanor Antin, courtesy of the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York

Time’s Arrow marks the first time CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture is shown with CARVING: 45 Years Later (2017), an expansive reprisal of the original work through 500 photographs over four months. The pairing of the two works offers a meditation on aging and the passage of time. “It now took forever to lose a single pound,” Antin commented. “I believe that my older body was in a valiant and existential struggle to prevent its transformation into the skeleton beneath the protecting flesh … death.”

The CARVING works are joined by other self-portraits, The Eight Temptations (1972), also in the museum’s collection, as well as her recent self-portrait in a red cape, !!! (2017). Together these pieces offer reflection on aging, transformation, and the conception of the self.


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