Mira Schor’s “Power” Figures
By Andy Campbell
Both writing about and painting language have been hallmarks of Mira Schor’s inventive practice for decades. Her latest solo show provides an opportunity to grasp the depth of this output vis-à-vis two large-scale accumulative series, separated by more than twenty years.
Schor has described “War Frieze,” 1991–94, as a response to the 1990–91 Gulf War; and bits of language, such as “area of denial,” that appear in the eighty-canvas segment shown here are exemplary of the artist’s expert ability to massage the multiple meanings of words and phrases. She paints the line of this particular phrase as coming out of a vagina, thereby pointing to the sexualized taboo that produces and reenacts (ad infinitum) the cultural meanings ascribed to the female body. But “area of denial” is also a historically specific phrase, one used to describe a class of weapon that was designed to prevent an opponent from traversing or accessing territory; the expression thus represents one of those convenient collages of language by members of the military-industrial complex to at once dodge description and obfuscate intent. In this regard, “War Frieze” remains sadly relevant—despite not being as well known as it should be.
Installation view of Mira Schor: War Frieze
The second, more recent “‘Power’ Frieze,” 2016, depicts a central figure representing “Woman Artist.” Inspired by the Mangaaka sculptures that Schor encountered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these skeletal power figures, some of them wearing boxing gloves, do battle with internal and external invalidations. Painted on tracing paper as thin as onion skin, they too are works of uncompromising strength and clarity.