New York… Beginning February 23, 2018, Luxembourg & Dayan will present Kiss Off, a group exhibition organized in collaboration with Francesco Bonami that rethinks the trope of the "kiss" in artworks spanning the twentieth century. Featured artists will include Marina Abramović and Ulay, Vito Acconci, Lynda Benglis, James Lee Byars, Patty Chang, Willem de Kooning, Urs Fischer, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jeff Koons, Man Ray, Marisa Merz, Joan Miró, Elizabeth Peyton, Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and Joyce Wieland, among others.
In 1971 Vito Acconci made an edition of prints while in residence at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design titled Kiss Off, which index a series of actions: after applying lipstick and kissing his own body, Acconci would rub his pigmented flesh on a lithography stone, using his body as a stamp. A kiss is typically a transfer of touch between two elements; Acconci bends this to encompass an intimacy both solipsistic and serialized. He suggests that kissing might involve more or less than two, and that a kiss is not always an embrace.
Just one year prior, in 1970, the Canadian-born artist Joyce Wieland created an edition titled O Canada, also at the print studio of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. This lithograph bears the marks of her lipsticked lips as she sang the Canadian national anthem against the plate-a succinct and distinctly feminist critique of blind patriotism. That Acconci made Kiss Off so soon after has led some to speculate that his work was in fact a retort, or perhaps homage, to Wieland's. Exhibited together, the works suggest a tension that runs throughout the show: within romance lies critique, and within intimacy antagonism.
Love is a timeless preoccupation, but its incarnations and representations are mercurial. Taking Acconci's Kiss Off and Wieland's O Canada as a cue, this exhibition considers kissing as one instantiation of love that morphs over time and can encompass more than intimacy. At times, the featured works invoke kissing literally - as in Francis Picabia's embracing figures, Sigmar Polke's Liebespaar I (1965), Andy Warhol's Kiss (1963), or Lynda Benglis' Female Sensibility (1973). At others, what appears as a kiss in fact designates discomfort. For the duration of a 1977 performance titled Breathing In/Breathing Out, for instance, Ulay and Marina Abramović locked lips with their nostrils blocked by cigarette butts, so that the only air available to each was the other's exhalation. They passed out after 19 minutes as their shared supply of oxygen dwindled, suggesting that interdependence can both give life and poison it. In a 2000 video by Patty Chang made in response to Abramović's, two women appear to make out but actually pass an onion back and forth between their mouths, tears coursing down their cheeks. In still other works, such as the adjacent silver circles of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' "Untitled" (1995), kissing surfaces as just one potential reading suggested by the simple meeting or melding of abstract forms.