Targets and Flowers: Artist Joyce Kozloff in New Jersey

By Susan Wallner
State of the Arts

Joyce Kozloff has a classic New York artist’s loft, with work tables covered with prints, brushes and tubes of paint, and the walls with her paintings in progress. One of these paintings is now hanging at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit. It’s a series of connected panels stretching more than 10 feet long covered with geometric flower designs titled “If I Were a Botanist (Mediterranean).” Kozloff has lived in Soho since the 1970s, when the now chic shopping area was still full of sweatshops. She was born in Somerville, and two exhibitions in the state are currently featuring her work.

The exhibition at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is a reprise of a 1973 feminist art show that made a big impact in the art world. Curators Mary Birmingham and Katherine Murdock invited 13 artists who were in the original Women Choose Women show to be in Women Choose Women Again. Kozloff is one of these artists. In the 1970s, she about to emerge as a leader in the Pattern and Decoration Movement, in which artists reconsidered traditions of craft and ornamentation long considered the realm of women and cultural minorities. Since then, she has become an internationally recognized artist, known for her prints, paintings and public art works.


State of the Arts visits “Women Choose Women Again,” a show featuring Joyce Kozloff and Judith Henry at the Visual Arts Center of NJ in Summit.

The intricate flower design in Kozloff’s large painting at the Art Center, just finished in 2013, is a return to her early Pattern and Decoration work; in fact it is based on a design she made then. She is now recreating and re-imagining pieces for a new series, repainting them and incorporating cut-up pieces from prints made in the last 40 years as she goes.

Kozloff has been a successful public artist for many years, with tile installations created for spaces including the Harvard Square Subway Station and the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. Maps are often starting points for the imagery in her public work, and at one point she began working with them in the studio as well. “I’d been working with mapping in the last 20 years,” says Kozloff, “and I began to think maybe I could bring the patterns and maps together.”

Map imagery is the thread connecting the work in Kozloff’s second show, at the Rowan University Art Gallery in Glassboro. Cradles to Conquests: Mapping American Military History is her first solo exhibition in New Jersey, with a selection of work completed between 2000 and 2010. One of the most striking pieces is “Target” (2000). Viewers actually enter a globe, the interior of which is covered by paintings of maps of every country bombed by the United States between 1945 and 2000. As curator Mary Salvante remarks, “Ironically, Kozloff’s mapping series makes use of practices widely viewed as gender-specific — applique, weaving, pattern, decorative — to challenge and question the authority and dominance of a patriarchal culture.”

Both of these New Jersey exhibitions reveal the social concerns that fuel Kozloff’s work. At the Visual Arts Center of NJ, she and other women artists are featured who were part of a feminist wave in the 1970s that rocked the male-dominated art world. At the Rowan University Art Gallery, the artist’s map-based pieces are rooted in her long-time anti-war activism. To see Kozloff’s work in both of these exhibitions is to engage visually with intricate, beautiful pieces that go beyond the decorative to ask bigger questions.

Women Choose Women Again is on view at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit through April 13. Joyce Kozloff: Cradles to Conquests, Mapping American Military History is at the Rowan University Art Gallery through March 15, 2014.

Susan Wallner is an award-winning producer with PCK Media. She is a long-time contributor to State of the Arts, now airing on NJTV Sundays at 8 p.m. and Thursdays at 11:30 p.m.