Representational Painting

Eleanor Antin

New York, USA, 1935
  • Date: 
  • Edition/serial number: 
  • Media description: 
    Video (Digital Betacam and DVD)
  • Duration: 
    38 min.
  • Colour: 
    Black and white
  • Sound: 
    No sound
  • Category: 
    Video, Performance
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 
  • Image credit: 
    Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York (

For almost forty minutes Eleanor Antin slowly puts make-up on her face, in a stark close-up, while looking at herself closely in a mirror that is out of the field of view, situated next to the camera lens. This activity is interrupted only by short breaks to smoke a cigarette, an action performed with a sensuality emulating the divas of classical black and white cinema.
Representational Painting, Antin’s first video piece, delves into feminist critique by offering a response to the traditional film text found in narrative cinema, in which the masculine gaze tends to represent women as an object of erotic pleasure. This work can be situated along the lines of the very important critical theory developed shortly thereafter by Laura Mulvey. Similarly, it reflects on the subjection of women obliged to follow the conventionalisms set by society regarding female beauty. Here Antin objectifies her own face and makes it the medium for an “artistic” transformation, as if make-up were the only language allowed to women artists. Reading between the lines, it is also possible to detect a challenge to a pictorial movement associated with the masculine creative genius, Abstract Expressionism, that Antin cultivated in her formative years.

Lola Hinojosa

Eleanor Antin
Artworks in the Collection