Marian Zazeela  

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Marian Zazeela (1940 – 2024) was an American light artist, calligrapher, painter, and musician based in New York City. She was a member of the 1960s experimental music collective Theatre of Eternal Music, and was known for her collaborative work with her husband, the minimalist composer La Monte Young.


Life and work

Born to Russian Jewish parents and raised in the Bronx, Marian Zazeela was educated at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and at Bennington College where she studied with Paul Feeley, Eugene C. Goossen, and Tony Smith. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in painting in 1960.

Shortly after graduation, she relocated to New York City where she provided stage design for LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka's The System of Dante's Hell and acted and modeled for Jack Smith (appearing in his film Flaming Creatures and photography book The Beautiful Book), before being introduced in 1962 to composer La Monte Young, with whom she was associated ever afterwards.

During a period of rapid growth in the early 1960s, Zazeela not only joined Young's musical group Theatre of Eternal Music as vocalist (which also included, at various times photographer Billy Name, minimalist musician Terry Riley, musician John Cale, video artist and musician Tony Conrad, and poet and musician Angus MacLise), but also produced for them light shows (among the earliest in the form) which may have inspired Andy Warhol and were contemporaneous to the early work of better-known light-artist Dan Flavin. This work derived from her earlier - more expressionistic - calligraphic canvases and drawings, now taking on a psychedelic aspect by mostly using slides of still images and colored gels blended in exceedingly slow dissolves from one to the next creating optical effects associated with Op Art. In 1965, she titled this body of work the Ornamental Lightyears Tracery, and it was subsequently presented at the Museum of Modern Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Fondation Maeght, Moderna Museet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Documenta 5, Haus der Kunst, MELA Foundation, and Dia Art Foundation; among other galleries and museum venues.

Over the next 30 years, Zazeela elaborated this work into increasingly environmental and sculptural forms, often incorporating the use of colored-light and colored-shadow, which she titled Dusk Adaptation Environment (installation), Still Light (sculpture), Magenta Day / Magenta Night (installation/sculpture), and, more generally, Light. Obsessed with duration and color saturation, by the late 60s, Zazeela began presenting light-work in collaboration with Young's minimal music in what were envisioned as long-term installations titled Dream Houses. One of them, at 275 Church Street, above the couple's loft, has run since the early 1990s, and is open to the public four days a week.

In 1970, Zazeela began studies in the Kirana school of Hindustani classical music with Pandit Pran Nath, of whom she was a devoted disciple ever afterwards. (Pandit Pran Nath died in 1996.) Her "Selected Writings" were published with Young in 1969 and a book on the two of them, with writing on Zazeela by Henry Flynt and Catherine Christer Hennix (edited by William Duckworth), was published in 1996 by Bucknell University Press. A monograph of her drawings was published in Germany in three languages in 2000. In 2020, a retrospective of Zazeela's drawings was exhibited at Dia Beacon.

Zazeela died at her home in New York City on March 28, 2024, at the age of 83.


Pages linkin in at time of death

31 VII 69 10:26-10:49 PM / 23 VIII 64 2:50:45-3:11 AM The Volga Delta, Aesthetic Research Centre, Angus MacLise, Anonymous Was A Woman Award, Beatitude (magazine), Brian Chase, Christopher Tignor, Courage Award for the Arts, Day of Niagara, Dia Art Foundation, Dia Chelsea, Documenta 5, Dream House (installation), Dream House 78′ 17″, Dream House, Drone music, Earle M. Pilgrim, Ellen Arkbro, Flaming Creatures, Harald Szeemann, Jim McWilliams, Jim Newman (television producer), Jon Hassell, Jung Hee Choi, Just Alap Raga Ensemble, La Monte Young, Lawrence Chandler, List of Bennington College people, List of Dia Art Foundation locations and sites, List of female electronic musicians, List of op artists, List of people from the Bronx, List of songs about New York City, Magic chord, Metal Machine Music, Michael Waller, Noise music, Piero Heliczer, Pran Nath (musician), S.M.S. portfolios, Screen Tests, Sun Blindness Music, Table of the Elements, Tania Mouraud, Terry Riley, The Well-Tuned Piano, Theatre of Eternal Music, Timeline of art, Tony Conrad, Trio for Strings, USCO

See also

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