Catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition: Roman Allegories & Greek Mythologies at Richard Saltoun Gallery Rome, 2022
The catalogue is accompanied by a text: 'Eleanor Antin discusses her recent photographic series' edited by Brian Sholis.
Active since the early 1960s, Eleanor Antin is regarded as one of the most influential feminist and conceptual artists working today. Her works, though marked by a characteristic wit and humour, engage serious, often dark matters, reflecting on contemporary politics, environmental issues and identity.
Roman Allegories is part of Antin’s iconic Historical Takes trilogy (2001–2008), which weaves together her love for the ancient world and 19th century salon-style painting to deliver a vitriolic critique of contemporary society and power dynamics. Created with a cast of over 100 friends and models, Roman Allegories includes 12 staged photographs, richly saturated and up to 3 metres in size, where ragged actors in Roman costumes wander through the supposed ruins of the Roman Empire. Through allegory and satire, the photographs reveal the melancholic sense of loss felt by characters living in a declining empire all the while situating their actions and events in the contemporary world.
The series was entirely shot in the neighbourhood of La Jolla, San Diego, which the artist associates with the ancient town of Pompeii – both wealthy, both under the constant threat of nature. It’s an open denunciation of the ever more destructive wildfires, water shortages and environmental emergencies in California. The La Jolla locations in Roman Allegories are not merely backdrops – they either highlight the region’s seductive yet dangerous nature, or make use of lush gardens, tennis courts and exclusive villas to comment on local culture and excessive wealth. Throughout this, broken columns, classical statues, and empty pots reference the potential ruin on our horizon.
Antin’s feminist narratives prevail in this series of work, with female characters depicted openly enjoying their participation in scenes of bacchanalian excitement. The artist continues to recognise, however, the inevitable trap that awaits these women. In Alice’s Dream, the girls that hang from the tree, draped in orange robes, are the same girls who were celebrating in Triumph of Pan (after Poussin).
Printed in an edition of 500 copies.
This publication was designed by A Practice for Everyday Life.