Tina Girouard was a multidisciplinary artist from Louisiana who played a pivotal role in New York's experimental art scene in the 1970s. Her diverse legacy of performance and fabric-based works dissolved the boundaries of artmaking.Read More
After completing a BFA at Louisiana's University at Lafayette in 1968, Girouard moved to New York. Tina Girouard brought to the city's art scene a spirit of collaboration and resourcefulness inspired from jazz and blues musicians she had encountered in Louisiana.
It was in that collaborative spirit that she co-founded Food with Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden in 1971, an artist-run restaurant in SoHo. Becoming a hub for the exchange of ideas as well as a place of employment for SoHo artists, Food attracted artists like Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenberg.
Out of Food came the Anarchitecture Group, whose key members included Girouard, Matta-Clark, and Goodden, as well as Laurie Anderson, Bernard Kirschenbaum, Suzanne Harris, and Richard Landry. Concerned principally with social space, rather than architecture, the movement worked within marginal and disused sites that strung together the built environment of the city.
Girouard's early performances sought to activate such spaces. Swept House (1969), for example, was an intervention in which Girouard swept out the architectural outlines of a house on the ground beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, appropriating dust from the site to denote different rooms.
Girouard was a member of 112 Greene Street (a block away from Food), a former rag salvaging factory owned by Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Lew, that opened in 1970 as an alternative art space.
Among the works she created here was Air Space Stage (1972), consisting of four sheets of patterned fabric suspended from the ceiling, which cast a shade that changed the lighting of the room depending on the time of day. The use of patterned, ordinary materials seen in this work, and the notion of communication by repetition became defining features of Tina Girouard's art.
Whether in similar later works, such as Wall's Wallpaper III (1974), or performance works like the ritualistic four-person performance Pinwheel (1977), Tina Girouard incorporated patterned fabrics, linoleum and wall-paper. Arranging them in repetitive patterns and grids, she left the surface textures untouched, denoting their identity.
Her use of textiles situated Girourard within the Pattern and Decoration movement founded by Valerie Jaudon and Joyce Kozloff, among others. Its proponents favoured loaded, decorative surfaces in reaction against the restraints of minimalism.
Girouard's work also connects to a broader group of artists using kitschy and gaudy designs to undermine ingrained perceptions in art of what is feminine, domestic, or ornamental.
Upon returning to Louisiana after a fire devastated her studio in 1978, Tina Girouard's practice expanded in scope. In the 1980s, she helped found Louisiana's grassroots Artists' Alliance collective.
As director and president of the Festival International de Louisiane, she later became acquainted with Haitian art practices. This led her to hold a studio in Port-au-Prince from 1990 to 1995, where she collaborated with Haitian artists, among them Antoine Oleyant, to produce beaded Vodou flags.
A seasoned experimenter, Girouard continued to expand her practice until her passing in 2020.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020
On a visit to her native southwestern Louisiana around 1970, Tina Girouard inherited eight lengths of patterned 1940s silk from her mother-in-law, who had been given the material by a relative named Solomon Matlock.