If you hadn’t been told otherwise, you might be inclined to think

that it was the work of a satirist,

riffing on the self-consuming,

drug-saturated nature of the 1960s New York art world – the idea of

an artist who is born, flares

briefly above a haze of narcotics, then conceptualises herself into artistic oblivion.

Yet this was the career trajectory

of Lee Lozano, the subject of a forthcoming Fruitmarket Gallery survey.

Arriving in New York in the early 1960s fresh from a marriage that she had brought to an end, Lozano, a talented painter, quickly established herself on the New York art scene among peers including Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse and Richard Serra.

Her frequently erotically-charged work morphed from figurative expressionism to “tool paintings” (as lewd as you might imagine) to a series

of conceptual Wave paintings in the

mid-1960s, representations of sound waves that the artist completed in marathon painting sessions lasting days at a time.

Lozano mapped it all out in her journals, interrogating herself and the art world around her, starting to lay down more and more restrictive instructions for herself in Language Pieces begun in the late 1960s that would take down the barrier between life and art.

“Why not impose form on one’s life, the way one makes art?” she wrote, in 1969. “At least it is worth an experiment and I am starting now.”

Her rigorous analytical efforts culminated in General Strike Piece (1969), a drastic conceptual auto-da-fe of her own making in which she instructed herself publically to remove herself and her work from the art world altogether in what appeared, among other things, to be a protest at the commercialisation of the art world and the response of her fellow artists.

What is perhaps astonishing is that she then did so, the impulsive nature of the sudden pronouncement in her journal underpinned by an unshakeable commitment to carry out her most destructive concepts.

You can almost sense the fear in her journals, at the fact that once written, the idea, however intimidating,

however restrictive it is, is now dictating the future form of her life.

General Strike Piece worked all too well, as did the subsequent Dropout Piece (1971). Within just a couple of years, Lozano had succeeded in removing all trace of herself and her work from the art world, disappearing for a decade, before resurfacing in Dallas where she lived – making no art except the making of no art – until her death from cancer in 1999.

She was buried, at her own request,

in an unmarked grave.

“Did she back herself into a corner? Did she know exactly what she was doing?” says curator Fiona Bradley, who has put together the Fruitmarket’s survey of the artist’s decade in the public life.

“I was very interested in the extent to which Lozano’s art fell out of public view.

“This is the work of someone who, very unusually, had a direct agency in that. It’s timely to look at a woman who has been neglected through fault of her own. She had agency in the sabotage.”

Lozano’s sabotage also included

that of her own sex, for her most unfathomable instruction came in 1971: “Decide to boycott women.” It was an action that was carried out initially for a week but extended to the rest of her life. Waitresses apparently bore the brunt. Lozano said it was partly because women lacked power in the art world, but she speaks so disparagingly of other women in the art world that is seems more a way of displacing herself from the association than a protest.

Lozano’s work, diverse as it was, was massively inventive, Bradley says. “The earliest works in the show are incredibly rude and suggestive paintings.

“They are very metamorphic, very violent, highly sexual, but of course most of that happens in the viewer’s brain and not on the canvas.”

Work shown ranges from tool paintings to a series of large scale paintings from the mid 1960s and a recreation of one of her last exhibitions, entitled Infofiction, a series of language-based work that was shown in Nova Scotia in 1971.

But it was words, not painting, that counted in the end. To the bystander,

it seems that words needled her. Commercialism needled her. The art world needled her.

Perhaps her sanity was escaping her in the end, as the drug taking became more overwhelming. It was certainly the view of her peers.

What this exhibition does is give a modern audience the chance to assess for themselves the concrete evidence of Lozano’s art before it dematerialised.

Lee Lozano: Slip, Slide, Splice. The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh,

0131 225-2383, www.fruitmarket.co.uk

March 10-June 3, Daily 11am-6pm.