Re­flect­ing pool

Look­ing For­ward Look­ing Back

Pasatiempo - - CONTENT - Iris McLis­ter

IT seems para­dox­i­cal that in a world as pur­port­edly rad­i­cal and for­ward-think­ing as that of con­tem­po­rary art, women con­tinue to be un­der­rep­re­sented. Flip through in­dus­try­s­tan­dard mag­a­zines like Art­fo­rum and ARTnews, and you’ll be far more likely to en­counter ad­ver­tise­ments and ed­i­to­rial con­tent about male artists than fe­male. For artists like Mi­col He­bron, this im­bal­ance is hugely prob­lem­atic. A cou­ple of years ago, the Los An­ge­les-based He­bron started crunch­ing num­bers to de­ter­mine the break­down of fe­male and male gallery-rep­re­sented artists. Thus be­gan the Gallery Tally pro­ject, which has come to in­clude in­put from hun­dreds of artists world­wide, who trans­form of­ten-dis­pro­por­tion­ate artist gen­der ra­tios into po­lit­i­cally charged, vis­ually com­pelling printed pic­tures. In Kiki Seror’s poster, pale pink letters su­per­im­posed against a black back­ground ask WHAT DOES 32% LOOK LIKE? The words “Marianne Boesky Gallery” ap­pear be­low, but they’re cut off a bit more than half­way from the top, a ref­er­ence to the fact that Boesky’s artist sta­ble is only onethird fe­male. A dozen or so posters from this clever on­go­ing se­ries oc­cupy a cor­ner of the New Mexico

Pay­ing trib­ute to pi­o­neer­ing women artists while si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vid­ing a plat­form for new ones, Look­ing For­ward Look­ing Back is both emo­tion­ally and vis­ually dense, of­fer­ing poignant in­sight into the past and fu­ture of fe­male art.

Mu­seum of Art’s Look­ing For­ward Look­ing Back ,an aptly ti­tled ex­am­i­na­tion of his­toric and con­tem­po­rary art­works by women. View­ers may be fa­mil­iar with some of the names, like Ana Mendi­eta and Louise Bour­geois, but oth­ers, like Li­gia Bou­ton and An­gela Ellsworth, might be new. Merry Scully, the show’s cu­ra­tor and the mu­seum’s head of cu­ra­to­rial af­fairs, sees work by artists like He­bron as both an ex­ten­sion and re­newed in­ter­pre­ta­tion of staid art­mak­ing modal­i­ties. The Gallery Tally pro­ject, for ex­am­ple, builds on prac­tices of “cre­at­ing al­ter­na­tive sys­tems for mak­ing, dis­tribut­ing, and ex­hibit­ing work,” Scully said. An all-fe­male show is one Scully ac­knowl­edged she ap­proached with ret­i­cence. “I had reser­va­tions about putting to­gether an ex­hi­bi­tion that was gen­dered, be­cause it seems like a bi­nary way of think­ing. But the re­al­ity is that although women are a large per­cent­age of art mak­ers, col­lec­tors, and view­ers, they don’t have the same vis­i­bil­ity as men.”

Around half of the works on dis­play were ei­ther gifted or lent to the mu­seum by prom­i­nent critic and cu­ra­tor Lucy Lip­pard, a long­time New Mexico res­i­dent who has cham­pi­oned fe­male con­tem­po­rary artists for decades. Lip­pard has re­marked, “I do write about men now and then, but I mostly write about women be­cause that’s the work I like best. When I be­came a fem­i­nist, I re­al­ized that some­body had to write about women’s art that was out there ig­nored, and it was go­ing to be me.” It’s a spe­cial treat to see Eleanor Antin’s well-known 100 Boots post­cards (which Lip­pard do­nated to the mu­seum in 1999) on dis­play here. In the early 1970s, Antin roved around South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and, to a lesser ex­tent, New York, with 50 pairs of big black boots, which she ar­ranged into lines or cir­cles or an­thro­po­mor­phized clus­ters, cre­at­ing

al­ter­nately whim­si­cal and fore­bod­ing vi­gnettes. These were pho­tographed and turned into post­cards, which the artist mailed to re­cip­i­ents around the world. In 100 Boots on the Road, Leu­ca­dia, Cal­i­for­nia, Antin cov­ered a parked car with the clunky footwear: Fixed on the roof, the hood, and the trunk, with sev­eral pairs wait­ing their turn on the pave­ment be­low, the boots are trans­formed into mas­sive, march­ing ants, or a swarm of way­ward seag­ulls.

“The gen­eral idea of bring­ing the new and older work to­gether was to tease out dif­fer­ent themes and modes of work­ing that are con­sis­tent be­tween them,” Scully said. “The older works are like pieces of in­for­ma­tion that in­form and sup­ply a history and con­text for con­tem­po­rary projects.” Neatly fit­ting into the con­tem­po­rary cat­e­gory is An­gela Ellsworth, an Ari­zona-based artist whose great-great-grand­fa­ther was Mor­mon prophet Lorenzo Snow. As a prophet, Snow was con­sid­ered a “seer,” a mem­ber of the church who was ac­corded spe­cial au­di­ence with God. Snow also had nine wives, rep­re­sented by nine life-sized bon­nets dis­played in the cen­ter of the ex­hi­bi­tion space. Em­broi­dered all over with glim­mer­ing pearls, the pris­tine white bon­nets are also cov­ered with thou­sands of sharp pins, gleam­ing like lit­tle dag­gers on the brims and trail­ing rib­bons of each head­piece. Swirling, cir­cu­lar de­signs on each bon­net ap­prox­i­mate the wearer’s abil­ity to take on pow­ers of the seer, which his­tor­i­cally were not granted to fe­male mem­bers of the Mor­mon Church.

From a dis­tance, beloved Cuban-Amer­i­can artist Ana Mendi­eta’s 1975 pho­to­graph Silueta de Cenizas: Silueta Se­ries or “Sil­hou­ette of Ashes,” with its leaf-strewn, rocky ground, ap­pears placidly or­ganic. Up close, how­ever, it looks dis­turbingly like a crime scene. What we pre­vi­ously took to be an in­nocu­ous patch of dirt in the com­po­si­tion’s cen­ter is in fact a hu­man-shaped cav­ity in the earth — a lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive im­print of the artist that we don’t just see but vis­cer­ally feel. The fact that Mendi­eta died in a mys­te­ri­ous fall­ing death a decade af­ter this pho­to­graph was taken im­bues it with fur­ther in­ten­sity. Faith Ringgold’s White Lady is one of the only hu­mor­ous works on view. The tit­u­lar lady is a folk-artsy cloth doll draped in bright peach and yel­low fab­ric, with a match­ing wide-brimmed hat. She’s ac­ces­sorized rather hi­lar­i­ously with a glitzy golden hand­bag, a gaudy pearl neck­lace, and an am­ple bo­som. The ef­fect is equal parts bizarre and charm­ing.

One of the ex­hi­bi­tion’s most com­pelling works is also one of its least as­sum­ing: a small, lumpy wax sculp­ture by Louise Bour­geois, called Femme Pieu ,or “Stake Woman” (1970). Roughly the shape and size of a halved av­o­cado, the gummy brown sculp­ture fea­tures two breast-like bumps at its cen­ter, a slightly pro­trud­ing, head-like nub­bin on one end, and a slit at the other that’s jaun­tily, rather dis­con­cert­ingly, punc­tured with pins. It seems an­cient and tal­is­manic, and, in true Bour­geois fash­ion, a bit creepy. Hung nearby, Eva Hesse’s un­ti­tled ink wash-on-card­board piece from 1967 is re­mark­ably force­ful, given its diminu­tive pro­por­tions. Framed in black, it’s a nine-by-six inch grid of 36 tar­get-like dots in vary­ing shades of somber grey.

Best known for her ce­ram­ics, early 20th-cen­tury artist Beatrice Wood was friends with Mar­cel Duchamp and other mem­bers of the avant garde, an as­so­ci­a­tion read­ily vis­i­ble in a suite of seven mar­velously sur­real works on pa­per. In Un­ti­tled (Self

Por­trait), Wood places a wil­lowy fem­i­nine fig­ure on the right side of the com­po­si­tion, who calmly, even smil­ingly, ob­serves the ghoul­ish out­line of a gri­mac­ing mas­cu­line fig­ure, arms raised and hands out­stretched like claws be­fore him.

Pay­ing trib­ute to pi­o­neer­ing women artists while si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vid­ing a plat­form for new ones,

Look­ing For­ward Look­ing Back is both emo­tion­ally and vis­ually dense, of­fer­ing poignant in­sight into the past and fu­ture of fe­male art.

The re­al­ity is that although women are a large per­cent­age of art mak­ers, col­lec­tors, and view­ers, they don’t have the same vis­i­bil­ity as men. — cu­ra­tor Merry Scully

Li­gia Bou­ton: Un­der­study for An­i­mal Farm (in­stal­la­tion de­tail), 2012-2014, mixed media; left, An­gela Ellsworth: Seer Bon­nets (de­tail), 2008-present, pearl cor­sage pins, fab­ric, steel, and oak; op­po­site page, Look­ing For­ward Look­ing Back in­stal­la­tion view, left to right, Eleanor Antin:

100 Boots March­ing, 1971-1973; Mi­col He­bron: Gallery Tally, 2013-on­go­ing; all im­ages cour­tesy the New Mexico Mu­seum of Art

Beatrice Wood: Un­ti­tled (Self Por­trait), color pen­cil, graphite, and wa­ter­color on pa­per; left, Li­gia Bou­ton: Un­der­study for An­i­mal Farm (in­stal­la­tion de­tail), 2012-2014, mixed media

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.