Published: March 13, 2007
“Global Feminisms,” on view March 23⁊uly 1, the exhibition, a large-scale international survey of contemporary art, will inaugurate a study center devoted to art created from a feminist perspective.
Signaling an intent to take the study of new, often-critical visual expressions in new directions, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, the first facility of its kind in the United States, ventures far beyond American and European borders for the inauguration presentation.
“Global Feminisms” assembles works in a range of media by more than 100 women artists, most of whom are under 40 and two-thirds of whom have never before presented work in New York. Some 50 countries are represented, including a good number that seldom figure in the contemporary art discourse, such as Sierra Leone, Kenya, Russia, Yugoslavia, Costa Rica, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Taiwan.
The joint enterprise of two scholars, Maura Reilly, PhD, curator of the new center, and Linda Nochlin, PhD and Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts, the survey coincides with the 30th anniversary of the first major exhibition to explore the role of women in the history of Western art. Organized by Nochlin, with Ann Sutherland Harris, “Women Artists: 1550‱950” was presented at the Brooklyn Museum in 1977.
“In ‘Global Feminisms,’ we are attempting to construct a definition of ‘feminist’ art that is as broad and flexible as possible,” says Reilly. “Linda and I kept asking what it means to be a feminist in radically different cultural, political and class situations. And we found not one definition, but many; hence, the term ‘feminisms.'”
Despite real differences in the life situations and preoccupations of the artists, several threads of thought emerge as themes in “Global Feminisms.” One is an interest in “Life Cycles” that transforms conventional conceptions of a woman’s life into visual experiences that more closely mirror life as it is lived †and dreamed †today. Among the works featured in this section is a huge photograph by the London-based artist Melanie Manchot, featuring the artist’s mother nude from the waist up, and laughing against a background of sky so blue it could grace a Hallmark card.
Reilly and Nochlin also found artists around the world exploring “Identities,” be it racial identity, gender identity or concern with the concept of self. In this section, viewers will find a number of artists skewering notions of exoticism with hyperbolic send-ups of, for example, the contented Spanish peasant woman (Pilar Albarracín of Madrid); the butch lesbian in a never-ending ritual of binding (Mary Coble, Washington, D.C.); and the hip Asian chick doing karaoke as performed and documented for video by Taiwanese-born artist Hsia-Fei Chang.
Nowhere can the differences among women be grasped more clearly than in the section focusing on the recurring them of “Politics.” Regina José Galindo is seen trailing a bloody footprint with each step as she walks from the Court of Constitutionality to the National Palace in Guatemala City, in memory of murdered Guatemalan women, in her performance videotape, Who Can Erase the Prints?, 2003.
Tania Bruguera, who has lived in Cuba and the United States, asks the viewer to consider the meaning of a Cuban flag woven of hair from countless anonymous Cubans. She entitled the 1995‹6 work, “Estadistica (Statistic).”
Another exhibition theme is “Emotions.” Japanese artist Ryoko Suzuki contributes a mural-sized installation of three photographs in which her face is bound tightly by pig’s intestines †bullied into a kind of mute, anonymous submission. Bulgarian artist Boryana Rossa is among a number of artists represented in this section who wields a wicked humor, appropriating cultural clichés about women’s histrionic emotions and blasting away at these assumptions, as in her video Celebrating the Next Twinkling, 1999.
“Global Feminisms” inaugurates The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which was established in 2003 through funding from The Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation. The center’s 8,300-square-foot facility is on the museum’s fourth floor.
Along with the opening “Global Feminisms,” an icon of contemporary art returns to the public stage in March: Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” is to be a permanent centerpiece of the center. Also on view, is “Pharaohs, Queens and Goddesses,” an exhibition drawn from the museum’s Egyptian collection to illuminate the role of women in Egyptian art and life.
The museum is at 200 Eastern Parkway. For information, www.brooklynmuseum.org or 718-638-5000.
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