This past Saturday I got to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles to see the exhibit, Wack! Art and The Feminist Revolution with my friend, T3. It was at the Geffen Conemporary gallery, which is right next to Little Tokyo. I had never been to either place so it was quite an adventure! It was so cool to have a great friend to go with too.
Now, my art expertise begins and ends with Art History 102, a class I took last semester to fullfill a fine arts requirement. We covered the proto-Renaissance through about 1915. We didn't really get much further than "Suprematist Painting" and a little Picasso. So, modern art is still something of a mystery to me. Nevertheless, I was really excited to see this exhibit. Another big plus was that all of the artists featured are women! What a contrast to my searches through Art History to find one or two female artists!
This is how they introduce the pieces at the website:
"During the late 1960s and early ’70s, feminism fundamentally changed
contemporary art practice, critiquing its assumptions and radically altering its
structures and methodologies. WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution is
predicated on the notion that gender was and remains fundamental to the
organization of culture, and that a contemporary understanding of the feminist
in art must necessarily look to the late 1960s and ‘70s. While the American
feminist art movement coalesced in the late 1960s in the United States and is
embedded within the exhibition, this international survey of 120 artists,
activists, filmmakers, writers, teachers, and thinkers necessarily moves beyond
the now-canonical list of American feminist artists to include women of other
geographies, formal approaches, socio-political alliances, and critical and
theoretical positions. This exhibition argues for simultaneous feminisms
internationally that together and retrospectively can be viewed as the most
influential movement in postwar contemporary art."
One of the things I was excited about was that they included artists from all over the world. Feminism is more than a middle-class white woman's movement. I think it is just as important (if not more so) that women from other classes and cultures be able to identify and benefit from what feminism can achieve. By including these works in the exhibit, I think the museum is helping to bridge that gap that is sometimes felt between the perceived face of feminism and the reality of what all women experience.
We were surprised at the size of the exhibition. T3 and I were there for a few hours and I don't think we saw the whole thing! There were a lot of pieces that I really liked. Mary Beth Edelson's collages were interesting. She took famous paintings, like The Last Supper and replaced the heads of the men with cutouts of important women artists. They also had some of Judy Baca's mural art work. There was a piece called "Uprising of the Mujeres" that I thought was just breathtaking. This large, colorful piece depicts "an indigenous woman at the forefront of political struggle against the prioritization of military spending, the formation of a police state at the expense of social welfare and the exploitation of workers to further capitalism." Pretty heady stuff. She had another piece there that showed a Rosie the Riveter type woman being sucked into a television by a 1950s-esque happy house wife and her vacuum cleaner. I wish I knew what it was called, but it sure gave me pause. I think my favorite painting though, was by Sylvia Plimack Mangold. It simply shows an empty mirror in a room with a wood floor. You realize as you're looking at it that the artist should be reflected in the mirror, but she's not there... perhaps because women have been invisible in the art world.
A lot of the pieces were film or video works. We saw some short animated pieces that dealt with art history as a male dominated institution, a mesmerising video of a woman almost violently brushing her hair and one of Yoko Ono where she sat looking stone faced as a man literally cut off her dress piece by piece with a pair of scissors. I had read that a lot of feminist artists rejected painting and other typical (and mostly male dominated) mediums for uncharted territory, like video and certain sculpture work.
There was so much to see, I couldn't begin to tell you about all of it. You can see and read a lot more at the MOCA website which I linked to above. I didn't post any pictures because I'm not sure what the rules are for posting original copyrighted art on blogs. My guess is that it's not allowed without express permission from the artist. You can get an idea of what they have at the museum's site and if you live near Los Angeles, you should definitely check it out. The show runs until July 16th