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Committee on Women in the Arts Picks for May 2012

posted by CAA — May 10, 2012

Each month, CAA’s Committee on Women in the Arts selects the best in feminist art and scholarship. The following exhibitions and events should not be missed. Check the archive of CWA Picks at the bottom of the page, as several museum and gallery shows listed in previous months may still be on view or touring.

May 2012

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York, 1979–80, chromogenic print, 3⅜ x 3½ in. (photograph © George and Betty Woodman)

Francesca Woodman
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128
March 16–June 13, 2012

Francesca Woodman, only twenty-two years old when she committed suicide in 1981, was already an accomplished young artist breaking new ground with her stunning black-and-white photographs, primarily of herself, in dreamlike interior spaces. Her images are a palimpsest of Surrealism, fashion photography, literature, and daily ritual. This Guggenheim retrospective features 120 photographs that cover her teenage years in Boulder, Colorado, her time as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the late 1970s, a meaningful year spent in Rome on a study-abroad program, and her last work, produced in New York.The exhibition also features two artist’s journals and recently unearthed videos made while Woodman was a student.

Malia Jensen: Stuff and Things
Cristin Tierney
546 West 29th Street, New York, NY 10001
April 19–June 2, 2012

Malia Jensen’s first solo show in New York, Stuff and Things, features sculptures of animals and other natural phenomena made from an often-deceiving variety of materials, such as bronze, wood, glass, porcelain, and salt. A dark, lyrical humor runs through Jensen’s work, and her animals are a study in opposites, simultaneously sensuous and funny, grotesque and formally beautiful. Each object has a punchy joke that gives way to pathos and contemplation. In the exhibition essay, John S. Weber describes the world that Jensen evokes as one in which “Everything is beautiful, puzzling, and inconclusive.”

FRAMEWORK: Activism, Memory, and the Social Landscape
A Proposition by LaToya Ruby Frazier
New Museum of Contemporary Art
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
May 17 and 19, 2012

Each month the New Museum’s public-seminar series, titled Propositions, focuses on a new artist and set of issues. For May, LaToya Ruby Frazier, a photographer and participant in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, will lead a two-day seminar based on her ongoing documentation of Braddock, Pennsylvania, the struggling steel-mill town where she was born. Frazier’s work makes the political deeply personal: she is concerned with salvaging the stories of her family and neighbors while archly exposing media exploitation, such as an ad campaign for Levi’s jeans that packaged the complex social reality of her hometown into a hip destination.

Evelyne Axell: The Great Journey into Space
Broadway 1602
1181 Broadway, Third Floor, New York, NY 10001
April 30–August 25, 2012

Evelyne Axell (1935–1972), a prominent Belgian actress and television personality in the 1950s, changed her course to become a visual artist with the encouragement of a family friend, René Magritte. Axell’s paintings are bold pictorial statements, often featuring nude female figures, assemblages with found objects à la Robert Rauschenberg, and the graphic, hallucinatory colors of Pop art and advertising. Like other artists from the 1960s who worked with figurative motifs—John Wesley and Rosalyn Drexler come to mind—Axell plays with the political implications of “erotic art,” feminism, and consumer culture. The Great Journey into Space, her second solo appearance at Broadway 1602, features paintings, drawings, sculpture, exhibition archives, and documentation of a wild Happening that the artist organized in 1969 at the Foncke Gallery in Ghent, Belgium.

Mona Hatoum: You Are Still Here
Arter, Vehbi Koç Foundation
Istiklal Cad. No 211, Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey, 34433
March 17–May 27, 2012

You Are Still Here, Mona Hatoum’s first solo show in Turkey, showcases work made since the 1990s. Hatoum’s art exists between the poetic and the political, exile and homecoming, exquisite craftsmanship and everyday objects. She works in a wide range of materials and forms, from singular sculptural objects to room-sized installations, as well as video, photograph, and work on paper. A 2012 installation comprising human-sized steel cages containing delicate hand-blown glass, titled Kapan (translated as “trap” in Turkish), was created specifically for the exhibition. Another new work, Shift (2012), is a wool carpet map of the world divided into danger zones by drawn-on yellow seismic waves.

Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant
New Museum of Contemporary Art
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
May 6–June 24, 2012

Ellen Alfest is a New York–based artist who makes precisely detailed oil paintings of humans and vegetation on a one-to-one scale. Her subjects are often men in states of unaware repose, sometimes rendered completely abstract as a zoomed-in landscape of hair, veins, and flesh. Altfest’s vision of the living human body as painted matter has its precedent in the work of Philip Pearlstein and Lucian Freud. Head and Plant is her first solo museum exhibition.

Maro Michalakakos: I Would Prefer Not To
Ileana Tounta Contemporary Arts Centre
48 Armatolon-Klephton Street, Athens, Greece, 114 71
March 29–May 26, 2012

Literary references abound in the work of the Greek artist Maro Michalakakos. She takes the title of her exhibition, I Would Prefer Not To, from a line favored by the protagonist of Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street.” Happy Days, a heaping pile of red velvet fluff that hugs the gallery’s columns, nods to a Samuel Beckett play with the same name. A second installation using seductive velvet, Red Carpet, consists of a carpet unfurled from floor to ceiling, bearing the imprints of animal claw marks. The glamour of the “red-carpet” event here becomes a gateway to a predatory world of abuse, power, and victimization.

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