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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.

December 2014

Suzanne Lacy: Gender Agendas
Museo Pecci Milano
Ripa di Porta Ticinese 113, Milan, Italy
November 14, 2014–January 6, 2015

The Milan Pecci Museum is presenting a Suzanne Lacy’s Gender Agendas. This retrospective exhibition launches a whole new line of investigation at the the Centre for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci that has been dedicated to the pioneering work in the arts developed internationally in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Born in California in 1945 and based in Los Angeles, Lacy is an influential artist, educator, and writer. She is known as one of the pioneer artists blending Conceptual and Performance art with social commitment in the early seventies in Los Angeles. Her approach to researching and making follows her questioning the relationship of “service” to “activism,” and of both to “art practice.” Her diverse approach to this investigation stretches from explorations of the body and intimate reflections to the production of large and lengthy public demonstrations involving dozens of artists and thousands of spectators.

Gender Agendas presents, for the first time in Europe, a large series of Lacy’s projects that follow a constant of her artistic development: the investigation of the female condition. From a more intimately approach to a strong political and civic one, Lacy explores the power of art as a useful and effective tool for social struggle and for the promotion of progressive ideas, digging in this way into the meanings of the hundreds of anonymous female and working-class performers who would have no access to the communication systems otherwise. Sexual exploitation, violence, media representation of the aging woman, and social issues ranging from racism to the conditions of labor and class may have been provocative and avant-garde in the seventies and eighties, but are still deeply relevant today.

Through the curatorial approach of Lacy’s retrospective exhibition, Fabio Cavallucci and Megan Steinman, propose a readaptation of some of her most important works, including Prostitution Notes (1974); Three Weeks in May (1977); In Mourning and In Rage (1977); The Crystal Quilt (1985–87); and Full Circle (1994); as well as one of her most recent projects, Storying Rape (2012), a discussion among significant personalities in the media, activists, and politicians in an attempt to find a new cultural narrative that describes sexual violence.

Birgit Jurgenssen
Fergus McCaffrey
514 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001
November 6–December 20 2014

For the second exhibition of Birgit Jurgenssen, Fergus McCaffrey brings together a large group of her photographic works in combination with a number of sculptures in order to underscore the variety and complexity of her work.

Highly experimental, Jurgenssen’s photographic work is exemplified by her Stoff-arbeiten (Fabric Works), which were created from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The “fabric works” consist of photographic prints mounted on canvases that have been screwed to iron frames made by the artist, giving a highly sculptural character to their combinations. Thin, translucent fabrics such as gauze are stretched over the surface, veiling and slightly obscuring the images. The photographs themselves are created through a range of processes, including photograms, solarization, and multiple exposures. The juxtaposition of hard-welded iron frames and delicate textile emphasizes their materiality and draws a direct relationship to Jürgenssen’s sculptural works.

The exhibition also includes works that Jurgenssen referred to as “painted” photography. These large format photograms were created by manipulating sheets of photo paper in developer and fixing baths and by pouring photo chemicals directly over the paper. The resulting marbled and dripped images were then exposed to light and fixed, after which the surfaces were scratched, creating gestural drawings over the “painted” photographic surfaces.

Born and educated in Vienna, Jürgenssen (1949–2003) died prematurely at the age of 54. Her studio practice encompassed drawing, performance, photography, and sculpture, through which she compellingly combined classically refined draftsmanship, mixed media, and experimental photo techniques. She is best known for her connection to the Austrian feminist movement of the 1970s. Equally important is her engagement with Surrealism and her concern for materials and processes.

Cover of the catalogue for Sturtevant: Double Trouble

Sturtevant: Double Trouble
Museum of Modern Art
Special Exhibitions Gallery, Third Floor; and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Painting and Sculpture Gallery, Gallery 5, Fifth Floor, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10009
November 9, 2014–February 22, 2015

Elaine Sturtevant (American, 1924–2014) began “repeating” the works of her contemporaries in 1964, using some of the most iconic artworks of her generation as a source and catalyst for the exploration of originality, authorship, and the interior structures of art and image culture. Beginning with her versions of works by Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, she initially turned the visual logic of Pop art back on itself, probing uncomfortably at the workings of art history in real time. Yet her chameleonlike embrace of other artists’ art has also resulted in her being largely overlooked in the history of postwar American art. As a woman making versions of the work of better-known male artists, she has passed almost unnoticed through the hierarchies of midcentury modernism and postmodernism, at once absent from these histories while nevertheless articulating their structures.

Far more than copies, her versions, for instance, of Johns’s flags, Warhol’s flowers, and Joseph Beuys’s fat chairs are studies in the action of art that expose aspects of its making, circulation, and canonization. Working primarily in video since 2000, the artist remained deeply engaged with the politics of image production and reception, using stock footage from Hollywood films, television, and advertising to point to the exhaustion built into much of postwar cultural production.

This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey in America of Sturtevant’s fifty-year career and the only institutional presentation of her work organized in the United States since her solo show at the Everson Museum of Art in 1973. Rather than taking the form of a traditional retrospective, the exhibition offers a historical overview of her work from a contemporary vantage point, interspersing more recent video pieces among key artworks from all periods of her career.

Michelle Stuart: Silent Movies
Leslie Tonkonow: Art Works and Projects
535 West 22nd Street, Sixth Floor, New York, NY 10011
November 1–December 20, 2014

Michelle Stuart (American, b. 1933) became internationally known in the 1970s for innovative works that synthesize Land art, drawing, and sculpture, as well as her pioneering use of natural materials in sculpture, painting, and drawing. Since 2011 photography has been her primary medium, although present in her work both literally and conceptually since the 1970s. Devising a highly personal and original method of photographic manipulation, Stuart conveys the impression of deeply felt images seen through time and layers of consciousness. It is “a combination of fact and fiction, truth and lies—and lies that tell the truth,” as put by the artist.

The exhibition at Leslie Tonkonow comprises photographs drawn from Stuart’s vast archive of analogue and digital photographs taken for almost half a century. Stuart activates their aesthetic and storytelling potential by arranging them in gridlike groups or occasionally altering them. Each work is composed of between seven and seventy separate images, digitally printed on 8½ x 11 inch sheets of archival paper. Both painterly and cinematic in their rhythmic visual arrangement, the works in this exhibition amount to meditations on the nature of memory.

As dreamlike recollections of her past, these works continue her lifelong artistic engagement with specific locations, while affirming the significance of place as a unique source of memory. “Memories are silent until we either articulate them in words on paper or depict them visually,” as put by the artist herself. Two years ago, in Palimpsests, her first solo show of exclusively photographic works, Stuart expressed thoughts on war, the cosmos, the passing of time, and on form itself. The compositions in Silent Movies, all created since then, present universal themes with deeply personal associations that contain keys to momentous events and evoke times and places in a manner that is both specific and archetypical. With abundant literary, cinematic, and historical references, these works do not merely address memories, but, as put in the press release, the very process of recall itself.

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