CAA News Today

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.

June 2015

Poster image for Bluestocking Film Series 2015

Bluestocking Film Series 2015
SPACE Gallery
538 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
July 17–18, 2015

Founded in 2011 by the director and independent filmmaker Kate Kaminski, the Bluestocking Film Series promotes filmmakers who “place female protagonists front and center.” As explained in their mission statement, they “encourage and promote production of narratives driven by strong, complex female protagonists, characters who are as fully-developed, heroic, complex and flawed as their male counterparts,” all this with a preference for “well-structured, highly visual, cutting edge, provocative films, especially ones that explore the plurality and variety of women’s relationships.”

The series focuses on narrative films more than documentaries, and each accepted film must also pass the Bechdel Test. This year an estimated fourteen to sixteen films will be screening over two nights and one afternoon at the SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine. A special afternoon program, free for low-income girls, was added after Bluestocking received a number of strong films addressing issues of adolescence and coming of age, Kaminiski said. The Irish filmmaker Maureen O’Connell will also join the festival in Maine for the US premiere of her film, Girls.

The Bluestocking Film Series issued a call to filmmakers this year in their Blue Collar Heroine Challenge, seeking films that spotlight the lives of working-class women. “Truly diverse representations of women wage earners who are competent, quick-witted, and enterprising are practically taboo,” Kaminski explained. The challenge was delivered to help fill this void while portraying women who work in skilled manual-labor jobs, including “pink collar” jobs, and in many ways “an ordinary heroine.” Unfortunately, Kaminiski said, they received no films that met the criteria 100 percent. “The fact is, these films may not yet exist,” she said, “and this is the reason why we do.”

Online Satirical Women’s Magazine

“The mission of Reductress is to take on the outdated perspectives and condescending tone of popular women’s media, through the eyes of the funniest women in comedy today,” begins the about page on the Reductress website. “Also, we want people to think we’re pretty.” Begun in 2013 by the comedians Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo, the online “news” magazine takes aim at all subjects, from news to entertainment, love, sex, and a category called “womanspiration.”

Headlines subtly and not-so-subtly jab at a breadth of issues. Perform a quick search for art, museum, or films and their titles and one will find the art and film industry is not immune to their satire. Titles include: “New Movie Has Women In It,” “Secret Colony of Female Directors Found in a Remote Cave,” “Slave To The Night: Dafna Remembers Art Basel,” “MPAA Gives Film NC-17 Rating for Actress’s Graphic Enjoyment of Dessert,” and (but not limited to) “Date Night Ideas That Will Lead to an Explosive Argument,” which includes the helpful paragraph titled “A Scream-Fight at a Museum.”

Only a short two years into online publication, the authors are adjusting to the increasing talk of feminism in mainstream media. In an interview with the Daily Beast from May 3, 2015, Pappalardo is quoted, “all of a sudden the magazines that we were parodying are talking about feminism and taking it seriously.” But, she says, these are attempts “to be relevant in feminism and co-opt the movement, while still propagating the same messages that make us feel inadequate.”

Milcah Bassel: Father Tongue
Kniznick Gallery
Brandeis University, Women’s Studies Research Center, Epstein Building, 515 South Street, Waltham, MA 02453
April 13–July 16, 2015

The Kniznick Gallery in the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University features the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute artist-in-residence Milcah Bassel and her work, Father Tongue. The large-scale wall drawings produced at the gallery are based on five letters of the Hebrew alphabet, exploring the “patriarchal roots of this ancient square alphabet through a personal, feminist, and abstract lens.” Bassel, who was raised in Israel, describes her multidisciplinary work as “an experiential investigation of body-space relations incorporating installation, hand-made objects, drawing, photography, video and performance.”

In Father Tongue, Basel explains in an interview with the Brandeis University student newspaper, the Justice, she chose to revisit five specific letters because they are all constructed of right angles and often used frequently as building blocks in Hebrew. As a child, Basel said, her earliest experiences with the alphabet were watching her father, a Jewish scribe, copy letters. This dominantly visual experience, coupled with her career as an artist and transition from an Orthodox family into a secular background, has allowed her, as Basel expressed, to “reclaim the alphabet for myself.”

Basel’s installation treats the space as if the audience is reading Hebrew, from right to left, compiling the five letters in a repetitive, but recognizable pattern. For audiences that read Hebrew this arrangement maintains the relationship to the language, while for others it remains purely within the visual realm.

A video of the installation is available on the WSRC Facebook page.

Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today
Museum of Art and Design
2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
April 28–September 27, 2015

The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) presents Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today, an exhibition that position women at the center of the midcentury narrative unveiling their meaningful contributions to modernism in postwar visual culture. As the exhibition curator Jennifer Scanlan states, “Through Pathmakers, MAD aims to expand the historical view of the postwar period, to showcase important artists and designers, and to introduce names that have been overlooked.”

In the 1950s and 1960s women had a significant impact in the use of alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics, and metals, making of craft and design media an important professional pathway. Pioneering women achieved success and international recognition, establishing a model of professional identity for future generations of women.

Pathmakers features more than one hundred works from a group that had a significant impact as innovative designers, artists, and educators, and that came to maturity along with the Museum of Arts and Design itself, which was founded in 1956 as the center of the emerging American modern craft movement. The exhibition includes contributions of European émigrés, such as Anni Albers and Maija Grotell, and highlights Ruth Asawa’s singular installation of hanging sculptures, Marianne Strengell’s Forecast Rug (a commissioned piece by the Aluminum Company of America that aimed to bring this industrial material into the home market), a wide selection of Eva Zeisel’s designs, Margaret Tafoya’s “bear paw vessels” (which merge traditional Pueblo ceramic techniques with contemporary form), and Gabriel A. Maher’s DE___SIGN, in which the artist looks at stereotypically male and female posture and clothing.

Cover of the exhibition catalogue for Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay
Tate Modern
Bankside, London SE1 9TG United Kingdom
April 15–August 9, 2015

Tate Modern presents the first retrospective of the pioneer of abstraction Sonia Delaunay in the United Kingdom. The exhibition explores the breath of Delaunay’s seventy-year career, providing a unique opportunity to discover one the most versatile and inspiring artist of her time.

Through painting, sketches, graphic, textile, fashion, and even furniture designs, dynamic forms and vibrant colors capture the spirit of modernity, while celebrating urban life, technology, and travel. Perhaps the most modern aspect of her creative process lies in the artist’s willingness to go beyond the traditional confines of fine art. Delaunay embraced fashion, textile, costume and set design, interior decoration, architecture, and advertising, developed and launched her own fashion house, and established her name as a brand.

The artist, born in Odessa as Sara Stern in 1885, developed a unique creative partnership along with her husband, the artist Robert Delaunay, since 1910, and together they approached abstraction distinctively through “simultaneism.” After Robert’s early death in 1941, Sonia continue exploring a variety of media and producing experimental and innovative art until the late 1970s.

The exhibition’s installation allows viewers to navigate her creative path in chronological order throughout twelve sections: Early Years, in which is made evident the influence of Paul Gauguin and the German Expressionists in her early paintings; Towards Abstraction, which introduces the collaborations with Robert Delaunay; Modern Life; Portugal and Spain, which focuses on her work in advertising and design while the couple refuged in these countries during the outbreak of WWI; and Flamenco and Ballet, which displays the opening of Casa Sonia and her first commissions in clothing and custom designs that blossomed in the early 1920s, when the Delaunays returned to Paris. This is made further evident in the section Fashion and Textile through an overwhelming collection of sketches, textiles, and designs, along with a series of fashion shoots displayed as photographs and videos.Through the remaining sections—Poetry and Theatre, Rhythm and Abstraction, Paris, Abstraction and Everyday Life, Gouaches, and Reinventions—viewers can follow Delaunay’s inspirational path, a creative journey that never ceased until her death in Paris in 1979. She was 94.

Yvonne Rainer: The Concept of Dust, or How do you look when there’s nothing left to move?
Museum of Modern Art
Werner and Elaine Dannheisser Lobby Gallery, Fourth Floor, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019
June 9–14, 2015

The Museum of Modern Art presents the East Coast premiere of Yvonne Rainer’s The Concept of Dust, or How do you look when there’s nothing left to move? (Moving On), an ongoing work-in-progress that intertwines formal dance with an intimate approach of aging and mortality, as well as humor, through language, music, and movement, which when combined creates a somewhat melancholy ambiance. The performers of this piece have been given the freedom to initiate and/or abort the movement phrases as they wish, making spontaneous decisions throughout the forty-five-minute duration of the piece. Rainer, a founding member of New York’s pioneering Judson Dance Theater, has developed a form known as “performance demonstrations” or “composites,” which combine fragments of choreography with spoken monologues, projections, films, and sounds.

Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019
June 25–27, 2015
1:00 PM and 4:00 PM

The Museum of Modern Art presents Promise Machine, a multipart commission of the Brooklyn-based artist Steffani Jemison, in conjunction with the exhibition One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North. Jemison (American, b. 1981) works across media and explores ideas of improvisation, repetition, and the fugitive in black history and vernacular culture inspired by the Utopia Neighborhood Club, a Harlem-based women’s social-service organization that directly supported Jacob Lawrence.

Promise Machine comprises a reading group and performance inspired by the notion of utopia that Jemison will premier as a new musical performance with original libretto by the artist and a score composed collaboratively with Courtney Bryan.

Guerrilla Girls: #ProvokeProtestPrevail’s
Bruce High Quality Foundation University, 431 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009
June 13, 2015
6:00 PM

FUG is a new project space of New York’s freest art school, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University (BHQFU). Through merging exhibitions, public programs, classes, and workshops, the project will host BHQFU’s visiting artist residency program, which supports artists and collaborative projects from around the globe through three- to six-week residencies.

As the culmination of #ProvokeProtestPrevail’s, the Guerrilla Girls BroadBand exhibition (May 1–June 14, 20154), and as part of its community outreach, BHQFU invites participation in a group action and live “guerrilla” performance that pays an homage to the Russian feminist punk protest group Pussy Riot. Supporting the reproductive rights through the power of music, participants will collaborate on a performance of a Pussy Riot song and edit it into a music video to be shared. For this, instruments, performers, and voices welcome. A closing party will follow.

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