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CWA Picks for December 2018

posted by CAA — Dec 04, 2018

Installation view of Leonor Fini: Theatre of Desire, 1930-1990, on view at the Museum of Sex through March 4, 2019.

CAA’s Committee on Women in the Arts selects the best in feminist art and scholarship to share with CAA members on a monthly basis. See the picks for December below.


September 13, 2018 – January 31, 2019
Kow Madrid

Barbara Hammer needs no introduction. One of the first filmmakers to openly address and document lesbian sexuality, Hammer is both a feminist pioneer of queer cinema and an influential force  of avant-garde and experimental filmmaking. She is also dying.

In a recent talk at the Whitney Museum (The Art of Dying or [Palliative Art Making in the Age of Anxiety]) she frankly, movingly, and inspiringly spoke of death and (her) art, living with cancer and one’s right to die “when she wishes,” advocating terminally ill patients’ right to decide how and when to die. Concentrating instead on works that precede the specter of death in her work, Contribution to Light focuses only on very early films, photographs, and works on paper, including some previously unknown. It seeks to explore the role physical perception of space and relationships play in Hammer’s first steps as an artist, marking the signature combination of physical presence, painterly quality, and sensual expressionism that characterizes much of her work both on celluloid and paper. “Her camera gaze seems to literally touch the environment, inseparable from her body and its experiences, while her paint brush and her pencil are unafraid to discern the surface of the paper as a field of action and mental and formal discovery,” as put in the press release. Touch has been indeed central in Hammer’s vision, and she eloquently speaks about it during the aforementioned talk. While this show in Madrid is only a small homage to Hammer’s beginnings, her illness and own commitment to prepare for the aftermath of her death has already precipitated a wave of much-needed study, preservation, and celebration of her work in the US. A major retrospective will open next summer at the Wexner Center for the Arts. But will she be alive, or conscious to see it? Wishing so, this CWA selection symbolically reciprocates her loving goodbye while she is still in life.

Tomie Ohtake: At Her Fingertips

November 1 – December 22, 2018
Nara Roesler Gallery, New York

This concise exhibition focuses on Tomie Ohtake’s preparatory collages, drawings, and engravings from the 1960s and 1970s and proposes a new dimension to the Japanese-Brazilian artist’s expansive, six-decade career and legacy. Curated by Paulo Miyada, chief curator of the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, At Her Fingertips places Ohtake’s “studies” in direct relationship to a few select paintings, arguing for a dynamic reciprocity between media and offering further insight into the eminent artist’s approach to abstract gesturalism, geometry, and spirituality. These small, colorful collages—torn and ripped somewhat haphazardly—are hung directly from the ceiling in double-sided glass frames, highlighting the graphic and material nature of paper cutouts and promoting the dialectics of chance and control underlying Zen Buddhism and Japanese calligraphy. This tidy show further informs the interwoven dialogues on abstraction offered in postwar Brazil from which Ohtake readily drew upon, including those by the Seibi group’s second generation, including Manabu Mabe and Flávio-Shiró, and the Concrete principles of design and color theory by Wyllis de Castro and Hércules Barsotti, for example. In all, this exhibition continues the important historical work on Ohtake, and delivers a morsel of her brilliant career to a new audience in New York.


September 4 – December 14, 2018
Kean University Karl and Helen Burger Gallery, Union, New Jersey

Linda Vallejo provokes both directly and subtly poignant questions through her “Make ‘Em All Mexican” (MEAM) series of historical figures and contemporary pop personalities painted brown; and extended series, “The Brown Dot Project” of transformations of Latino populations and workforce data into engaging visual representations using brown dots. MEAM sculptures, handmade books and manipulated aluminum sublimation prints began in 2011 when the artist worked out her own query, “I’m a person of the world. What would the world of contemporary images look like from my own personal Mexican-American, Chicano lens?” From the Three Stooges to Jennifer Lawrence to the Statue of Liberty, these iconic works in brown and titled in Spanish, presented in striking fashion, challenge audiences, “Does color and class define our understanding and appreciation of our culture?” “The Brown Dot” series are dotted objects and abstract images on graphed pages with statistics built into the pointillated designs, stats as the titles, such as National Latino Authors and Writers 5.6% dotted to create a typewriter; or National Latino Architects 7.2% into a VW Beetle. The series has traveled in solo and group exhibitions for a few years now, but its relevancy endures.


September 29, 2018 – January 27, 2019
Nevada Museum of Art, Reno

Not enough can be said about the innovative, ethereal and intimate photography of Anne Brigman, though this exhibition, the largest ever undertaken including over 300 works spanning her career, attempts to honor her amazing radical oeuvre. Objectifying her own nude body outside in near desolate wilderness was absolutely revolutionary at the turn of the twentieth century, moreover her well-known landscape photography, poetry and art criticism maintained for her a significant career. Her sinuous figure aligns naturally with the lines of the trees and landscapes of Sierra Nevada. Her powerful poses wreak vulnerability and strength, echoing Francesca Woodman decades after her, but with an inner confidence and strength. Brigman redefined the space through her work as did Judy Chicago, Brigman a feminist artist before the notion.

Leonor Fini: Theatre of Desire, 1930-1990

September 28, 2018 – March 4, 2019
Museum of Sex, New York

With an unapologetic dose of theatricality appropriate for its subject, this small but comprehensive survey curated by Lissa Rivera offers a delectable opportunity to discover, re-evaluate and celebrate the art and life of Leonor Fini as well as the rebellious inextricability of both.

Born in Buenos Aires, but raised in Trieste—only by her mother upon her separation of her abusive father whom she escaped by often dressing like a boy—Fini begun to paint at the age of thirteen and by the time she moved to Paris in 1931 had already established herself “as an artist to watch.” While best remembered today as a Surrealist due to her early style, affiliations and her participation in the seminal 1936 MoMA show, Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism, and her illustrations of Marquis de Sade Juliette, Fini refused membership in any of the contemporary avant-garde movements and pursued a fiercely independent course in life and art, marked by her eccentric disguises, life-long partnership with two men, and a radical exploration of desire, sexuality, and performativity that cuts across all the media she worked as painter, idiosyncratic draughtsman, and prolific theater designer. Spanning two floors and six decades of work, the exhibition brings together fascinating examples of the changing style of this largely self-taught artist’s painting (presided over by her 1940s androgynous male nudes guarded by female lovers), erotic drawings, book illustrations, and samples her work in theater and design, contextualizing her production and theatrically fleshing out her performative person with photographic and filmic documentation,  signature outfits, a projected assortment of select quotes by the artist, and music.

While arrayed along chronological lines, the exhibits are curated in eloquent and eloquently analyzed groupings that capture Fini’s feminism both as an advocate of the feminine and female desire as well as an explorer of a radically boundlessness  sexuality. “Subverting the Muse,” “Empowering the Feminine,” “Metamorphosis and Sexual Sorcery,” “Intellectual Explorations of Sexuality,” and “The Corporeal” are a few of such groupings’ titles that speak volumes of both the timeliness of Fini’s sexual politics and the earliness of her revolt, and are convincingly illustrated by her representations of both men and women, her empowering evocation of sorcery, mythology and nature, her work’s unrestricted erotics, ranging from androgynous objects of female desire to homoeroticism and Sadean sadomasochism, and the fluidity of gender and sexuality emanating from her images, disguises, and words.

Bridget Riley

November 16, 2018 – January 26, 2019
Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles

“The curve is a frozen moment,” said Bridget Riley in an interview with The Telegraph, “This side contracts. That side extends. When we see a painted curve we somehow recognize that.” This gathering of work from across Riley’s rigorous and focused career gives a viewer an opportunity to test that observation. From Riley’s early experiments with pointillism, Pink Landscape (1960), to her recent paintings and wall murals consisting of subtly-modulated, colored discs, this show is arranged by “conceptual and compositional affinity rather than chronology.” Seen in this way, what emerges is a set of related concerns—the stripe, for instance—which can then be traced across the artist’s career. More than a survey-text example of Op Art, Riley’s work asks for the perceptual and bodily investment of the viewer; a recognition, a frozen moment, a curve, a line.

Filed under: CWA Picks