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CWA Picks for February 2019

posted by CAA — Feb 04, 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 February below.

ROSEMARY MEZA-DESPLAS: JANE ANGER

January 31 – February 24, 2019
Amos Eno Gallery, Brooklyn

“Anger is an assertion of rights and worth. It is communication, equality, and knowledge. It is intimacy, acceptance, fearlessness, embodiment, revolt, and reconciliation. Anger is memory and rage. It is rational thought and irrational pain. Anger is freedom, independence, expansiveness, and entitlement. It is justice, passion, clarity, and motivation. Anger is instrumental, thoughtful, complicated, and resolved. In anger, whether you like it or not, there is truth…If ever there was a time not to silence yourself, to channel your anger into healthy places and choices, this is it.”

Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (2018, Atria Books)

Artist Rosemary Meza-DesPlas explores all of these elements of anger and more through her sinuous lines in hand-sewn human hair drawings, watercolors and onsite installations in her solo show, Jane Anger, the title referencing a 16th century pamphlet published in England titled Jane Anger, Her Protection for Women. She also utilizes art history as inspiration by juxtaposing found art historical imagery along with social media and mass media imagery, exploring how the social movements, Women’s Marches and #MeToo, harnessed anger in order to forefront an array of gender-based burdens, presenting anger as a tool rather than detriment, as media often reflects. Moreover, by using her own gray hair in her drawings, Meza-DesPlas implicates further thought on socio-cultural symbolism, feminism and body issues, and religious symbolism, invoking both contemporary and classical perspectives around anger. Building on the multi-media experience, during the opening reception, the artist will present her piece titled Intervals of Anger, performing a poem every fifteen minutes. Taken altogether and individually, Jane Anger will surely rile and provoke audiences on this timely issue.

HELÈNE AYLON: Elusive Silver: Paintings that Change in Time

January 12 – March 2, 2019
Leslie Tonkonow, New York

The first solo exhibition of Helène Aylon in New York since 1979, Elusive Silver is a great introduction to the perceptual intricacies and feminist intent of the work of this  understudied pioneer  through her eponymous 1969-1973 abstract painting series. Comprising works that reflect and refract an inner glow that changes visually with the viewer’s stance and the light conditions, this first exploration of process-driven painting  made with industrial materials such as sheet metal, acrylic plastic and spray paint is a potent prelude of her signature late-1970s works physically changing, as intended, with the passage of time.

Born in 1931 and raised within the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Boro Park, Brooklyn,  Aylon was married to a rabbi at the age of eighteen and became widowed, with two young children, at the age of thirty. While in her mid-twenties, she enrolled as an art major at Brooklyn College, taking classes with Ad Reinhardt who became her friend, her true mentor who freed her work, while also introduced her to Mark Rothko, with whom she shared the spiritual foundations of their common cultural backgrounds. Refraining from mark-marking, beginning in 1969, however, Aylon experimented with the idea of creating “painting that revealed itself,” in an attempt to introduce an evolving feminist consciousness in painting.

The Medea Insurrection: Radical Women Artists Behind the Iron Curtain

December 8, 2018 – March 31, 2019
Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau, Dresden, Germany

Sibylle Bergemann, Heike, Allerleirauh, Berlin, 1988, on view in The Medea Insurrection: Radical Women Artists Behind the Iron Curtain at the Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau in Dresden, Germany, through March 31st.

Curated by Suzanne Altmann, The Medea Insurrection redresses the marginalization of the vanguard women artists working in the German Democratic Republic and their radical female perspective—largely due to the institutional predilection for East Germany’s male figurative painters before and after the Wall’s fall. The Medea Insurrection illuminates the singularly radical idioms of an intergenerational selection of multimedia women artists and rarely shown groups from East Germany and highlights their conceptual and artistic affinities with more recognized artists from other socialist countries in light of their shared provocative turn to mythology and empowering reinterpretation of female figures –such as Medea, Cassandra or Penthesilea—as means to advance contemporary, often punk, images of women, and protest both bourgeois and socialist role models. With this “double refusal” they were exposing themselves often to more risk than their male colleagues, who prior to 1989 often turned to codes of ancient mythology to express their discontent with the communist rule yet in painting. Performance artist Gabriele Stötzer, for instance, was imprisoned as a dissident and faced years of surveillance by the Stasi. Christa Jeitner too was banned from exhibiting in the 1970s, as was Cornelia Schleime who fled to the West in 1981.“From a lack of freedom, a certain freedom emerges,” as put by the curator, who argues that women artists were often more radical in such contexts of artistic unfreedom—perhaps because they were working so far under the official radar that they could take greater risks.

The exhibition brings together the work of rarely shown performance and fashion group Allerleihrauh, the visual dissidence of Dresden artists Angela Hampel, Christine Schlegel, Cornelia Schleime and Karla Woisnitza, the feminist experimentations of the filmmakers’ group Efurt, from Thuringia, an intergenerational mixture of East Berlin photographers such as Gundula Schulze Eldowy, Tina Bara, Evelyn Richter and Sibylle Bergemann, as well as Christa Jeitner and performance artist Gabriele Stötzer  with  Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland), Geta Bratescu (Romania), Katalin Ladik (Hungary), Zofia Rydet (Poland), Zorka Saglova (Czech Republic) and Alina Szapocznikow (Poland), among others,  capturing, their defiant risk taking, talent for improvisation, self-irony, and categorical reinterpretation of classical materials and motifs across their different media. It also draws parallels to the 1980s, when Else Gabriel (Germany) and Hanne Wandtke (Germany) carried out risky performance experiments as part of the Dresden group Autoperforationsartisten.

I Wish to Communicate With You: Corita Kent and Matt Keegan

January 13 – April 14, 2019
Potts Gallery (Los Angeles)

Some conversations are historical-actual—often resulting in the production of treasure troves of personal material (letters and/or gifts exchanged as signs of connection and engagement)—and other conversations must, by dint of our temporal realities, be virtual. When Corita Kent died in 1986, Matt Keegan was only ten years old—yet this did not stop the young artist from finding a point of contact in Kent’s work. On sabbatical in Cape Cod Kent produced a series of work that melded the color-combinations of naval signal flags with a variety of source material (the book of revelation, Winnie the Pooh, and others) to create a vibrant abecedarium. Years later, Keegan has taken Kent’s historical work and created his own series based on the radical juxtapositions offered by the former nun. Bringing the two together in virtual dialogue is a reminder as to how artist’s trajectories extend far past their own lives, and how we might continue to have conversations with the past.

Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico

January 19 – May 12, 2019
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Born in Mexico City in 1942, Graciela Iturbide has spent her career photographing daily life for the variety of indigenous populations that live in Mexico, and Latin America more broadly. A mentee of Manual Álvarez Bravo—who taught at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where Iturbide attended—her work is both a paean to, and departure from Bravo’s exacting formalism. In the late 1970s Iturbide received two important commissions, both to photograph segments of Mexico’s many indigenous communities. These commissions resulted in the publication of Juchitán de las Mujeres, a defining moment in Iturbide’s storied career. Her engagement with matrilineal and matriarchal indigenous communities, not to mention the presence of the Zapotec genderqueer muxe, meant that Iturbide’s photography has necessarily engaged questions of gender, sex, and social cohesion. As Iturbide’s prominence increased, she was invited to devise and complete projects all over the world – yet this exhibition makes a case for Mexico as the near-constant geographic touchstone running throughout her practice.

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