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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.

June 2013

Carolee Schneemann

Carolee Schneemann, Untitled (from the Dust Paintings series), 1984, ink, ashes, acrylic paint, string, vegetable dye, glass particles, photograph on fabric, and circuit board on heavy rag paper, 37½ x 49 in. (artwork © Carolee Schneemann)

Carolee Schneemann: Flange 6rpm
PPOW Gallery
535 West 22nd Street, Third Floor, New York, NY 10011
May 11–June 22, 2013

Titled after a multisensory installation that immerses the viewer in an environment of projected foundry fires, animated by motorized hand-sculpted components cast in aluminum, the fourth exhibition of the pioneering feminist multimedia artist Carolee Schneemann at PPOW Gallery brings together an assortment of works that date from the 1980s to today, illuminating diverse aspects of her expansion of media and her exploration of materials, as well as revealing the politics of her work. In addition to Flange 6rpm, the show features four examples from her Dust Paintings series (1983–86), created with degraded materials, layers of dust, spilled paint, and circuit boards in critical reference to the effacement of Lebanese and Palestinian villages by continuous bombardment. Two major grid installations of photographs and text—Saw Over Want (1980–82) and Vulva’s Morphia (1995)—are also included.

Nicole Eisenman / Matrix 248
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Woo Hon Fai Hall, 2625 Durant Avenue, No. 2250, Berkeley, CA 94720
May 3–July 14, 2013

Curated by Apsara DiQuinzio, Nicole Eisenman / MATRIX 248 brings together approximately forty paintings and works on paper by this New York–based artist created after 2009 that variously contemplate the human condition—though they are specifically inspired by and reflect the post-Bush-era economic crisis and sociopolitical instability. The exhibition includes examples of Eisenman’s first reaction to social turmoil—a series of monotypes featuring weeping people—and other works in which she idiosyncratically grafts historical styles such as American Regionalism and the Italian Renaissance with German Expressionism, updating familiar art forms to make timely social commentaries, as in Triumph of Poverty (2009), based on Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting of the same name, and Tea Party (2011).

Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher, Wiglette from DeLuxe, 2004, photogravure and plasticine, 13 x 10¼ in. (artwork © Ellen Gallagher)

Ellen Gallagher: AxME
Tate Modern
Bankside, London SE1 9TG, England
May 1–September 1, 2013

The first overview of this American artist’s twenty-year career and the first major survey of her work in the United Kingdom, Ellen Gallagher: AxME illuminates signature themes of her exploration of myth, nature, social issues, and art history through painting, drawing, relief, collage, print, sculpture, film, and animation, while inviting the viewer to closely study her fascinating mode of production. Along with key works such as the various series of wig-map grid collages that cast sharp commentaries on black beauty ideals, along with the intricate relief Bird in Hand, the exhibition presents Gallagher’s film installation Murmur (2003–4), her ongoing series of watercolor collages Watery Ecstatic, and a new series called Morphia, comprising two-sided drawings that combine “the intimate with the epic, the urban with the oceanic, the ethereal with the physical, and history with the present.”

Nicola L: Body Language under the Sun and the Moon
Broadway 1602
1181 Broadway, Third Floor, New York, NY 10001
May 4–June 22, 2013

Focusing on Nicola L’s radical perspective on the gendered body, whether in pain or in joy, this exhibition introduces the work of an overlooked French artist. Although based in New York since the 1980s, Nicola began her career in Paris in the 1960s as a conceptual artist working in installation, performance, and functional art (since 1976 she also turned to film). A larger-than-life-sized installation, a penetrable sculpture for three performers called The Cylinder, debuted at the Biennale de Paris in 1967 with the rock group the Soft Machine; it was then shown at La MaMa Theater in New York. Pierre Restany welcomed her exceptional vision in his essay “A Long Day’s Journey to the End of the Skin” for her first exhibition at Galerie Daniel Templon in 1969, the same year he hailed Evelyne Axell’s nudes, shown in the same gallery, as signs of sexual liberation.

Nicola’s functional objects became classics of 1960s experimental furniture and soft-art design. But their eroticism is underpinned by an early feminist perspective that merits comparison with the work of several women artists of the sixties onward, whether in France or elsewhere: see, for instance, La Femme Commode (1969–2012), The Lover’s Wardrobe (1967–70), and The Lips Lamp (1969), and soft sculptures such as The Giant Foot (1967–2013) and Giant Woman Sofa (1970–2012). In 1969 Nicola created The Red Coat for Eleven People or Same Skin for Everyone—whose original is included at Broadway 1602—that was first performed with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Characterized as her pivotal “collective object of performance,” the work was used for performances around Europe, including one in Barcelona, where she was arrested by Francisco Franco’s army.

In 1974, Nicola participated in the exhibition Grandes Femmes, Petits Formats at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, presenting her provocative multimedia sculpture Woman Pregnant from TV (1970). By 1979, the artist moved definitively to New York, where she witnessed and was inspired by the city’s countercultural movements and vibrantly experimental art milieu. In 1981, she directed a film on Abbie Hoffman, the radical social activist and leader of the Yippie movement, called My Name Is Abbie: Orphan of America. Nicola continues to work on her Penetrable Universe series.

Eve Sussman | Rufus Corporation
Bass Museum of Art
2100 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139
April 12–November 3, 2013

Featuring the Rape of the Sabine Women (2004) and 89 Seconds at Alcázar (2007) and complemented by an interventional installation of photographic stills from both works alongside historical portraits from Bass Museum’s collection, this exhibition interweaves masterpieces of Eve Sussman’s film productions through Rufus Corporation (which she founded in 2003) that dazzle with their opulent settings. Conventionally screened in a darkened room, the twelve-minute 89 Seconds at Alcázar delights with Sussmann’s enactment of the enigmatic moment of court life captured in Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas (1656).

With its five acts inventively presented as a five-part video installation, Sussman’s celebrated Rape of the Sabine Women is a potent interpretation of the myth of Rome’s founding—filmed in Germany and Greece and set in the Cold War sixties—as ideal vehicle for her critique of utopia, power, and gender relationships in comparable historical settings of hope and decadence. Although Rape of the Sabine Women was made as a feature film, the action of its presentation at the Bass unspools on over thirty screens—including sprawling wall projections, a houselike construction, several tiny video monitors, and a massive installation of television sets piled randomly on the floor—and offers a mesmerizing immersive filmic experience that enhances the visual poetics and the power of Sussman’s reinterpretation of the Roman legend with government agents and Greek butchers’ daughters.

Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle, My Monster, 1968 (artwork © Niki de Saint Phalle/BUS 2013)

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Girl, the Monster, and the Goddess
Moderna Museet
Skeppsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden
April 20–December 1, 2013

Capitalizing mainly on the Moderna Museet’s comprehensive collection of works by Niki de Saint Phalle, largely thanks to Pontus Hulten and a generous donation by the late artist, this exhibition captures the centrality of the figures of the girl, the monster, and the goddess in de Saint Phalle’s artistic universe, exploring its autobiographic and feminist underpinnings and advocating the importance of the artist in the twentieth-century postwar avant-garde. Enhanced by archival material that reflects the reception of her Ur-Goddess, She – A Cathedral, constructed for the museum in 1966, the exhibition evokes the meeting of the girl, the monster and the goddess in de Saint Phalle’s film Daddy and is accompanied by a new documentary on the artist.

VALIE EXPORT: Images of Contingence
Żak | Branicka
Lindenstrasse 35, Third Floor, Berlin D-10969 Germany
April 26–June 16, 2013

“For me, contingence is how and where you perceive borders, and how and where and when borders explode,” said VALIE EXPORT, and it is the exploration of a variety of borders that Images of Contingence illuminates by highlighting the artist’s interest in physical contact and its implications in various media, including installation, drawing, photography, film, and archival materials. Along with the installation Fragments of Images of Contingence (1994), in which light bulbs hanging from poles and wires are sensuously yet dangerously immersed into cylinders filled with fundamental-to-our-existence liquids such as milk, used oil, or water, and its rhythmic pendant, The un-ending/-ique melody of cords (1998), a recording of a threadless sewing machine and its sound, the exhibition brings together a selection of videos permeated by issues of contingency, liminality, and sensual experience. The show also includes the artist’s celebrated Touch Cinema, performed in Munich in 1969, for its political activation of touch. A series of drawings from the early 1970s, depicting hands that protect and caress or cause suffering, complements this showcase of EXPORT’s negotiation of borders by illuminating her contradictory exploration of touch and the female body as ciphers of intimacy, sensuality, and carnality, as well as violence and aggression.

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