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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.

August 2014

Carolee Schneemann: History Works
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León
Avenida de los Reyes Leoneses, 24, 24008, León, Spain
July 19–December 7, 2014

Carolee Schneemann is one of the most important artists to have emerged from the experimental avant-garde scene of New York in the early 1960s. Though finally acknowledged as a pioneer of feminist and performance art—an acknowledgement that had been for years unduly marred by her controversial, for many, use of her beautiful nude body—it is fair to say that the breadth and depth of her multiform contributions to the radical advancement of postwar art, including painting, film, performance, and multimedia installation, remains unstudied and unfathomed.

Redressing the uneven visibility of Schneemann’s work throughout her career by illuminating the diversity of its content, politics, and practices, Carolee Schneemann: History Works focuses on the constant engagement of her work with contemporary history while illuminating both the pacifist politics that complement her feminism and the critical ways in which Schneemann’s diverse and intricate engagement of print and TV images of death and crisis from the 1960s to today resists apathetic image consumption by seeking the active participation of the viewer. Mediated actuality offered a counterfoil for the sensate awakening proposed by Schneemann’s use of the body in art, already in 1963, with her kinetic theater group performance Newspaper Event in New York’s Judson Theater. It was her participation in the antiwar movement, however, that triggered her first use of media images (of war and death) in the mid-sixties, something that continues to characterize her collage aesthetic and multimedia practice. In 1965, for instance, Schneemann made a stunning “visual and sonic threnody,” the film-collage Viet Flakes in which appropriated images of the war in Vietnam were zoomed in and out under a collaged soundtrack composed by James Tenney. Two years later, in New York, the film was at the heart of her “kinetic theater” yet multimedia performance Snows (1967)—its scene of death and abandonment abstractly mimed by the performers—presented during Angry Arts Week: Artists against the Vietnam War. Performances of Snows and Night Crawlers, on the fringe of Expo 67 in Montreal, marked a high point in her political experiments in Kinetic Theatre and Expanded Cinema, during which film was extended beyond the screen to include collage and other forms of art.

Carolee Schneemann: History Works retraces the artist’s creations from the early performance Meat Joy to works contesting military interventions in Vietnam and the 1980s conflicts in Lebanon, concluding with recent pieces, several of which are being shown for the first time in Europe, including multimedia collages that variously echo the visual labyrinth of catastrophe in which we are plunged. Among them is the poignant photomontage Terminal Velocity, a monumental photographic montage that stands out as representative of a new form of historical painting, while also breaking another corporal taboo, that of the dead body, as put by Annable Teneze. With this work Schneemann records a real event while infusing a hard note of humanity across five columns of close-ups showing bodies falling from the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. A hard-hitting creation based on a key moment in our current world, Terminal Velocity questions the effectiveness and the distortions of the media coverage of such tragic events, a question raised in such subsequent video installation works as More Wrong Things (2001) or Precarious (2009), in which spectators are submerged in a torrent of projected images and reflections.

Curated by Anabelle Teneze and begun last year at the Rochechouart Museum of Contemporary Art, which in 2012 bought Terminal Velocity, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with fresh views on the intersection of her art with history, feminism, and the empire of image, called Then and Now. Carolee Schneemann. Oeuvres d’Histoire, edited by Teneze and copublished with Analogues Éditions.

Carol Rama
Nottingham Contemporary
Weekday Cross, Nottingham, NG1 2GB, United Kingdom
July 19–September 28, 2014

Nottingham Contemporary presents a solo exhibition by Carol Rama, curated by Irene Aristizabal. Rama is an Italian self-taught artist born in 1918 in Turin, where she still lives. The expressiveness of Rama’s work means a direct result of the personal tragedies in her life. At age fifteen, Rama began her “vulgar” drawings as a form of healing when her mother was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. These psychosexual images based on her witnessing of female patients wandering the wards half naked were presented in her first exhibition in Turin in 1945. The exhibition was shut down, as her work was considered too radical for the Fascist-dominated Italy she grew up in. She didn’t receive international attention until the end of the 1990s, and her extensive career was recognized with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2003.

Her autobiographical, explicitly female approach mirrors that of other artists of her time, such as Louise Bourgeois. In the 1960s, Rama began to use psychologically charged objects in her work, including doll’s eyes and animal claws, which led to her celebrated works with bicycle tires in the 1970s. Rama mentioned that rubber stimulated her more than all the other materials. She was attracted to the sensual, fleshlike quality of rubber and was interested in its character and temperament that suggest a feeling of unease. But her working with rubber refers once again to personal memories: Rama’s father owned a bicycle factory that failed. He committed suicide when he was declared bankrupt in 1942. The artist states that these works express the sadness she feels at his loss, a sadness that will never pass.

The exhibition features over fifty works and a contextual program that includes presentations of Shut Up, Actually Talk, a radical feminist freak-show by the Italian performance artist Chiara Fumai, and Inside Carol Rama, a selection from a series of ninety photographs taken by Bepi Ghiotti over the last two years in Rama’s legendary studio-home.

Annette Wehrmann: We’re Watching TV Because We Can’t Afford a Revolution
Badischer Kunstverein
Waldstraße 3, 76133, Karlsruhe, Germany
July 11–September 7, 2014

Badischer Kunstverein presents an extensive solo exhibition dedicated to Annette Wehrmann (1961–2010), curated by Ort des Gegen e.V. and Anja Casser. Ort des Gegen e.V. was founded in Hamburg in 2011 to preserve the artistic estate of the late artist. Wehrmann lived and worked in Hamburg. Throughout her diverse practice, she has developed a unique artistic position. Somewhere between sculpture and intervention, Werhmann fused conceptual and performance art methods with the language of the Situationist International, feminism, and science fiction. Her oeuvre, a distinctive mix of anarchic prose, dry humor, and intellectual discourse, reflects the political development, the daily life, and the art scene of the 1990s. Wehrmann had an important position in her generation and what became the art scene of post-Wall Berlin.

Werhmann’s drawings, sculptures, installations, performances, videos, and texts speak to the reader about the life of an artist for whom every observation becomes material for her work. Voicing her unease about the world, Wehrmann underlined an independent creative position that not only inscribed in her art, but also in her life.

Under the title We’re Watching TV Because We Can’t Afford a Revolution, this exhibition brings together a range of the artist’s individual pieces and series of works, including the sculptural works Fußbälle/Kugeln (1991) and her photographic series Blumensprengungen (1991–95), in which the artist literally exploded a number of flowerbeds arranged in urban locations, and UFO architectures. These assemblages of cheap materials, influenced by feminist science-fiction literature, are given a central role in the exhibition. They were described by the artist as a “retreat into oneself” and a “desire for a better, different life.”

Roni Horn: Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake
Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc, 08038, Barcelona, Spain
June 20–September 28, 2014

Fundació Joan Miró and Obra Social “la Caixa” present Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake, a solo exhibition by Roni Horn (b. 1955, New York) conceived by the artist herself. Borrowing the title from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, the exhibition explores the different media, major themes, formats, and approaches that Horn has used over the past twenty years. Through this huge installation comprised of sculptural works, photographic series, working drawings, and a floor piece, Horn intends to offer an overall experience. The works selected represent a compendium of the elements that underpin the creative process of the American sculptor, installation artist, draughtsman, photographer and writer: people, the landscape, light, words, water, presence, glass, faces, change, forms, series, spaces, the appearance of the self, and time.

The show includes text-oriented sculptural installation from the White Dickinson series; the photographic series You are the Weather, Part 2, which explores the essence of water as well as questions of human identity and appearance; Still Water (The River Thames, for Example) and Dead Owl; as well as a series of self-portraits a.k.a. and Her, Her, Her and Her, a voyeuristic mosaic composed with individual photographs taken in a women’s locker rooms at a 1928 Icelandic indoor swimming-pool complex. Here, Horn uses repetition to examine the relationship between individual and collective identity and to create an endless labyrinth of gazes and disenchanted desire.

The exhibition also includes Horn’s recent work Untitled as the centerpiece of the overall installation, four videos about her work, and a floor piece entitled Rings of Lispector (Água Viva) that combines drawing and literary quotes. Since drawing has been an essential aspect of Horn’s creative practice over the last thirty years, the exhibition includes a room set aside for working drawings.

Feminine Futures: Avant-Garde Female Artists in the Fields of Performance and Dance
Le Consortium
37 rue de Longvic, 21000, Dijon, France
June 21–September 28, 2014

The Consortium Art Center presents the exhibition Feminine Futures, an illuminating survey of radical experimentation with dance and performance by female avant-garde artists from 1870 to 1970—itself a potent and understudied prelude of feminist and performance art. Curated by the artist and curator Andrien Sina and first staged in the context of 2009 Performa in New York, Feminine Futures, in its latest iteration in France, comprises more than six hundred items—an incredible collection of photographs, letters, drawings, manifestos, programs, and first editions that sheds light on the unexplored gendered margins of twentieth-century avant-gardes in which overlooked origins of body art and interdisciplinary vanguard art practices seem to lie. “The history of the early-twentieth-century female avant-gardes, concerned with the body, dance, or performance, was forged independently of dominant artistic movements,” says the curator of the exhibition, as “the female figure, sublimated and idealized through the literary fantasies of Symbolists or hysterical due to the earliest ‘psychopathological’ investigations, gave way to an unequalled degree of expressiveness and freedom.” “The appropriation by women of their own modernity and the invention of multiple hypotheses as regards the Future Woman,” he continues, “open up new perspectives, suggesting a radical transcendence of the fine arts disciplines via actions where the body was seen in itself as a fully fledged work of art.”

Unveiling hidden “minor practices” in the margins of the most well-known artistic movements, or overlooked signs of dissidence lurking into known works of art, including manifestos within manifestos and singular heterotopias within larger isotopias, the exhibition illuminates the “multiple origins of modernity in unexplored areas of ephemeral action” as well as the affinities amidst a great assortment of female artists who “lived their avant-garde experiments as a response to deep forces rooted in the psychology of desire and the reconstruction of a myth of the feminine” that subverted its previous subservience and sought their political empowerment. A great example of the many brought to light in this exhibition is “the manifesto of lust” by Valentine de Saint Poine—the first and only woman to be part of the executive board of the Futurist movement—whose promulgation of “feminine action” barely fit the traditional art categories (poetry, painting, sculpture, and music) of the male protagonists of Futurism. Advocating that “we must turn lust into a work of art” since “the flesh creates as the spirit creates,” Feminine Futures stands for an artistic and political attitude of greater impact than the production of objects, distinguishing itself from the feminism of the times by “introducing an emancipated equivalent in the artistic arena where highly visible strategies of provocation and paradigm shifts are required.”

Artists in the exhibition include: Loïe Fuller (1862–1928), Isadora Duncan (1877–1927), Anna Duncan (Anna Dentzler, 1894–1980), Valentine de Saint-Point (1875–1953), Ruth St. Denis (1878–1968), Gertrude Hoffman (1871–1966), Anna Pavlova (1881–1931), Vera Petrovna Fokina (1886–1958), Ida Rubinstein (1888–1960), Désirée Lubowska, Milada Mladova (b. 1921), Roshanara (Olive Craddock) 1894–1926), Jia Ruskaja (Evgenija Borisenko) (1902–1970), Giannina Censi (1913–1995), Evan Burrows Fontaine (1898–1984), Mary Wigman (1886–1973), Gret Palucca (1902–1993), Grete Wiesenthal (1885–1970), Hedwig Hagemann (Valeska Gert) (1892–1978), Vera Skoronel (1906–1932), Clotilde von Derp (1892–1974), Niddy Impekoven (1904–2002), Gisa Geert (1900–1991), Sent M’Ahesa (Else von Carlberg) 1883–1970), Katherine Cornell (1893–1974), Leni Riefenstahl (1902–2003), Tashamira (Vera Milcinovic) (1904–1995), Tilly Losch (1903–1975), Margaret Morris (1891–1980), Nini Theilade (b. 1915), Yvonne Georgi (1903–1975), Maja Lex (1906–1986),
Martha Graham (1894–1991), Doris Humphrey (1895–1958), Hanya Holm (1893–1992), Ruth Page (1899–1991), Myra Kinch (1904–1981), Gertrude Lippincott (1913–1996), and others.

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