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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.

September 2014

Simone Forti Crescent Roll

Simone Forti, Crescent Roll in an unknown venue in New York, 1979, gelatin silver print, (photograph © Nathaniel Tileston)

Thinking with the Body: A Retrospective in Motion
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Mönchsberg 32, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
July 18–November 9, 2014

Museum der Moderne Salzburg presents the first comprehensive retrospective of the significant work of the “movement artist” Simone Forti (b. 1935, Florence). The program for Thinking with the Body: A Retrospective in Motion includes numerous performances, many of them presented in live enactments, as well as an exhibition of the artist’s sculpture, drawing, work with holograms and sound, and video that demonstrates her strikingly broad creative practice.

A choreographer, dancer, artist, and writer, Forti figured prominently in postmodern dance and Minimal art. She has been engaged with kinesthetic awareness and composition, dedicating herself to experimentation and improvisation. Her artistic projects include collaborations with other artists, such as the musicians Charlemagne Palestine and Peter Van Riper. In the early 1960s, together with dancers including Steve Paxton and Yvonne Rainer, Forti introduced movements from everyday life, revolutionizing the idea of dance and performance art. When living near the zoo in Rome in the late 1960s, she began to develop performance pieces based on the movements of animals. Forti also explored working with minimalist objects made of simple materials. In her most recent works, the News Animations, she includes spoken words in her dance, evidencing her ongoing interest in incorporating current events into movement. Through these works, the artist states that physicality and the language relationship to thought are pretty basic to us.

During the duration of the exhibition, students at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance will enact Forti’s famous Dance Constructions (1960–61) and other performance pieces in the galleries and in public spaces.

Annette Messager: Motion/Emotion
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
140 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia
July 24–October 26, 2014

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia celebrates the work of the internationally renowned French artist Annette Messager with the artist’s first retrospective in Australia. Messager’s diverse practice encompass drawing, artist’s books, photography, sculpture, and installation and is characterized by her modest choice of materials (clothing, stuffed toys, yarn, etc.), images culled from pop culture, a multifaceted toying with language, and the underpinning centrality of the body.

As put by the curator of the show, Rachel Kent, “since her debut in the Paris art scene in 1971–72, Messager has created an eccentric menagerie of creatures” whose often hybrid nature captures the “complexity of life as well as the mythologies, superstitions, and vanities that underpin it—the shadowy ‘other’ within us all. From her earliest works exploring concepts of the feminine, to works of the 1980s that explore hybrid beings or ‘chimeras,’ to later works featuring dismembered soft toys, unraveled woolen sweaters, and hand-stitched limbs and organs, the body remains central, while identity is destabilized.”

Featuring works from the early 1970s to the present, including her large kinetic installations, Annette Messager: Motion/Emotion reflects a crucial duality—motion and emotion—that underpins the artist’s practice and infatuation with what she describes as the fantastic in everyday life, rather than in the imagination. While motion is central to Messager’s recent works—whether employing mechanical elements, complex inflating mechanisms, household objects, or the movement of the spectator—it is by “probing the body from outside and within” that Messager’s work reveals “the keen interest in humanity and fragile, emotional core” that this exhibition seeks to highlight.

Ewa Partum: Installations and Provocations
Limerick City Gallery of Art
Carnegie Building, Pery Square, Limerick, Ireland
July 17–September 14, 2014

Limerick City Gallery of Art presents the first exhibition of Ewa Partum’s work in Ireland, examining notions of gestural and symbolic “public place.” Defining the essence of her work through the tautology of “the act of thought” and the “act of art,” Partum (b. 1945, Grodzisk Mazowiecki) belongs to the first generation of the Polish conceptual avant-garde and is a pioneer of feminist art. Embedded in the mail-art tradition, concrete poetry, and performance, and with a language-oriented conceptual spine, her work, since the mid 1960s, has variously and provocatively touched upon such issues as the notion of public space, the situation of women, female subjectivity, and the Polish political context. She was the first woman artist to encroach upon public space in the nude in Poland, publicly making a value statement about being a female artist, basing her art and its vocabulary on her specific experience as a woman, and connecting her artistic gestures with political statements and a visible presence in the public. Her work includes actions, objects, photography, films that she herself calls “tautological cinema,” visual poetry performances, and mail art.

For a long time the reception of Partum’s work was hampered by East–West division, and following the imposition of martial law in Poland she left her country to live in Berlin (since 1983). Her 2006 retrospective in Gdansk and her inclusion in Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007–8) have marked her recent international acknowledgment as one of the leading figures of feminist and conceptual avant-garde in Poland and beyond.

Three Person Show: Tamar Ettun, Monika Sziladi, Aimee Burg
Bosi Contemporary
48 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002
September 17–October 18, 2014

Curated by Naomi Lev, this exhibition explores the distinct role of object-human relationship as manifested in the work of three New York–based artists: Tamar Ettun, Monika Sziladi, and Aimee Burg, all 2010 graduates of the Yale MFA program but of diverse cultural origins and practices.

Incorporating repetitive and meditative tasks using metaphoric objects from everyday life, Burg’s installation revolves around the notion of rituals and the suspension of time. Her recycling of mundane objects of everyday rituals renders them archeological artifacts that preserve ancient ceremonial events. The installation’s dynamic presence plays with the relevance of “time” by bringing the past into a science fiction–like future.

In her recent series of works, Ettun explores the concept of “neuron mirroring.” Originally defined as “mirror neuron,” the term refers to a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Her sculptures, video, and onsite installation are a reflection of a longer process, which traces the correspondence between objects and bodies, as well as sculptures and movement. As she often states, in her works the body becomes sculptural and the objects become performative.

Through a photographic process Sziladi creates unique digital collages that are constructed from scenes she shoots at events, conventions, and meet-ups of various subcultures that communicate through social networks. In her most recent series, Prisoners of Our Own Device, she enhances moments of the complex physical and psychological exchange we develop with objects, garments, architecture, devices, or other people with which we surround ourselves.

Reflections on the Aftermath: Lydda Airport
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Queen’s Road, Bristol BS8 1RL, United Kingdom
July 26, 2014–January 4, 2015

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in partnership with Arnolfini, presents Lydda Airport by the Palestinian artist Emily Jacir (b. Bethlehem, 1970), as part of the program “Reflections on the Aftermath: Global to Local.” Through a subtle and delicate narrative set in an airport built in Palestine in 1936 by the British Mandate, Jacir considers politics, place, and history. While this haunting film was shown previously in New York (2009) and at the Sharjah Biennial (2010), its screening in the United Kingdom in the context of a program that reflects on the impact of the First World War around the globe becomes particularly meaningful.

Lydda Airport, an important stop along the empire route for the British government, is shown under construction and deserted except for the figure of Jacir and the main character, Hannibal, one of the largest passenger planes in the world at the time, that disappeared in 1940 over the Gulf of Oman on its way to Sharjah. The film also invokes the story of Amelia Earhart, the pioneering pilot who crossed the Atlantic Ocean on her own in 1932 and disappeared over the Pacific in her journey around the world in 1937.

Jacir—an artist known for her historical narratives through photography, film, installation, social intervention, writing, and sound—wrote, directed, performed, and created the soundtrack for this film. The animation was created using archive footage from the Library of Congress as well as original aerial photographs taken by Geoffrey Grierson. The exhibition also includes the artist’s re-creation of the original proposed model of the airport, a solid representation that contrasts with the fragile narrative of a film that exacerbates the experience of absence and disappearance.

Geta Brătescu / MATRIX 254
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
University of California, Woo Hon Fai Hall, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94720
July 25–September 28, 2014

Organized by Apsara DiQuinzio, MATRIX 254 features the first solo exhibition in an American museum of the Romanian artist Geta Brătescu (b. 1926, Ploesti). Brătescu is a central figure in postwar Romanian art. With a practice that spans a wide range of media, such as illustration, graphic design, drawing, video, textiles, performance, installation, photography, and printmaking, the artist defines herself as a natural drawer. In her own words: “For me, the line is the essence. Drawing is the foundation of my language. I draw with a pencil, I draw with scissors … with anything.”

Having maintained a rigorous and mostly secluded studio practice that continues into the present, Brătescu exhibited regularly in Romania throughout her career. She has chosen to remain in Romania during the Communist times, and she feels it was the right choice. However, due primarily to Communist totalitarian regime (1967–89) and the subsequent political isolation of the country, Brătescu’s work was little known to international audiences until fairly recently.

In this context, MATRIX 254 presents a focused selection of the artists’ key works made between 1974 and 2000, in which the space of Brătescu’s studio assumes an essential position within the artist’s oeuvre. In her early video The Studio (1978), we can see the artist creating inside this intimate room surrounded by her artworks, an environment that captures the playful, experimental, and feminine (as she defines it) approach that characterizes her practice, making also evident her frequent use of role playing and self-portraiture.

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