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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 2015

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World
Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, United Kingdom
June 24–October 25, 2015

Tate Britain presents Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, a retrospective of one of the UK’s most famous artists and leader of a new generation of sculptors. Sculpture for a Modern World, the first major exhibition of Hepworth in London in the last fifty years, traces the extensive practice of the artist, offering novel ways of thinking about her art. The exhibition also evidences her achievements and international recognition, while playing around different spaces in which Hepworth presented her work, such as the reconstruction in the gallery of a modernist structure that was the artist’s “ideal” environment.

Hepworth (Yorkshire, 1903) has lived in Cornwall since 1939. Being associated with the “art of St Ives,” she began to make sculptures that translated her experience of the landscape. The exhibition features more than one hundred works that unveil her extensive creative practice. The highlights include a quartet of African hardwood pieces from her postwar period; Pelagos, her celebrated elm carving inspired by the Cornish coast, as well as drawings, collages, films, rarely seen textiles, and her fascinating photographs that have never been seen in public before.

From her earliest carvings to the imposing bronze pieces of the sixties, this major retrospective explores the progression of the artist’s abstract style, showcasing many of Hepworth’s iconic sculptures that helped to define modernism in the twentieth century. As the art critic Alastair Sooke stated: “the exhibition benefits from its decision to separate Hepworth’s sculptures from those of her friend and rival Henry Moore, with whom she is all too often compared. In this case, quite refreshingly, Hepworth’s work is allowed to breathe on its own terms.”

Cover of the exhibition catalogue for From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola

Grete Stern. From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
May 17–October 4, 2015

The Museum of Modern Art presents From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola at the Edward Steichen Photography Galleries. This is the first major exhibition to focus on the work of two leading figures of avant-garde Argentinean photography, Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola. The couple met at the Bauhaus in 1932 and begun a creative life together. Among the rising threat of the Nazi powers in 1933, they fled Germany to London, and in 1935 embarked to Buenos Aires. Having been established themselves on both sides of the Atlantic, they played a key role in the arrival of modern photography in Argentina.

The exhibition begins in the late 1920s with each artist’s initial ventures into photography and typographic design, followed by a section focused on the extensive oeuvre of each artist. In 1928, Stern (born in Germany, 1904) met Ellen Auerbach at Walter Peterhans’s studio. Peterhans was Stern’s tutor, about to become head of photography at the Bauhaus.  Grete and Ellen become friends and opened ringl + pit, a pioneering collaborative studio specializing in portraiture and advertising. Named after their childhood nicknames, the duo embraced commercial and avant-garde design to create protofeminist works and advertisements, using photomontage in their imagery to challenge the stereotypical presentations of women in advertising.

The highlights of Stern’s individual practice include the series Sueños (Dreams) that the artist produced between 1949 and early 1950s. This series of photomontages, commissioned as a contribution to the then-popular women’s magazine Idilio, reflects how psychoanalysis had captured the Argentinean imagination and infiltrated in popular culture. However, Stern opted to resist psychoanalyst interpretations, instead using the platform to comment on women’s unfulfilled promises and objectification at the Peronist society of the time.

Wendelien van Oldenborgh: Bete & Deise
Brazilian Screening Tour
Casa do Povo, São Paulo; Fundaj – Arte Contemporânea Recife; Capacete, Museum of Modern Art and Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro
August 5–September 30, 2015

If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution has commissioned the Rotterdam-based artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s film Bete & Deise- Brazilian Tour (2012) to be presented in several venues in São Paulo, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro during August and September. The screenings will be accompanied by conversations with the artist and invited guests, including the protagonists of the film, Bete Mendes and Deise Tigrona, who are special guests at the presentation in MAM Rio.

Van Oldenborgh (born 1962) addresses modern-day social issues in exceptional, authoritative, and multilayered works. She proposes a unique and subtle language to build a dialogue between a precisely selected social or historical theme, a space, and a film or photograph. Bete & Deise stages an encounter between two women in a building under construction in Rio de Janeiro. The actress Mendes and the Baile funk singer Tigrona have—each in their own way—given meaning to the idea of a public voice. Together these women talk about the use of their voice and their positions in the public sphere, allowing for the contradictions they each carry within themselves to surface, the artists confront us with considerations on the relation between cultural production and politics and the potential power that is generated when public issues intersect with the personal.

Shelley Spector: Keep the Home Fires Burning
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Perelman Building, 2525 Pennsylvania Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130
March 7–September 24, 2015

The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Keep the Home Fires Burning by the Philadelphia-based and community-engaged artist Shelley Spector. Spector (born 1960) was invited by the curator Dilys Blum to explore the museum’s collection of textiles and create an installation of new artwork. Her moving response became Keep the Home Fires Burning, a walk-through presentation of wood- and textile-based sculpture that reflects on the universal quest for hope, home, and connectedness.

The initial inspiration for the exhibition is a lively hand-stitched embroidered work decorated with images of a home, birds, tulips, trees, and couples designed by the folk art historian Frances Lichten and sewn by her mother in 1943. The piece was later donated to the museum by the artist Katherine Milhous, who was Lichten’s companion for four decades. Spector has re-created it in the exhibition by suspending large sculptures amid freestanding works, made from discarded second-hand clothing and furniture, with the help of her mother, Anita, who has—like did Lichten’s—carefully cleaned, deconstructed, and organized the material to be transformed into sculpture by the artist. Works in Keep the Home Fires Burning—a phrase that Spector found in a letter from Milhous to Lichten—spans from large, flowerlike structures and a birdcage to tomato-shaped pincushions and wood-and-fabric lions. The display also includes works dedicated to the couple: The Egg Tree (a nod to an award-winning children’s book by Milhous) and Frances Loves Katherine, which features two figures in front of a house inscribed with the words “give sunshine to others.”

Ana Mendieta, Untitled: Silueta Series, 1978, Super 8 film, color, silent (artwork © Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection)

Ana Mendieta: Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota, 401 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN
September 15–December 12, 2015
Program: September 19, 2015, 7:00 PM, followed by a reception from 8:00 to 10:00 PM

The unique exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on Ana Mendieta, a Cuban-born artist who was sent to the United States as a child in 1961 as part of Operation Peter Pan, features twenty-one films by Mendieta, as well as a selection of her photographic work and a documentary short on the artist by the producer Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, the artist’s niece.

“Ana Mendieta was influenced by and interested in the artistic movements of her time, including Minimalism, earth art, performance art, and feminist art as well as the historical and spiritual legacies of many cultures, ancient and modern,” the exhibition statement says. Mendieta’s films touch on subjects from sexual assault in Moffitt Building Piece and Sweating Blood, which were made in response to the sexual assault and murder of Sarah Ann Ottens, a student at the University of Iowa, where Mendieta also matriculated, to films made in Mexico, such as Silueta del Laberinto and Burial Pyramid, developing her “earth-body” esthetic, as she termed the melding of sculpture, earth art, and performance.

“Mendieta’s artwork speaks powerfully to a wide diversity of audiences across the generations because a sustained and unflinching investigation of what it means to be human can be found at the core of her work.”

The program begins on September 19 with comments on Mendieta’s artistic legacy by her sister Raquelín Mendieta, her niece Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, and Mary Sabbatino of Galerie Lelong. Other programs and discussions on the role of the artist’s prolific career follow through the exhibition.

Judy Chicago: Star Cunts & Other Attractions
Riflemaker Gallery
79 Beak Street, London
September 14–December 31, 2015

The pioneering feminist artist Judy Chicago will have concurrent exhibitions in London this fall. Included is a series of never-before-seen works in Star Cunts & Other Attractions at Riflemaker. The solo show of Chicago’s archival work from the 1960s and 1970s “celebrates the visual language and core imagery of Judy Chicago’s minimalist and early feminist work.” Included are a suite of paintings and early sculpture work. Featured will be the Star Cunts series from 1969. The series, a set of prismacolor geometric shapes, suggests a sphincter. Also on exhibit will be test plates from The Dinner Party, which permanently lives at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The test plates attest to the time Chicago invested in her work through practice of ceramic decoration.

While the exhibition at Riflemaker is open, Chicago will also have work in the Tate Modern exhibition The World Goes Pop, opening on September 17, 2015. On view together for the first time will be her Car Hood series from the mid-1960s, which is constructed of car hoods spray-painted in bold colors and depicting male and female forms—a reflection on the Los Angeles car scene of the time.

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