CAA News Today

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.

February 2016

Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
3750 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri
January 15–April 3, 2016

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis presents Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood, her first solo museum exhibition in the United States in fifteen years. The show charts the artist’s career development through twenty-five years of her painting. On view are her surreal, otherworldly figures arranged in diptychs, triptychs, and what Yuskavage calls “symbiotic portraits.”

“Merging the grand tradition of portraiture with the expansive vocabulary of female transgression and empowerment, Yuskavage’s sensuous palette and confrontational subject matter provoke the imagination and create a sometimes polarizing space: the artist presents the female body as a site of defiance and decadence.”

The sometimes doll-like figures of Yuskavage’s paintings give way to sexualized poses and hint unsettling realities beneath the exquisitely painted canvases. As Christian Viveros-Fauné says in a review of the exhibition, previously at the Rose Art Museum (published by ARTnews on September 11, 2015), “The result is a bawdy brood of shocking figures painted with classical luminosity. Despite Yuskavage’s formal delicacy and love of bright colors, it’s no stretch to say that the best of her works are as dark as Francisco Goya’s Black Paintings.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a large-scale, comprehensive publication by Skira Rizzoli, created in close collaboration with the artist.

Betye Saar: Still Tickin’
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
7374 East Second Street, Scottsdale, AZ
January 30–May 1, 2016

The Los Angeles artist Beyte Saar’s new exhibition Still Tickin’ at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art presents nearly six decades of her work exploring African American identity, spirituality, and the interconnectedness between different cultures. The exhibition is divided into three themes: nostalgia and memory; mysticism and ritual; the political and racial.

From collage to sculpture to works on paper, Saar has used her artistic career to explore the lives of black people. In video interview for the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the California African American Museum, she asks “What can I do as an artist to liberate Aunt Jemima?” after encountering the racially charged figure at a flea market. “I can make her a warrior,” she answers, giving Aunt Jemima a shotgun in the seminal piece, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972).

Saar began her career in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, using found objects such as clocks, dolls, and cages among other bits and pieces, creating assemblages and installations. The Scottsdale exhibition brings together recent work and historical pieces.

Though Saar was featured in eight Pacific Standard Time exhibitions in 2010 and received the 2012 Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Arts Distinguished Feminist Award, she remains largely overlooked. Still Tickin’ comes to Arizona from Saar’s first museum solo exhibition in Europe at the Museum Het Domein in the Netherlands.

Firelie Báez: Bloodlines
Pérez Art Museum Miami
1103 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL
October 15, 2015–March 6, 2016

The Dominican-born artist Firelie Báez’s first solo museum show, Bloodlines, at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami presents new works inspired by lineages of black resistance. Several works were created specifically for the exhibition and depict textiles, hair designs, and body ornaments, linking traditionally loaded symbols with individual human gestures.

“Báez’s new works embody a provocative investigation on decorative elements, textiles, hair designs, and body ornaments that explores methods of resistance in black communities within the United States and the Caribbean. Her exceptional paintings show a profound appreciation of diasporic histories, as well as new contemporary approaches towards painting,” said María Elena Ortiz, the museum’s assistant curator, who organized the show.

Works on view include: Patterns of Resistance (2015), a series comprising blue and white drawings centered on a textile pattern created by Báez, using different political references from social movements in the black diaspora in the United States and the Caribbean; and Bloodlines (2015), a new series of portraits inspired by the tignon, a headdress which free women of color were obligated to use by law in eighteenth-century New Orleans.

While exploring black culture, Afro Caribbean folklore, and the diaspora, Báez brings her female viewpoint, “thereby claiming the relevance of the excluded historical perspective of women of color and reclaiming the female body and mind.” A catalogue of the exhibition, featuring contributions by Naima Keith and Roxane Gay, is available.

Lorraine O’Grady: Art Is…
Studio Museum in Harlem
144 West 125th Street, New York
July 16, 2015–March 6, 2016

Lorraine O’Grady (b. Boston, 1934) began her career in art in 1980, developing pioneering works in performance, installation, and works that address subjects of diaspora and black female subjectivity. Her iconic performances include Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (1980–83), Rivers: First Draft (1982), and Art Is… (1983), whose documentation is now presented at the Studio Museum in Harlem more than three decades later, organized by the assistant curator Amanda Hunt.

The performance was held on a sunny Sunday in September 1983 as part of the African  American Day Parade, a monumental event that celebrates African and African American culture and heritage and that has been taking place Harlem since 1969. Choosing this context, the artist “ensured the largest black audience possible” and intended to challenge assumptions about race and accessibility, addressing in particular the idea that creating art is a privilege available only to some.

In this landmark performance, O’Grady entered her own float, riding up Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue) along fifteen collaborators, all dressed in white. The float displayed an enormous, ornate gilded frame, while the words “Art Is…” was inscribed in its decorative skirt. Along the itinerary, O’Grady and troupe jumped off the float and held up empty, gilded picture frames, inviting people to be “portrayed” in them. The response was overwhelming, as enthusiastic onlookers became participants, confirming to O’Grady that Harlem’s residents were ready to see themselves as works of art.

Hundreds of snapshots were taken by various people who witnessed the performance. Later on O’Grady collected them to compose the series of forty images that capture the energy and spirit of the original performance. These images not only document the event but also form an archive of the architectural and cultural relics of Harlem’s past through a joyful partnership between visual art and lived experience. O’Grady’s performance engaged a broad and spontaneous audience in a way that no contemporary artist had done before. The joyful engagement follows her idea that Art Is… for everyone.

Marie Lund, Rallou Panagiotou, and Mary Ramsden: Vanilla and Concrete
Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, UK
November 9, 2015–June 19, 2016

As part of the Art Now series, Tate Britain presents Vanilla and Concrete: Marie Lund, Rallou Panagiotou, and Mary Ramsden. Curated by Sofia Karamani, the exhibition brings together new and recent work by emerging artists who explore everyday objects, spaces, and gestures. From the finger smudges on a touchscreen to the sun-bleached fabric of a curtain, the work of these artists gives new form and meaning to apparently mundane objects and everyday incidental moments. Based on the artists’ intimate observations of today’s world, the works draw out connections between surface and essence and address the concept of transformation between individual and cultural identity.

Marie Lund (b. 1976, Copenhagen) presents sculptures inspired by the human impact on common spaces and objects, changing the way in which they are perceived. Lund recovers curtains stained with sunlight over many years and stretches them to look like abstract paintings, marrying light traces with poetic content.

Rallou Panagiotou (b. 1978, UK) takes interest in everyday “luxury” items, from make-up and jewelry to a cocktail, and from a straw-painted toe to marks of eyeliner. Panagiotou embraces these objects as artificial extensions of the human body, investigating how they define and express the individual within a wider cultural context.

Mary Ramsden (b. 1984, London) presents paintings that are inescapably informed by our digital reality. They hint to the smudges on digital touchscreens. Her works are displayed both individually and in groups that mimic multiple windows opened on a computer screen, reflecting the messy, human touch within a pristine and impersonal environment.

The Feminist Art Project
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005
Saturday February 6, 2016, 9:00 AM–4:30 PM

Coinciding with the 104th CAA Annual Conference, the Feminist Art Project is proud to partner with the Studio Arts Program at American University to bring this extraordinary event to the public on Saturday, February 6, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The Feminist Art Project’s TFAP@CAA Day of Panels will present a day of diverse panels and performances. This year’s theme is the representation of identity as intersectional—recognizing the multiple aspects of identity (gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality) and how they intersect, compound, and complicate the very categories they construct.

A second TFAP@CAA event invites the public to participate in an interactive performative action, Feminism: Remembrance & Legacy, organized by Claudia Sbrissa and Kathleen Wentrack in honor of the tenth anniversary of TFAP and the legacy of feminism. All are invited to share their experiences with TFAP and/or offer advice to future generations in the form of a written or visually expressed “letter to a young artist.” In reciprocity, participants will receive a gift from the project collaborators reflecting the generous exchange of ideas, art, connections, and friendship through the Feminist Art Project. All responses will be available to view online.

This event is free and open to the public and does not require conference registration. View the full 2016 schedule, abstracts, panel and event descriptions, and location details on the project’s website.

Coco Fusco
Alexander Gray Associates
510 West 26th Street, New York City
January 9–February 6, 2016

Accompanying her current exhibition, Alexander Gray Associates is presenting a screening series by the interdisciplinary artist and writer Coco Fusco. The selection is a survey, brought together for the first time, of her seminal videos created over the past two decades. The first screening includes Fusco’s most recent videos on Cuba: La Confesión (2015), created for the fifty-sixth Venice Biennale in Italy; and La botella al mar de María Elena (2015), which premiered at the 2015 Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art in Sweden.

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