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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 2016

Simone Leigh: Hammer Projects
Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
September 17, 2016–January 1, 2017

In her first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles, the award-winning artist Simone Leigh presents a selection of recent ceramics and a site-specific installation. Organized by the Hammer Museum’s assistant curator Jamillah James, the exhibition includes public programming related to Leigh’s ongoing research and work in public engagement.

“Working across ceramics, sculpture, video, installation, and social practice, Simone Leigh examines the construction of black female subjectivity and economies of self-preservation and exchange.” Her research-based methods include ethnography, feminist discourse, folklore, and histories of political resistance. In her ceramics the “vessels, cowrie shells, and busts are reoccurring forms, each making symbolic reference to the black body,” as well as referencing the vernacular visual traditions from the Caribbean, the American South, the African continent, and the black diaspora experience.

Leigh’s social practice includes work inspired by the outreach work of the Black Panther Party. In The Free People’s Medical Clinic (2014) and The Waiting Room (2016), Leigh locates her practice within institutions that are geared toward underserved communities, focusing on the rights of women of color as a central concern. “These free workshops empower visitors to take back the care of their bodies from agents of capitalism.”

Southern Accents: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art
Nasher Museum of Art
Duke University, 2001 Campus Drive, Durham, NC
September 1, 2016–January 8, 2017

This September, the Nasher Museum of Art opens its newest exhibition, Southern Accents: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art, which investigates “the complex and contested space of the American South.” The show will feature the work of sixty artists, including several celebrated and emerging female artists. “The art reflects upon and pulls apart the dynamic nature of the South’s social, political and cultural landscape.”

On exhibition is work by Catherine Opie from her Domestic series, which was a journey to photograph lesbian couples. Through two photographs taken with an 8 x 10 inch camera, Melissa & Lake, Durham, North Carolina (1998) and Tammy Rae & Kaia, Durham North Carolina (1998), Opie “documents the many different iterations of family, making visible an often underrepresented and misrepresented sector of society.”

Belle (2010), by Stacey Lynn Waddell, depicts a portrait of a southern belle, a term often used to refer to a wealthy, white Southern woman, with her head obscured by a replication of the bell from the British trade ship Henrietta Marie, known to transport both slaves and goods between Africa, the West Indies, and England. “By placing the ship’s bell, a symbol of the slave trade, upon the southern belle’s head, Waddell implicates her in the South’s slave-owning past. Leaving a disfigured portrait to be contemplated.”

Artists include: Kara Walker, Sally Mann, Deborah Luster, Xaviera Simmons, Amy Sherald, Ebony G. Patterson, Tameka Norris, Jessica Ingram, Deborah Grant, Minnie Jones Evans, Sonya Clark, Rachel Boillot, Jing Niu, Beverly Buchanan, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others.

Women of Abstract Expressionism
Denver Art Museum
100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO
June 12–September 25, 2016

Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Art Museum features more than fifty major paintings by female artists from the mid-twentieth-century art movement. Featured are works by Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher.

The exhibition “focuses on the expressive freedom of direct gesture and process at the core of abstract expressionism, while revealing inward reverie and painterly expression in these works by individuals responding to particular places, memories, and life experiences.” The twelve female artists, from the East and West Coasts during the 1940s and 1950s, contended with gender politics in relationship to their work, as well as issues affecting women at the time. A video accompaning the exhibition explores these creative and political narratives in the artists’ lives.

In October 2016 Women of Abstract Expressionism will travel to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then to the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, California, in February 2017.

Bharti Kher: Matter
Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7, Canada
July 9–October 10, 2016

Matter is the first survey of Bharti Kher’s work in North America. As the title of exhibition presented at Vancouver Art Gallery implies, her diverse practice is represented here throughout a variety of material, sensibility, and subject matter that explores human relationships, spirituality, the animal world, and gender merging as a whole experience.

Born and educated in London, Kher moved in the early 1990s to New Delhi, where she has lived until today. Her iconic bindi paintings unveil a personal language that speaks movingly about ritual and repetition. During the last two decades, the artist investigated ideas of hybridity through photography and sculpture by creating images that merge “classical” stereotypes of beauty with contemporary domesticity and female empowerment.

Based on everyday objects such as saris and domestic furniture, the absence of the body becomes notable in her sculptures. Kher comments on the complexities of personal and societal norms with particular emphasis in identity and gender that touches both local and global discourses. Though in Six Women (2013–15), her most recent project included in this survey, the physical returns through the artist confrontation of perceptions about the aging female body.

She: International Women Artists Exhibition
Long Museum
Xuhui District, 3398 Longteng Avenue, Shanghai, China
July 23–October 30, 2016

The Long Museum presents She, the first exhibition in China that features women artists from such a vast region and extensive history. Throughout the display of artworks by 105 artists from thirteen countries and that spans over ten centuries, the exhibition narrates the rise of women from a macro perspective. Divided into four chapters—self-annihilation, self-liberation, self-introspection and self-expression—this exhibition is a reminder to the visitor: learn what “she” has achieved, care about what “she” is pursuing, and support what “she” is longing for.

“The Annihilation of Self” evokes the anonymous talent and lives of women artists gone with the current of history in a male-dominated art system. “The Liberation of Self” touches on the discourse of women liberated from oppression and discrimination during early twentieth century. Under the influence of Western culture, a new generation of women advanced from household to society and actively participated in political and cultural events. “The Introspection of Self” presents the work of women artists who began to explore their own mode of expression from personal experience. “The Expression of Self” focuses on open discussions of “self” that, based on feminist discourses, will deepen our understanding of it. These expressions of “self” will eventually connect everyone.

Virginia Maksymowicz: Architectural Overlays 
SACI Gallery in Florence 
Palazzo dei Cartelloni, Via Sant’Antonino, 11, 50123, Florence, Italy
September 5–October 16, 2016 

SACI Gallery in Florence presents Architectural Overlays, an exhibition by the Philadelphia-based sculptor Virginia Maksymowicz (b. 1952, New York). The project explores the link between the human body and architecture through a variety of media: photography, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. Over the past two decades, Maksymowicz has created site-sensitive work for very particular architectural spaces such as gallery corners, small rooms, and parlors with fireplaces. Informed by architectural theories of Vitruvius, Jacques-François Blondel, and Joseph Rykwert, the artist attempts to connect them visually in metaphorical and narrative contexts.

These conceptual and aesthetical explorations have led Maksymowicz to follow a complex visual trail of architecture and figurative elements. Her work considers the metaphorical implications of the female body, especially when tied to place—buildings, fountains, and other structures. The Erechtheion caryatids and the cult of Demeter, with their legacy in architectural ornamentation that extends into contemporary times, continue to symbolically undergird the material and social character of human society.

Maksymowicz has been a member of the Women’s Caucus for Art for nearly thirty years and was a writer for Women Artists News and New Directions for Women. Read more about the artist from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Her work was included in Reconstructing the Feminist Past: Art World Critique, 1960 to Now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


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