whitehot magazine, Issue #3, May 2007
Review of a group show in which O’Grady’s interventions in the guise of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire are described as a precursor to the work of the Guerrilla Girls and others.
by DMITRY KOMIS. 2007
Feminist art is having quite a resurgence this season. MOCA’s WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution is gathering a lot of attention on the West coast, while the Brooklyn Museum recently opened its hotly anticipated Global Feminisms show to coincide with the launch of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. For a new generation of artists and art goers, these historically and politically engaged exhibitions reexamine what feminist art is, where it came from, and where it is going.
Galerie Lelong’s Role Play: Feminist Art Revisited 1960-1980 is a tightly focused, museum-quality show that reexamines the early wave of feminist artists that used performance, photography, and video to explore issues of identity, sexuality, and the female artist experience. The exhibition seeks to broaden the canonical, Anglo-American view of feminist art by presenting a selection of works by artists that are international, yet united in their topical urgency.
The body, whether nude or heavily costumed, is featured prominently in most of the works in the show. Valie Export’s confrontational Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969/2001, was part of a performance in which Export, wearing a pair of crotch-less pants, roamed the aisles of a porn theater branding
a machine gun and urging the male audience to respond to her sex. Hannah Wilke’s series So Help Me Hannah, 1978, features Wilke holding a gun and wearing nothing but high heels, performing provocatively staged scenes of victimization and aggression. Both artists juxtapose the nude body with a deadly weapon, reclaiming their bodies as powerful and potentially dangerous, but also question what it means for a woman to undress for her art. . . .
Much of the work in Role Play documents actions or past performances and will exist as artifacts for future generations. While not all of the work may look fresh today, many of the ideas that these artists explore are still dealt with by contemporary feminists and artists alike. For instance, Lorraine O’Grady’s interventions as Mlle Bourgeoisie Noire (represented here by Mlle Bourgeoisie Noire Shouts Out Her Poem, 1981), in which she disrupted private art events, anticipates the activist work of the Guerrilla Girls and others; the subject of under-representation of female artists in galleries and museums remains as topical today as it was decades ago.
The familiarity of many of the themes explored in Role Play speaks to the influence these artists have had on artists of the. . . .
© 2009 Lorraine O'Grady | All rights reserved.