Saturday July 7th from 4-8pm, (one night only!), I am featured in a group show curated by Erin Ikeler, come check it out!
GARDEN PARTY/ARTS PRESENTS: MASCULINISMS
JULY 7, 2012 - 221 FRANKLIN AVE, BROOKLYN, NY Wilder Alison / Natalie Beall / Katie Bell / Kevin Fey / Eric Mack / Jeffrey Scott Mathews
First and foremost, MASCULINISMS is a group show including the work of six artists engaged with non-figurative and materials-based practices, which are variously indebted to the history of Western Modernism and Abstract Expressionism. The show title itself is meant to evoke the recent popularization of the term “feminisms” circa 2007, thanks to the WACK! and Global Feminisms exhibitions. It seems these shows left something to be desired- especially for artists seeking a broader understanding of what feminism in contemporary and queer terms might imply. As such, the show includes work by artists of various identifications- in terms of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, and race. There can be no claim here of sufficient representation of diversity, so I hope the exhibition can be understood in its particularity, as a specific event meant to begin a discussion which will hopefully include more, different voices, in the future.
As with the first GARDEN PARTY/ARTS exhibition, we’ve used a text as an entry point for our dialogue and the artists’ text contributions. In this case, it’s Griselda Pollock’s essay “Painting, Feminism, History” published in 1992. In it, Pollock describes the way the Modernist turn to abstraction and medium specificity privileged the studio as a symbolic space, where the fantasy of “pure expressivity” of the artist (in this case the painter) can exist. The movement towards abstraction eliminates the figuration of an artist’s model and other female-body-objects, and imagines the artist as universal subject. The notion of the autonomous art object, along with the development of Abstract Expressionism especially, offered an attractive promise to women artists: the possibility of being an ungendered creative self.
Unfortunately, the falsehood of that promise is born out of both the fact that women artists have never (in 1992 or now) risen to the level of professional success as our male counterparts, and most interestingly, in the way male and female artists are pictured differently in the studio and the fact that an artist’s gender identity is often believed to be legible in our work.
For any doubts as to whether the valorization of masculinity in the notion of the “mastering and active body” of the artist hasn’t been completely dismantled in 2012, I’d point to the current show of Keith Haring’s work at the Brooklyn Museum. In addition to including several of Haring’s video works where he documents himself painting, a wall text seems to celebrate, uncritically, “Body Involvement-Painting”:
“One look at Haring’s […] mammoth room-sized sumi ink pieces, and one can begin to understand the role of the body in his art. The dripping ink frequently seen in the monumental works reflects the speed and looseness of its application and allows the viewer to imagine Haring’s limber body squatting or bending over […] According to his notes, Haring trained his mind and body to coordinate perfectly. He became so familiar with certain movements that the process of drawing happened almost automatically…”
Of course, “Keith Haring: 1978-1982” presents works that are thirty and more years old, and I am not unsympathetic to the portrayal of Haring as healthy and vital, since his is a body that necessarily evokes homosexuality and AIDS. But it remains the case that the conflation of masculinity with that which is active and good is harmful for people who are not male-bodied or masculine in character.
It is the purpose of this show to demonstrate that the reverberations of feminism and the Women’s Art Movement can be felt in the artists presented here. Within their practices, these artists all confuse, subvert, or otherwise undermine what Pollock has articulated as the problematic fantasy of the body of the artist as a vehicle of pure expressivity. The feminist component of MASCULINISMS cannot be located in the identities or the bodies of the artists— nor can it be located only in the material existence of the artworks. Rather, as part of GP/A, the exhibition, its accompanying text, and the larger discussion the event precipitates are all elements of a complex. In Pollock’s words, the aim is to create “a signifying space in which the historical changes wrought by feminism can be perceived and represented while others more radical can be imagined” since the continued insistence on binary sexual difference and the privileging of masculinity is violent towards all people, including men.