Roblog

“Women Only!: In Their Studios”

August 28th, 2007 by roblog · 2 Comments

Elizabeth MurrayGiven that much of my blog will concern the topic of Women and Art, and that I had an opportunity to visit the Women Only! exhibition at the Clay Center in downtown Charleston, West Virginia earlier this month, it seems to be a logical topic for a brief exhibition review:

The collection of artists in this exhibition was particularly remarkable, as it included Elizabeth Murray, Jennifer Bartlett, Barbara Kruger and Pat Steir, among many other notables. The two aspects of this grouping I found most intriguing were:

1. Most of these artists (with the exception of maybe Kruger) are typically presented as Important Artists of the Twentieth Century rather than important “Women-Artists,” and are arguably the first generation to be able to do so. In each case they are typically celebrated for their individual contribution to the art world. As a result, this exhibition felt more like a celebration of achievement than the pushing of an agenda.

2. Most of these artists are best known for work dating to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, so it was an interesting glimpse of work made by artists that have passed out of the spotlight. The exhibition even includes some interesting photos of the artists at work in their studios at an advanced age. In many cases, it was the first time I had ever seen what the artists actually looked like–which, on the bright side, might be an indication of increasing gender equality in the arts, as portraits and self-portraits are so often used as qualifiers in the enshrinement of art. At any rate, that is undeniably the case of this particular exhibition, although it handles that distinction very well; make no mistake, the exhibition is first and foremost about women artists, but it makes sure to show great women artists.

I was particularly interested in the ways in which Bartlett incorporated her iconic grid structure in to increasingly gestural work, (but alas I can’t find any images online from the exhibition.) Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer’s works on display were primarily variations on their notable word art, although I was dissapointed to see how much magic Holzer’s “truisms” lose when printed on paper and stuck on a gallery wall. (…and yet, they gained so much when used as grow lights in the VMFA’s Artificial Light exhibition last year).

On the whole, I wasn’t altogether floored by the quality of the individual works, but otherwise it was a great exhibition contextually and thematically, especially if, you know, you’re lost somewhere in the Kanawha valley looking for an art fix.┬╣

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┬╣Admittedly, if you’re lost in the Kanawha valley, you probably have some bigger concerns than art.

Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · Women and Art

2 responses so far ↓

  • reverend // Aug 29th 2007 at 1:10 pm

    A natural born blogger! What an excellent exhibit review. I particularly like the way you navigate the complex binary of great artists vs great women artists and how that false dichotomy is beginning to become less viable. Yet, the exhibit is still very much packaged as an ode to women artists, and I imagine the question of what makes an artist great is further complicated by the ways in which we understand the gender. What classifies great artists as opposed to a great women artists? Can such a line be drawn clearly?

    Great post!

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