Installment 2: The Female Gaze

cheim & readUnfortunately, we missed this one on the gallery hop last Thursday night in Chelsea, due to unexpectedly closed doors at Cheim & Read, but it is on the agenda for the next trip to the west side. The impressive roster includes names from Jenny Holzer to Kara Walker to Bernice Abbott, and of course, Louise Bourgeoise.  From photography to painting and sculpture, the gallery aims to present a twist on the traditional understanding of the gaze in the canon.  The curator has selected female artists looking at female subjects.  The French feminist movement started to challenge what Laura Mulvey identifies as the “male gaze” in her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema: “the male, based on his desire for the female form, determines the way in which the female is perceived, thereby reducing her role to one of passivity and pleasure.”  The female identity and voice is traditionally only created and communicated by the male’s representation.

“The show seeks to present a collection of works which reclaim the traditional domination of the “male gaze” and reorient the significance of the female figure to allow for more varied interpretations… This exhibition attempts to debunk the notion of the male gaze by providing a group of works in which the artist and subject do not relate as “voyeur” and “object,” but as woman and woman. It would be interesting to ask the question how we would feel about the works in the exhibition if we were told they were made by a man.”

See the gallery walkthrough here, courtesy of the Douglas Kelly Show.

Unfortunately, we don’t see the aesthetic cohesion across the 41 (count them, 41) works, although the thought was nice in collecting these works in one place, maybe (when do “feminist artists” become just artists?) But are these works representative of each artist’s body of work?  Or are these carefully chosen to make the curator’s point for this single show?  We’ll have to see it in person (at 547 West 25th Street) to decide if the room by room arrangements make a strong enough statement… QUICK -it’s only up until September 19.

(installation photograph courtesy of Cheim & Read)

Prodigal Suns

Prodigal Suns I met Russell and Carl at their store, RePOP on Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, and then stumbled upon (or, kind of internet stalked them until finding more) this seemingly outdated, but wonderful website of theirs.  Carl, a medical illustrator, and Russell, a painter and self-described closet goth-fanatic, came together as individual artists in Brooklyn and started creating under the name “Prodigal Suns” after they “compiled enough inspiration, confidence and conception.”  Evoking their respective strict Christian upbringings and finding a common bond in the biblical parable, they set out to change the perception of the prodigal son through their collaborative art, as their website explains.

Artist Cheryl Donegan’s recent comment exposes her opinion on the Bible as static: “Modernism should not be seen as Biblical; it should be seen as Talmudic,” the written record of an oral tradition.  As the previously noted Jerry Saltz article notes, Talmudic tradition is inherently collaborative, involving “thousands of people making comments in the margins, debating issues and ideas, shaping tradition, changing it, and keeping it alive.”

Prodigal Suns started their collaborative work with Genesis, a series of 10 pieces, which established a language later refined in The Kansas Group, a series that focused on the deconstruction and reconstruction of Family.

Too much self-reference?… “At first inspired by Louise Bourgeois, Carl and Russell oddly attached themselves to the Book of Acts, borrowing from the character Stephen to rebuild the birthing canal, the loss of innocence, death, reincarnation and the revelation that comes from the stoning of innocents.  In depth it became an opus for the discrimination of homosexuals in the 21st Century.”  …I promise, it wasn’t planned.

The two haven’t stopped collaborating, even though the dates on this website may give that impression (copyright 2005).  Their store is a living “wonderland of vintage finds,” a product that the two of them have nurtured into its own personality.

Saltz takes on MoMA

Louise BourgoisIn older news… The Guerrilla Girls may have their own count in protest of sexism in museums, but art critic Jerry Saltz confronts MoMA on their gender-imbalanced collection and curation on the 4th and 5th floors, via his Facebook page.  After his followers contributed to the conversation with over 500 comments and wall posts, Jerry had the opportunity to meet with Ann Temkin, the Museum’s Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture.  Edward Winkleman’s blog covers the original article by Saltz, which raises some important points in how to measure and evaluate the disparity at hand.  Do we consider just numbers? Or prominence of pieces, like Louise Bourgeois’s at the entrance of the 4th floor (which, on the 5th floor has long been occupied by Cezanne)?  And what about the artists themselves– even if Temkin intends to re-install the collection, does she actually solve any problem if the artists who are highlighted are as obvious as Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, and Eva Hesse? Ahem.. that’s still just a one-to-three ratio of women to men… essentially no different from the 19 of 383 works currently installed on the 4th and 5th floors of the permanent collection– women representing just 4%.

I’m a bit bored by the conversation that was sparked after this about the value of art and how art made by women sells in auctions compared to how art by men does.  Saltz concludes that if we can’t rely on an institution and space like MoMA for refreshing art, it’s up to the little guys, the smaller galleries throughout New York to bring unknown artists into the scope of “good art.” As Saltz used Facebook as a venue for this discussion, we’ll use this blog to display the treasures of art created by women mined from the internet and local galleries.  Stay tuned.

Playing hide and seek with Yinka Shonibare

Brooklyn Museum period roomI’ve never quite understood the concept of reassembling historic rooms, putting a red velvet rope around it, and funneling tourists on a counter-intuitive path through a house, castle, or museum. But once Yinka Shonibare placed child figures ducking under desks or rocking on horses in the Brooklyn Museum’s “renowned” period rooms, peeking through an untouchable room’s window became a game.

Leaving his exhibit on the first floor of the Brooklyn Museum, I felt a bit cheated. I didn’t expect the majority of Shonibare’s survey to be film. But the map revealed there was more –the large-scale game of hide and seek brought me through other galleries to find those little figures in their clothes of “patterned Dutch wax fabric produced in Europe for a West African market” inside rooms that could easily have belonged to colonists.  According to the exhibition’s website, another site-specific installation, Party Time—Re-Imagine America: A Centennial Commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE,  will be on view at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, from July 1, 2009, to January 3, 2010, in the dining room of the museum’s 1885 Ballantine House.  Would it be cheating to use 20th century transportation?

more excuses to say “the orient”

the orientWhile we’re at it, we thought we’d link to this interweb “Museum” of Olde Asian Commercial Arte. The Old Orient Museum has all the things we hate about an internet Museum–a flash interface that prevents saving images and any other 3rd party archiving, embedded sound that starts automatically, you get the idea–but some of the images are neat in a kind of late 90s kitch kind of way, and we appreciate the efforts of the collector and restorer, regardless.

Also, with this soundtrack, we kind of feel like we’re in a lesser David Lynch project. Warning: do not go to the about page with the sound on. And that is all.

Real Life vs. Internets Life

Email Exhibition ImageArchivist, SD conspirator, and web-1.0 aficionado Jesse Aaron Cohen has just celebrated the 50th installment of his monthly email exhibition series, a set of curated images and links sent to subscribers once a month for the past several years. Often the material is drawn from his day job as archivist at a yiddish library/archive in Manhattan, but over the years there’s been plenty of other cultural ephemera included in the exhibitions. They are awesome! Subscribe to them!

Slides from all 50 months-worth of exhibitions are going to be shown as part of an upcoming ‘real life‘ event on internet bloggers and artists.

Quoth the Archivist:

A bunch of internet artists and bloggers who will be doing 4 hours ‘in real life’. As part of this guy Lance’s presentation, he is asking several other artists to show their work via slide show, and I am giving him all 50 exhibitions to use. So my exhibitions will be featured alongside a bunch of other projects on 8 March, 12–4pm, at the Capricious Art Space in W-burg.

Capricious Space
103 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(between Bedford and Berry)
718.384.1208

Gallery hours
(from March 7–March 28 only):
Saturday noon–8pm
Sunday noon–8pm
And some additional evening hours for special events, see the official calendar for full details.