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Raphael: From Urbino To Rome (National Gallery Company)
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Following a social-political approach to art history and criticism that accepts visual culture as part of a larger social reality, Cottingham's writings investigate central tensions currently operative in the production, distribution and eval In recent years, Laura Cottingham has emerged as one of the most visible feminist critics of the so-called post-feminist generation. Following a social-political approach to art history and criticism that accepts visual culture as part of a larger social reality, Cottingham's writings investigate central tensions currently operative in the production, distribution and evaluation of art, especially those related to cultural production by and about women.
These include an appraisal of Lucy R. Lippard, the most influential feminist art critic of the's; a critique of the masculinist bias implicit to modernism and explicitly recuperated by commercially successful artists during the s; an exhaustive analysis of the curatorial failures operative in the "Bad Girls" museum exhibitions of the early s; surveys of feminist-influenced art practices during the women's liberationist period; speculations on the current possibilities and obstacles that attend efforts to recover lesbian cultural history; and an examination of the life, work and obscuration of the early twentieth-century French photographer Claude Cahun.
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Fear of Flying. She used erasers, folded or twisted into shapes that read as vulva, womb, or wound, arranged in gridded or random patterns on wood grounds. She and Benglis were among the first women artists to enact their sexuality on their bodies in ways that linked their practice to the body art of male artists. Yet while body art by men was customarily discussed in terms of the exploration of taboos surrounding the human body, women's practices were almost always contextualized within issues arising from early feminist theory.
Often, they were absorbed into ongoing attempts to define differences between masculinity and femininity that seldom went beyond cultural stereotypes that reinforced the dualistic model on which western patriarchal culture is based. And male critics often praised women for qualities that were aligned with femininity. Winsor's resistance to stereotyped inscriptions of sexual difference, and her interest in energy transformations, led her to explore East Indian female deities from Pavarti to Kali.
These figures, which she regarded not as essentialized aspects of "femininity," but as expressions of an energy source that she saw as yin-yang, active-passive, creative-destructive. About Fence Piece , she has said, "I liked the feeling of being in a small, confined area while I was making it and the time period involved. I just got up and nailed all day. Although critics responded to the abstract and conceptually-based content, and used words like "serenely perfect" to describe their effect, Rockburne saw their cerebral quality as based in a physical process in which she ground her own pigments by hand, and laid on the oil that stained the cardboard surfaces herself.
Like Benglis who has said "traveling for me was the significant way I could learn about the world" , Ferrara, Stuart, Winsor, and Graves, she traveled widely in the early seventies. These excursions led to new awareness of the interconnectedness of abstract form and cultural meaning.
Relationships between abstraction in architecture and the landscapes of South America and Egypt affirmed her personal search for connections between mathematical and intuitively formed relationships. Her spare, balanced compositions invoke Boolean algebra, the Golden Section, Italian Renaissance composition, and the kinds of content contained in these otherwise conceptual systems. Though Rockburne continued to work with mathematical theory during the seventies, critics increasingly saw subjective content as she departed from the basically mathematical premises of conceptual artists like LeWitt and Bochner.
Topology, polarity, repetition, information, unity, and disunity characterize the paintings based on satellite photographs that Graves began in In these works, monumental stippled patterns on pale grounds chart the surfaces of the Earth, Moon, and Mars, as well as undersea terrain and meteorological themes. The choice of intellectual and conceptual systems as raw material also aligned these artists with feminist challenges to conventionally gendered divisions of labor; though in several cases their decisions to strike out in new directions predated feminism's call.
Characterizing themselves as "explorers" and "travelers," they made the world, and the disciplines through which it is represented, their subject.
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Fascinated by expeditions to distant places, Stuart collected travel narratives and 19th-century photographs of surveys and expeditions. Trips to Mayan sites in Mexico and Central America, and subsequently to Asia source of an interest in Tibetan Buddhism that continues to this day , led to an interest in physical journeys as mirrors of spiritual journeys.
She kept detailed notebooks including research into the history, sociology, economics, changing topography, and cultures of the areas where she worked, as well as into geology, botany, minerals, fossils, nests, animal tracks, petroglyphs, and stone tools and referred to them in her work, and especially in the artist books that she began in While Graves and Stuart expanded their investigations into the physical world, and Rockburne mapped the physical body onto pure concept, Ree Morton gradually evolved a personalized narrative out of her allegiance to minimalism's stripes, grids, and repeating forms.
Drawings and notebooks from the late sixties reveal the gradual unfolding of grids into maps and plans. By the early seventies, her main medium was found wood, bits and pieces of used lumber and logs that she altered and arranged in mysteriously evocative Wood Drawings.
A slightly later piece. Paintings and Objects combines wood and canvas, acrylic and pencil, in a site-specific installation that, despite its abstract qualities, retains anthropomorphic references in its human scale, child-like drawing, and leg-like extensions. The move into the landscape, while certainly not gender specific, would lead to expanded definitions of "public" in which women played formative roles.
Miss's Stake Fence 1 was among a group of early works in which she connected her reading of engineering, landscape history, and architecture with personal memories of crossing the country with her family as child. During these long trips she had experienced the expansive landscape of the American West where she spent much of her early childhood as broken into discrete perceptual units by miles of fences.
She has characterized this early experience of the land as an intimate one, and it left its mark on the scale at which she chose to work as an artist, as well as on her attitude toward her subject. Rather than imposing monumental forms on nature, as many of her male colleagues did in the early seventies, she instead emphasized a complex layering of visual, experiential, and psychological data, working between perceptions of space and her conceptions of remembered images; "In a way, I felt that the thing that interested me was a more intimate engagement with the landscape because I felt that almost anything you put into the landscape was going to be overwhelmed by it.
She designed built forms with a Constructivist's eye for simple shapes and good craftsmanship, and a Surrealist's insistence on engaging the audience emotionally and psychologically. She later said, the idea is to make places that reveal themselves slowly over time. Her work has retained the principles of simplicity and respect for the landscape that are associated with the tranquillity and repose of Japanese temple architecture and sacred gardens.
In , doing most of the labor herself, she remodeled her lower Manhattan loft into a serene, minimalist environment with something of the feel of a Japanese interior. This built environment echoed in forms and feeling her first wooden stepped and pyramidal sculptures. Maintaining a feeling of relatedness between the sculpture and the outside world would continue to form an important aspect of her subsequent production, as would the careful balancing of visual clarity and conceptual complexity within forms that adhered to minimalist geometries.
Her adherence to principles of formal and conceptual coherence and interconnection can be observed in the close similarities between her architectural drawings and her proposals for sculpture. By , Ferrara was working with plywood, chipboard, and lengths of dressed pine in works that, while they retained the simple geometries of minimalist sculpture, departed from that movement's interest in inert form, glossy surfaces, and industrially fabricated materials.
Instead she stressed spatial ambiguities. Truncated Pyramid and Curved Pyramid both 1 were followed by Stacked Pyramid, her first outdoor commission and almost the first wood piece she did. The piece led Ferrara to visit sites, take measurements, and directly relate subsequent pieces to their environments. When she saw someone begin to climb Stacked Pyramid, considerations of function and safety entered her work. Her elementary assemblies of modular units often suggest stairways, towers, and pyramids, and the artist admits to searching for timeless universal forms, even as she denies directly appropriating existing structures; "I'm amazed when people see ziggurats, Mesoamerican pyramids, or mastabas in my pieces.
I'm a very ahistorical person. Installations by Miss, Stuart, and Morton layered information and forms derived from the site with more experiential content. The finished "piece" used pulverized red Queenstone shale, the rock native to that area, rubbed onto a "fall" of paper that ran feet down the side of the Niagara gorge at a spot where water had once fallen. The word strata perfectly evokes the works' simultaneous evidence of painterly illusion, tactile surfaces, and sculptural reality. As the paper becomes worked, to me it feels like skin, the most delicate, soft, and warmest of surfaces.
Their methods, she observed, included notation, fragmentation, mapping, and an obsessive relationship to the earth and the sea, "not as places to conquer, but as places to identify, and perhaps to identify with, forming an associative web of factual and visual material. The exhibition, and Lippard's catalog essay, emphasized the critical links between the exploration of ideas, the boundaries of visual expression, and the limitless expanses of the human mind.
Lippard's essay, "Quite Contrary: Body, Nature, Ritual in Women's Art," contained her strongest assertion of women's contributions to a unique synthetic expression that drew on a set of rich and wide-ranging cultural associations with the feminine. In Mendieta who had come to the United States from Cuba as an adolescent , realizing that painting was not "real" enough to convey what she sought " Using gunpowder, fire, candles, mud, etc.
Deliberately drawing on the embodied and the experiential, the artists in More Than Minimal have played important roles in opening minimalism to more conceptual practices. They moved toward personalizing forms, materials, and actions without reverting to the directly illustrative or figurative in ways that would leave their mark on a wide range of artistic practices in the seventies. Engaging audiences viscerally as well as visually, they kept alive the notion of an artistic practice informed by notions of community and interrelationship in ways that both intersected with, and departed from, the concerns of the women's movement.
A year later, April Kingsley, writing in Arts Magazine, noted that now that the pioneering days of working in the landscape are over, women appeared to be making most of the truly innovative moves in this genre. Expressionism would be claimed as "new" and male. Marcia Tucker and others would begin to question just exactly what had changed for women since We could do worse than to end with the words of Dorothea Rockburne: "Life is to do your work and to be happy. Unless otherwise stated, direct quotations are taken from these interviews. Joyce Kozloff read and commented on a draft of the manuscript; Katherine Russell contributed valuable research support; Susan Stoops and Carl Belz of the Rose Art Museum provided invaluable support and encouragement.
My thanks and appreciation to all who shared in this enterprise. Cited in Anne M. Wagner, "Another Hesse," October 69 summer : There are, of course exceptions to this polarization, and interesting discussions of the possible relationship between gender and modernist abstraction are provided by Briony Fer, "What's In a Line: Gender and Modernity," The Oxford Art Journal 1 3 : ; Anna C.
Lucy Lippard borrowed the psychological term "body ego" to refer to the viewer's visceral response to form and material that registered in this way; she was one of the first to point out these connections. Few of the women in the present exhibition are included in The Power of Feminist Art, eds. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard New York: Abrams, , the most comprehensive account of the movement's impact on the visual arts to date, and only the work of Lynda Benglis, Ana Medieta, and Hannah Wilke who directly imaged the female body is reproduced.
And in a recent essay on public art, a genre in which at least half the artists working today are women, Michael Brenson reaffirmed a decidedly one-sided historical model when he noted that, "None of the artists in 'Culture in Action' is known as an object-maker. All are known for collaborations. All are activists. Almost all belong to the tradition of socially based community or interactive art that includes the Russian Constructivists, Joseph Beuys, the Situationists, Alan Kaprow, and Christo — a tradition that has never been fully at home in galleries and museums"; Culture in Action, eds.
Olson Seattle: Bay Press, I am thinking here of feminist narratives that assume that a shift from abstraction to figuration accompanies the search for a more "personal" content as, for example, when Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago moved from a use of abstraction that they identified with a male-dominated modernism to more specifically referential styles in the early seventies. It is also worth noting in this context that the close identification between figuration and feminist content has led to some notable exclusions from recent feminist histories.
In a review of The Power of Feminist Art, the most comprehensive account of the movement's impact on the visual arts to date, Ann Lee Morgan notes that despite 16 essays, two interviews, and nearly illustrations, the book "fails to acknowledge much of the most significant and innovative women's art of the decade.. The contributions of artists of color, for example, have yet to be fully integrated into accounts of post-World War II American modernism.
Yet during the sixties and seventies, heated debates about the relationship between style and content, and the relevance of abstract styles derived from European art to the African-American struggle, occurred. A case in point is the response of many African-American critics to Barbara Chase- Riboud's abstract work when it was exhibited in the Whitney Annual m ; see Mary Schmidt- Campbell, ed.. Gallery, , Ana Mendieta noted another set of exclusionary practices; "During the mid to late sixties as women in the United States politicized themselves and came together in the Feminist Movement with the purpose to end the domination and exploitation by the white male culture, they failed to remember us.
American feminism as it stands is basically a white middle class movement. Benglis defines humanism as "the ability to see things of one particular context in relation to other contextual situations"; "Interview: Linda Benglis," Ocular A summer : Young women artists were often scarcely aware of the presence of other women; "There weren't any women in New York in ," Jackie Winsor observed, looking back at the period of her arrival in the city.
For Dorothea Rockburne, who had been living and working in New York since the late fifties, invisibility had its liberating side. Moreover, the career patterns of women seldom parallel those of their male colleagues as can be observed, for example, in the prevalence of mid- career retrospectives for male artists and the number of women including Louise Bourgeois, Lee Krasner, and Alice Neel who receive similar recognition only when they reach their sixties and seventies. The exhibition at the Fischbach Gallery was organized by Lucy Lippard, whose curatorial, activist, and critical activities over the next few years would contribute mightily to establishing a place for women artists in an aesthetic that opposed an expanded repertory of sculptural materials and a set of quirky, process- oriented methods stressing fluidity and indeterminacy to minimal art's fixed geometries and obsession with the object.
The convergence of Lippard's interest in anti- form or process work, and her growing commitment to the women's movement, had important implications for the careers of many of the artists in More Than Minimal. She not only identified new sensibilities and conceptualized emerging tendencies in a series of formative exhibitions and publications, she also committed her activist politics to effecting social change for women in the art world.
Her voice and her example are everywhere evident in the events that defined new roles for women artists' in the early seventies. Cited in Wagner, Lippard, Eva Hesse. Wagner, It is, as Wagner observes, difficult if not impossible to consider women's deployment of the body independently of the meanings assigned to the female body by feminism. Yet much of this work predated feminism. Ibid, Curator Marcia Tucker, after noting that our assumptions about art include strong notions of the artist as someone who creates order from the chaos of experience, suggested that; "The present exhibition challenges this supposition.
We are offered an art that presents itself as disordered, chaotic, or anarchic. If sensitivity means female, yes, it's female. I think my work Is very strong and yet sensitive so there you have both so-called masculine and feminine;" cited in Lippard, Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman's Wax Impressions of the Knees of Five Famous Artists, Alan Saret's tangled rubber and mesh conglomerations alluding to metaphysical and spiritual quests, and Richard Serra's lead splashes, among other works, all sought to Infuse material with a new content, often based in the body, at this time.
See Leslie C. Joanna Freuh, Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective Columbia: University of Missouri Press, , 99, note 3; Freuh argues that, "It was Wilke, not Judy Chicago as some believe, who originated vaginal Imagery, as signature, as feminist statement, and as universal symbol"; The work of women artists of earlier generations anticipates this development, but it is worth noting that O'Keeffe felt obligated to deny corporeal references altogether, Louise Bourgeois's work had not yet entered the critical discourse in a significant way, and issues of the body were largely disregarded in a critical rush to annex Lee Bontecou to modernist models as an exceptional woman.
Called Soft and Apparently Soft Sculpture. Rockburne regarded set theory as a mathematical concept that marked the moment when mathematicians ceased thinking in terms of discrete units and began taking into account a kind of global sense of the world. This view aligns her work with that of other women of her generation who sought broader cultural connections while employing the language of abstraction.
Artforum 8 September : Abstract Expressionist, macho, sexist game. It's all about territory. How big? The Whitney was responding, at least in part, to pressure from women's groups.
Exhibitions of the work of Louise Nevelson and Georgia O'Keeffe had belatedly some would say already been scheduled for New York: Hudson Hills Press, , Lippard notes that Hesse was aware of the fact that the legacy of Abstract Expressionist heroics left no place for the woman artist; in the same paragraph, Lippard quotes Sol LeWitt as saying: "She was very hurt by this first confrontation with art politics and anti-feminism, which was so obvious.
Miss, who had picketed the Whitney Museum shortly after arriving in New York in , joined Stuart and Ferrara in working on the Women's Art Registry one of their activities was to apply for grants in support of Lippard's many projects that included women. Ocular, Benglis has acknowledged that she is aware that in the beginning her work was often selected for exhibitions because of the activities of the early women's movement. See Kane, Lynda Benglis, Robert Am observed that Graves's drawings of the early seventies "are like geological sedimentary layers covering an ancient site and drawn over with the graffiti of succesive cultures up to the present; "The Moving Eye.
Nancy Graves Sculpture, Film, and Painting," artscanada nos.
Kane, 26; there is some irony in the fact that Benglis's point of reference here was Pollock's environmental gesture. Pollock's often- quoted remark "I am nature" aligns nature with masculinity, a point often lost in early feminist analyses. That quality was the repose and the tension inherent in the form.
Whether we view it as a 23 24 late manifestation of what James Clifford and others have called "the West's desire to collect the world," or as anticipating post-modernism's obsession with the appropriated image, is perhaps less important than that we recognize that it took place in a social context that encouraged a global search for affinities. Pincus-Witten overlooks here a broad category of surrealist objects that fit his description equally well. At the time she was impressed by Hesse's use of modular, irregular forms and offbeat materials. In the performance, a female performer dragged a quarter ton of rope which had a tensile strength of a quarter- million pounds thirty feet across the floor of the basement and fed it up through a small circular hole to a male performer poised above.
He made a pile of it, and then lowered it back down onto the now reclining female performer so that she was completely covered; see Lisa Bear, "An Interview with Jackie Winsor," Avalanche spring : By , critics would increasingly complain about the gendering of women's productions.
Of course, Wilke's art is sexy and erotic, and she does make feminine art, but what if we look at her art as art, as regular art — the way we look at male art Kingsley, Although critics writing from the perspective of the eighties often linked central core imagery to the search for essential biological differences between women and men, from the beginning Chicago and Schapiro warned against the dangers of failing to take into account the ways that female experience is socially and culturally shaped, rather than biologically determined. In "Female Imagery," they cautioned that the imagery they described should not be viewed simplistically as "vaginal or womb art," but should by understood as providing a framework within which to reverse devaluations of female anatomy in patriarchal culture; Womanspace spring Lippard, "What is Female Imagery?
Dutton, , While Chicago and Schapiro pointed to prototypes in the work of O'Keeffe and other women artists, other critics argued against celebrating difference in the terms in which it had already been laid down. Likewise, both Document and Now were concerned with the binary relationship between male and female, and a presentation of eroticism as metaphorically male and female, slave and master.
When asked to address the question, "What is feminism and what can it become? Male artists like Chris Burden, who had himself shot in the arm by a friend in , and Vito Acconci, who masturbated under a wooden gallery floor in Seedbed , were often applauded for stretching limits — both of art and of the body.
Women tended to attract very different critical responses. For critics like Max Kozloff, Burden's and Acconci's voluntary embrace of extreme states of physical punishment was testimony to the male body's capacity for strength and endurance. In contrast, he positioned women's body art as an inquiry into surface and appearance, and suggested that Wilke's and Benglis's performances were styled "to conform to the image of the glamorous sex object — with the usual glorified epidermis"; Max Kozloff, "Pygmalion Reversed," Artforum 14 November : See note 53, above. In a review of an exhibition of Wilke's vaginal shaped sculpture, her work was described as having an "overriding sense of delicacy and taste that restrains them in a state of overt, decorative pubescence;" Arts Magazine 47 November : Citing Benglis's statement that her latex pour sculptures were related to masturbation, critic Cindy Nemser posited a clearly and biologically defined masculinity and femininity, and advocated a celebration of the vaginal and recognizably female as a way to combat the privilege assigned to the phallus; "Four Artists of Sensuality," Arts Magazine 49 March : I am grateful to Maureen Branley, M.
They are both oral and genital. Much has been made of Benglis's reference to masturbation, but the association seems clearly intended as an ironic commentary, a feminized process of stroking the wax on over and over that parodied Renoir's often- quoted remark, "I paint with my prick," and part of an ongoing attempt to appropriate and subvert the gendered mark of male histories. Winsor's attention to physical process has often elicited feminist readings suggesting a self-conscious articulation of aspects of female domestic work, which are repetitive and labor- intensive.
The artist, however, insists that she was instead motivated by the connection between physical activity and the emotional experience of being alive, seeking through repetitive physical activity a sense of connectedness with the world outside. Artforum February : The works in her exhibition at the Bykert Gallery dealt with relationships and oppositions summed up in the terms Intersection, Union, Complementation, Disjunction, Substitution, and Synthesis.
It included many early drawings with titles that suggest not only an ongoing interest in time, but also in linking and connection Accretion, Expanded Expansion, Connection, Contingent, Sequel, Repetition, etc. Lippard saw evidence of scientific detachment in them, "from which emerges sheer pictorial splendor and grandeur; see "Distancing: The Films of Nancy Graves," Art In America 63 November : Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, Walter De Maria, and others, encouraged by Conceptualism's rejection of the art object as commodity and by the emerging environmental movement, were also working in public spaces by the end of the s.
Quoted in Sitings, Living in Albuquerque on a Ford Foundation printmaking grant, Stuart visited prehistoric Indian sites and contemporary pueblos, and read travel, archaeology, and anthropology books about the area. In the course of a subsequent summer in New Hampshire, she worked out the concept of putting earth and rocks on the surface of the heavy muslin-backed paper that she was using while at the site, smashing the rocks into the paper and rubbing the residue for extended periods of time with her hand until its colors were imprinted into the fibers of the paper.
IVIagazlne ; reprinted in From the Center, , In , in one of the first feminist essays to address the issue of the role of abstraction in feminist art, artist and critic Harmony Hammond observed that of the many articles written on feminist art that tried to define a feminist sensibility, few went beyond the recognition that feminist art is based on the personal experiences of women. Acknowledging that the identification of formalist criticism with an exclusionary modernism had often resulted in feminist writings devoted solely to political issues, she argued that abstract art might also have a feminist, and therefore political — rather than elitist — basis.
Although abstraction has often supported myths of the artist as an alienated and isolated male genius, and has absorbed an illusion of apolitical objectivity," Hammond suggests that if one were to look broadly enough across histories and cultures, another kind of history of abstract form might be written, one in which women's cultural productions — from weaving to basketry — play a central role. One senses a rapport with their site and their materials, rather than a victory over them. Finally, while most of the well-known works by men spring from Minimal sensibility, those by women lean toward an Expressionist or Surrealist aesthetic instead.
Equally vivid were their memories of the dramatic changes that occurred circa , with their first awareness of one another and sense of an extensive community of working women artists. They also remarked upon the importance of your early support in a variety of roles — as writer, curator, and activist. Looking back, how would you characterize your own situation as a woman in the art community in New York during that time and the changes that occurred circa ? What contemporary cultural developments circa , crystallized in particular works, people, or events, impacted your sense of a shift in the status and visibility of feminism in art?
How was your own work as a writer impacted by your exchanges with this generation of women artists in New York? I'd been raised to take the side of the "underdog" but I had never seen myself as being one.
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As a kind of tomboy, I had also grown up understanding that women were cut out of a lot of the action, and perceived as inferior. So I didn't really think I was one of them either, even though I had the greatest admiration for many women I knew. We were all "exceptions.
But after World War II, she stopped working and opted not to "do" anything aside from civic volunteerism. It was a model I was determined not to follow. By the time I got out of college in , I saw myself as a "person" rather than a woman ironically, since I later spent a decade arguing against that kind of gender-vagueness. By 1 I'd been publishing for over four years. As a freelance writer, I was never aware of discrimination per se, since I never knew what jobs I didn't get, what the men were being paid.
I hung out with pop, minimal, and conceptual artists. I was having a fine old time. My record on writing about women wasn't bad, especially considering how few women were showing then. But I wasn't really aware how hard things were for my women artist friends until a feminist analysis came to light. They themselves, of course, had a clearer picture, but they didn't talk about it in political terms; I suspect they were conflicted the same way I was — identifying with men rather than women even as men were excluding them.
The women's movement had been happening for two or three years by but news hadn't reached many of us stuck in the art world. I had literally never heard of it until WAR brought the word. I'd recently become an activist opposing the Vietnam War and racism. Sexism seemed an embarrassing addition, but at least I understood the need to support the women in WAR politically before I identified with them emotionally. They didn't really push me, but they did tell me I was the kind of woman who should be with them. I just didn't get it yet. At the same time I was kind of preparing myself on some subconscious level.
I find myself often looking back to Eccentric Abstraction, the first exhibition I curated, in Given a good dose of hindsight, I can see now that I was looking for "feminist art. After so-called "process art" emerged, reintroducing cfiange and touch. I got more and more involved with a "dematerialized" conceptual art that was supposed to avoid commodification and reintroduce content.
Again, with hindsight, that led directly into feminism and performance. That was really what brought me around to feminism. I'd planned the book as a rather contrived conceptual game, very much influenced by the art I was writing about at the time. It was going to be nothing but descriptions of group photographs and an index and the poor reader was supposed to pore over these "clues" to the plot.
But I was away from the art world and the book took on its own life. The characters began to tell their own stories, and only the framework ended up "conceptual. As I was writing her, or she was writing me, which is what it felt like, a lot of stuff started to seep through the cracks of my resistance to the women's movement.
I found that I was writing about a woman surprise surprise , and I was forced to explore what that meant to me, intellectually and sexually. I fantasized all kinds of gender mixes and mirrors, which John Kaufman has recently written about as proto post- modernism! I think what really happened was that writing the book gave me the courage to become a feminist, to kick some of the old conditioned habits in life and in writing. Conceptual ideas had already freed up my writing considerably.
I did collaborations with artists, trying to stretch criticism to the point where I was sometimes accused of being an artist. The Artworkers Coalition had spawned Art Strike. Everybody was in a furor and the women were getting madder and madder as they began to understand the lousy deal the art world was handing them.
The AWC has started as an artists' rights organization. By then I was finally ready. We made a list of all the working women artists we could think of horrifyingly few and started the Ad Hoc Women Artists' Committee. We began to unearth the women who weren't showing, the women working in studios in the city and in the suburbs, who had been working away since art school with little hope of ever getting anywhere in the art world. When they presented their work, some of them were scared to say they were married, or had children, because it would make them look like dilettantes, not "serious artists.
They were almost incredible to me I'd gone to a women's college , and then enraging. And that was the second lightning bolt, the beginning of "sisterhood. I've written about that — the weekly protest, the faked press release purporting to be from the Whitney, saying how proud they were to be the first museum to have a show that was 50 percent women and 50 percent "non-white" , the faked invitations to the opening, the attempt to show women's slides on the outside of the museum and the sit-in at the opening We started the Women's Art Registry so when the institutions told us, as they constantly did, "There are no women who.
Take a look at this. A great deal of it was abstract, although it turned out sometimes that the same women also did much more private, personal, less neutral work, but didn't show it, didn't send it out.