MF Exhibitions

Feminist And... curator Hilary Robinson, Ph.D

September 7, 2012 - May 26, 2013
In the last several years, a number of large museum exhibitions around the world--from Los Angeles, to Reykjavík, to Paris, to Tokyo, and many other cities--attempted to categorize and historicize something called 'feminist art.' While they have contained some great art, they have also been problematic, for two reasons: first, they have tended to view the work as historical, predominantly of the 70s; and second, they have each tried to produce their own definition of 'feminist art.' Why are these two things problems? Primarily because it means that the curators have seen 'Feminist Art' as something akin to art movements such as Cubism or Abstract Expressionism. This is reductive, because 'feminism' is not a style, a method, or a set of aesthetic concerns. Rather, feminism is a set of politics, dedicated to the analysis of gender and the liberation of all women in support of the improvement of all humankind. To be feminist is to be actively involved with a process of thinking and acting and engaging with the world. To think feminist is not to think about women, but to think about anything and everything that has some form of gender-coding, or implications for the gender-coding of individuals one way or another. 'Feminist and...' one sex or another, one sexuality or another, one race or another, one class or another, one career or another, one education or another, one age or another...

The artists in this exhibition have all been informed by feminist thinking, processes, and actions, and all of them have had their world view shaped by feminism as a result. All of them have turned their gaze upon aspects of the world at large that may not at first glance have been considered to be 'about women.' But whether it is Betsy Damon thinking about the desecration of our water systems--the stuff of life; or Parastou Farouhar thinking about Orientalist exoticization/excoriation of Iranian culture by the west, or that culture's terrible contemporary contradictions; or Ayanah Moor thinking about the visceral nature of desire; or Carrie Mae Weems mediating upon the nature of memory; or Julia Cahill exposing the fetishization of the breast and the hysterical sexualization of younger women; or Loraine Leeson seeking to listen to, and give voice to, those who are often not heard at all: disenfranchised seniors; for all of them, the approach has been deeply informed by an understanding of feminist thought and practice. "Feminist and...': the ellipsis allows for openness, inclusion, and spilling over.

The six artists in the exhibition are highly diverse. Four are American; one is Iranian; one is British; one lives in Germany; two live in Pittsburgh; one lives in London; one has spent over a decade in China; two are African American. The youngest is in her 20s and the eldest in her 70s, and every decade between is represented. This is expressive not of a process that tried to select artists by their identify ('one of these, one of those'), but rather the result of a selection process that recognized the diversity of feminist thought, politics, and ways of being. This is not a museum-created category, but a set of processes in the wider world, constantly finding different realities with which to engage. 'Feminist and...' the title invites you to identify your own feminist thinking and to fill in what for you resonates, fits, makes sense, and poses questions.

--Hilary Robinson, Curator of 'Feminist and...'
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