“Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” asked art historian Linda Nochlin in a provocative, much-quoted 1971 essay. The article’s title has since taken on a life of its own, even making it onto the opening look of Dior’s Paris SS18 show by way of a striped Breton T-shirt.
As if in direct retort, a new exhibition at The Hammer Museum at LA’s UCLA campus is set to open, titled Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985. The show intends to give a long-overdue platform to female Latin American artists and US-based artists of Latino and Chicano heritage, considering their contribution to contemporary art between 1960 and the mid-’80s. Radical Women includes work by 100 artists from 15 countries. Here, Andrea Giunta, one of the co-curators of Radical Women, selects her favourite artworks from the exhibition.
Polvo de Gallina Negra
The performance Madre por un día by Polvo de Gallina Negra was made in a television program by the artists Monica Mayer and Maris Bustamante. They went into the television set and put on the presenter an artificial belly and offered him powders that could produce in him symptoms of pregnancy. The artists proposed to explore non-essential, non-biological maternity; in a sense, they anticipate the investigations that queer theory will propose years later.
In the case of Johanna Hamann, she hung three plaster casts of pregnancy wombs. Frayed, hanging forms, the red colour that, referring to pain, to the wound, disposes in the inner part of the womb leads us to reflect on two aspects: on the one hand in maternity as trauma (in this sense, offering a a different perspective from that promoted by the mass media, with respect to the perpetual happiness that surrounds future mothers) and, second, to the context of violence that prevailed in Peru in the 1980s, with armed actions and repression of the state. The bellies hang on hooks like the ones seen in the butchers. The image is eloquent, refers to violence and trauma.
Lea Lublin in the performance Mon fils raises an early micropolitical analysis. In the context of France in May 68, she condenses the political situation that surrounds her in her own maternity. A maternity that she also considers politics — politics of her body, of her affects, of her way to understand what surrounds her. She presents her baby, with her, in the exhibition space. She shows them, her and her son, in their relationship of play and affection. A politics of the affects that is simultaneous with the politics of the confrontation that was fought in the streets.
Leticia Parente uses her own body to embroider on it (on the soles of her feet) a message that retains a certain irony: “Made in Brazil”. She uses real violence (she crosses her skin with a needle with the thread with which she borders) to inscribe on her body a phrase from which it is deduced that what Brazil produces is violence.
Gloria Camiruaga films a performance in which her own daughters participate. While they lick an ice cream of water their lips and their tongues are stained of colour. At the same time, they discover the body of a toy soldier. The performance refers to the years of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, after the coup that took place with the US involvement. It raises questions about repression, about the relationship between repression and Church, and about the maternal responsibility of the artist herself.
María Evelia Marmolejo
María Evelia Marmolejo prints her menstrual blood on the paper and the walls of an art gallery. Her menstruation had always been traumatic. As Victoria Santa Cruz does when she shouts: “I am black, yes, and what!”, she represents her identity affirmation that she is a woman, menstruates, and that that blood is a message of identity and agency. She is the first artist who reverses the patriarchal act of Yves Klein French artist, when he makes his models to roll through blue paint and to print their bodies in the canvases. Marmolejo also made a performance in which in the public square of Bogota city she cuts her feet and leaves the blood printed on paper: a reference to the violence that flooded Colombian society in the ’80s
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