Sunday, November 2, 2008

Feminism & Art

Kristen Justesen's "Sculpture II," part of "Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution"at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angels.

What is Feminist Art?
It's the most important artistic movement since world war II.
More than any other 20th century movement,feminism pushed back against the art-for-art's sake attitude of modernist abstraction. It pushed instead for work that talked about crucial issues in the world outside. Ever since feminism in all areas of art making, the message has mattered as much as the medium.

One simple way to gauge the influence of vintage feminist art:  By how much it's on our minds today.

Classic Feminist art is all around us now simply because it is a perfect fit for what's up in todays art world. Take "Wack!" the most striking thing about it is how current its art feels, though it's all decades old.
Feminist cared less for art than for the important things it can be used to talk about.
And because gender affects just about every aspect of human experience, feminist artist found occasions to talk about almost everything. They dealt with topics that leading artist have been broaching ever since: bodies, class, race, consumerism, the art market, colonialism, political and cultural power.
Even when they borrowed approaches dreamed up by men, the feminists gave them new political heft. At first glance, Eleanor Antin's 144 black -and-white shots of a female body,arranged in a 4-by-36 grid, look like plain-Jane conceptual art, perhaps addressing issues such as photography and form. In fact, Antin's grid represents four daily shots of the artist herself, trimming her nude body down to a more "ideal" size through 36 days of dieting. It's Called "Craving: A Traditional Sculpture," riffing on the ancient Greek idea of the male artist who whittles away at gross matter to find the ideal beauty-- usually slender, female beauty --- hidden deep inside. 
The feminists used all kinds of art towards a single end: digging out from under centuries of maledom. the best work in "Wack!" takes on that task with a commitment and aggression that most of today's art never manages.  

According to Lucy Lippard, a verteran feminist who got a standing ovation at the MoMa feminism conference-- before her talk had even started -- woman's art in its first 1970s flowering was built around" a value system, a revolutionary strategy, a way of life." it was " neither a style nor a movement."

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