Jewish Museum exhibit shows key works by women artists

Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:23am EDT
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A new exhibit at The Jewish Museum explores the impact of feminism, which inspired new ideas and challenged old ones, on contemporary painting over the last half century.

With works by Judy Chicago, Nicole Eisenman, Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner, Lee Lozano, Miriam Schapiro, Nancy Spero and others, "Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism," examines the roots of feminist art in Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Minimalism, extending to the present.

"These were all extremely well-trained artists who studied at the best schools with the best teachers, but their experience informed their feminism," said Daniel Belasco, the exhibit's curator.

"They felt discriminated against in art schools with all-male faculties and galleries took them less seriously than their male peers. They saw a big disparity between the ideals of art and the reality of trying to be an artist, particularly for women," he added.

The works are not "outsider art" in the traditional meaning of artists who are self-taught and often work in isolation from other artists. But they do reflect the perspective of artists who had to challenge various forms of exclusion.

In response, these artists created a feminist aesthetic, Belasco explained.

The exhibit of over 30 paintings and several sculptures and decorative objects is largely drawn from The Jewish Museum's collection. It opens with Gestural and Abstract Expressionist paintings created at the dawn of feminism in postwar America.

Next come self-portraits that demythologize the female body and male representations of it. Feminist artists sought honest images of women, often portraying their own nude bodies.   Continued...