This Girl Bends: Art and Feminism Since 1960 is not a chronological survey of feminist art. As critic Lucy Lippard has pointed out, “Feminist art is neither a style nor a movement.” Rather, this exhibition opens up dialogues across generations of artists that explore feminist concerns surrounding the body, especially those that address gender, race, and sexual identity. The exhibition takes as its starting date 1960 – a time when the modern women’s liberation movement began in America. Although the movement was first a way for women to fight gender inequity, feminism’s goals have since expanded to include both men and women in the fight for equality, regardless of personal identity.
Among the artists are Lynda Benglis, Carolee Schneemann, and Nancy Spero, pioneering women of the first generation of feminist artists. Other artists represented, women and men included, may not consider themselves or their work feminist. All the works on view, however, invite viewers to think critically about how diverse bodies and identities are represented in art. Certain themes—youth and ancient goddesses, words and gestures, private and public images—crop up again and again in these artists’ work. A short list of artists includes Vito Acconci, Patty Chang, Lalla A. Essaydi, Ed Kienholz, Glenn Ligon, Ana Mendieta, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Kiki Smith.
“It’s an exciting experience to see such powerful objects from the museum’s permanent collection on view together,” notes exhibition curator Rebecca Shaykin. “This exhibition is not just about what barriers women artists have broken through in a male-dominated profession over the past fifty years, but how many different artists have been working to expand or ‘bend’ the definition of feminism and feminist art.”
This Girl Bends takes its name from Kerry Stewart’s sculpture, a recent gift from Patricia and Frank Kolodny, on view for the first time at the museum.