Hello! I spent the weekend soaking up a little Cultchah in LA that I will tell you all about. But first, I shall say that it is hot today.
(No, seriously, that’s it. Nothing more to add on the heat front.)
I went to see WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, a massive exhibit showcasing feminist art from all over the world, 1965-1980. It’s being held down at the Geffen Contemporary, a massive warehouse space that was a bit big and overwhelming to navigate. It was great to get to see a whole buncha art with friends, and even better that it was not crowded (neither the gallery nor the streets nor downtown parking) and that the weather was beautiful. But yes, there was a lot of stuff, and I didn’t really recognize any names even if I had heard about them before. One piece I liked was "The Death of the Patriarchy," where a famous painting ---- I think commemorating the French revolution? ---- had black and white photographs of women artists' faces superimposed over the triumphant revolutionaries, while the dead man in the center was cheekily labeled "The Patriarchy" in type. Or course, if "The Man" were really a man, it would have been simple to overthrow him a long time ago, no?
Another project I liked was a small black room filled with webbings of white crochet or weaving that hung down like spider webs, or black hole diagrams, or the fabric of space-time itself melting and coming apart. Shades of 70s macramé and bad arts and crafts, but still. There were also some huge murals that I loved, but a lot of the material exhibited, I felt, was not conducive to large-scale gallery viewing. Many of the materials were light drawings or sketches with hand written biographical passages (or other forms of writing) beneath, or long typed screeds that I really couldn’t bring myself to read. (I’m a philistine, I know, but I like to go to galleries to look at things, and hopefully they are big and flashy. I’m not such a fan of minimalism or tiny stuff.) Likewise much of the material was attempting to document “happenings” or performance art, and consisted of photographs and written descriptions of the performance. I recognized some of them from art history books or classes, like Carolee Schneemann's "Interior Scroll." These works are important to reference and document, but, again, I appreciated them more when reading about them for class (where I have the time to sit and peruse someone’s argument about them) than when hurrying my way through the gallery. Likewise I’m not very patient about video installations. There was one that I did really like (probably because at about two minutes, it’s within my attention span) that simply consisted of a woman stretched up as high as she can reach against a white wall. She slowly pulls her hands down, filled with red paint, across the wall as she drops down into a squat. The resulting mark left roughly approximates the silhouette of her body, but looks like the trunk of an abstract tree.
We didn’t go through with a tour or docent or anything, and there were no printed programs that led you through a certain path of the warehouse, so I felt lost and overwhelmed not only due to the sheer size and scale of stuff, but also because there wasn’t a clear “narrative” of the movement to follow. The exhibition did not seem to “lead” you through a geographic or temporal pattern or make any case for a development or rise and fall of the movement, or even show how these works talked to or were inspired by each other. I don’t know if that says more about me and my lack of postmodern-ness with regards to master narratives or not. One friend did comment when we left that he felt overwhelmed by the bodiliness and overt political stance of most of the art; to him there seemed to be naked women bodies everywhere, asserting their feminism! (on a side note, the gay boys are the only friends I have who are interested in feminist art. What does that say? Perhaps just that they’re the most desperate to get down to LA for any reason whatsoever) I was kinda reveling in the political-ness of it all, having expected and anticipated something revolutionary from the title of the exhibit, but, yeah, lots of naked female (and a few male) bodies. It was interesting to see just how much more constructed the female body is today compared to back then (remember cellulite and pubic hair? and droopy breasts and asses?) but the women who were using their bodies as central pieces of their art back then still were young and thin --- where were the old and fat bodies? Cindy Sherman, whose work I dearly love (oh yeah, she had some stuff in there too) went from her Untitled Film Still series, when she was young and pretty and approximated the Hollywood ideal she was citing, to more recent stuff where her body does not appear at all.
And since you can get in to both MOCA locations on the same ticket, we hauled our butts a few streets over to see whatever they had in the main building, which had an exhibit that I thought was even cooler and really liked. I'll try to get some images and show them off tomorrow, but even if you can't get to LA or a big city, go support your local art museum! Especially if you can go out to a nice restaurant and gossip about it over good wine afterwards.