Yesterday the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I went to see WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Geffen Contemporary, a satellite location of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
I had read that the show was monumental in scope and the truth is that it was completely overwhelming. WACK! covers feminist art from the 1960s to the present day, both in the U.S. and abroad. The physical layout of the show was confusing and mazelike, and a minimalist approach to labeling (no narrative context, no translations) made it difficult to get a handle on many of the pieces on display.
Nonetheless, it's a collection that's worth making an effort to see and understand. WACK! represents the work of over 120 women artists, including Mary Kelly, Tee Corinne, Faith Ringgold--whose work is pictured here--Barbara Hammer, and Judith F. Baca.
The WACK! website seems to contain much of the context that wasn't present at the exhibit. There are photographs, exhibit walkthroughs, and podcast lectures by represented artists as well as feminist art historians available online for free. Also, the exhibit catalog is massive and well-organized, providing additional depth to this encyclopedic show.
Artwork from the late 1960s and 1970s in the U.S. forms a major portion of the show. One of the pieces from this period that intrigued me was General Strike Piece, by Lee Lozano, an avant-garde NY artist. In a series of written pages from a peyote-fueled journal, Lozano chronicles a series of acts she takes in pursuit of "TOTAL PERSONAL & PUBLIC REVOLUTION."
Another work, Prostitution Notes, by Suzanne Lacy, consists of handwritten or drawn notes on cardboard documenting the working lives of L.A. prostitutes, as well as her own reactions and relationship to the women she observes. Like Lozano's piece, Prostitution Notes, is as much about self-interrogation and self-discovery as it is about confrontation with patriarchy.
Some of the art in WACK! struck me as strongly dated. Visual works that incorporated magazine advertisements as a means of critiquing the representation of women seemed to veer into kitsch. Similarly, a few works that were taken as powerful gender critiques when they were originated seemed crude in light of more recent art informed by gay, lesbian and transgender perspectives on gender.
I enjoyed many of the sculptural and installation pieces in the show, including walking into Faith Wilding's cavelike Crocheted Environment, shown here in an older photo. My girlfriend and I were both mightily impressed with photos of Ana Mendieta's earthworks series, Siluetas. Mendieta created a working volcano shaped like a vagina and then documented it in the act of exploding. We loved seeing the earthworks vagina spewing red hot fire. I wish the MOCA gift shop had printed Mendiata's work on a coffee mug--I would have bought it.