Heroines of the Art World take New York


By Nicole Bray

Regardless of whom you are voting for in this election, the increased focus on issues affecting women has been at an all-time high, at least in my lifetime. Whether or not Hilary makes the White House, women are indeed commanding the 2016-2017 art season, with almost all the major New York institutions celebrating female artists.

On October 7th the highly anticipated retrospective of Agnes Martin (1912 – 2004) opened at The Guggenheim (until January 11, 2017). Martin was a fixture of the downtown artist community in the late 50’s and 60’s, mixing with Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman as they relished in the hype of Abstract Expressionism.

However, while the popular trend was towards the masculine gestural brushstroke, Martin honed her practice to become more reductive, methodical, and geometric. She worked continually in this restrained and delicate technique until her death in 2004 in New Mexico. As one of the few female artists who gained recognition in the male-dominated art world of the 1950’s and 60’s, her approach was an important pivot between Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism.

Agnes Martin (1912 – 2004), installation views. Courtesy Guggenheim Museum

The original Goddess, Carolee Schneeman (1932), who has been working since the 1960’s and achieved notoriety for her provocative 1964 performance of Meat Joy and then again in 1975 for her performance of Interior Scroll (you should Google them both). Schneeman has a two-part solo show, Further Evidence, which just opened at Gallerie Lelong and PPOW in Chelsea. Performance and the body are at the heart of Schneeman’s practice, and this survey of important works from the eighties, nineties and present day explores the representation of the body in captivity and visualizations of repressed histories of control and confinement.

Carolee Schneeman (b. 1932), Meat Joy, 1964. Courtesy Carolee Schneeman

The Queens Museum has a survey of another groundbreaking lady-boss of her time, Mierle Laderman Ukeles (1932). Since the 1960’s Ukeles has been combining performance, feminism and labor activism. Coining the term “Maintenance Art” she explores the roles of domestic labor, both at home and within the community. For over 30 years she has held an Artist in Residency with the New York City Sanitation Department, yes, that’s the Sanitation Department, and between 1983 and 2013 she has conducted The Work Ballets, using garbage trucks and other large machinery in a series of stunning performances across the world.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art, installation view. Photo by Hai Zhang

Carmen Herrera (b. 1915), Amarillo “Dos”, 1971. Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Pipilotti Rist (b. 1962), Open My Glade (Flatten), 2000 (still). Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Luhring Augustine

Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera (1915), at 101 years old is celebrating her long overdue retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The wonderfully strange and moody early works of Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971) from 1956-1962 are on view at The Met Breuer through November 27. The Swiss Artist, Pipilotti Rist (1962) is showing her unconventional retrospective of evolutionary video art at The New Museum, and be sure to go to the 4th floor to watch the video’s projected on the ceiling while you lay on a second-hand (but cleaned) bed.

On a daily basis, New York City continues to provide a never-ending buffet of the best of Culture. However, this force des femmes is a very special moment that transports us back to a time we relish in New York’s rich art history, when these badass women were fighting for their place in the Canon and not in the kitchen.

Nicole Bray, Contemporary Art Consultant | info@mercercontemporary.com

artREAL contributor Nicole Bray is the founder of Mercer Contemporary and guides private and corporate clients through each step of acquiring, selling, managing, and displaying artwork. She received her Masters in Contemporary Art (Hons.) from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York. She was the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Emerging Curator Fellowship 2015, and has worked at both an Auction House and for a distinguished private family. If you would like to contact Nicole, or if you are interested in starting your own collection, please email her at info@mercercontemporary.com or visit www.mercercontemporary.com.

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