|Billboard for the Public Art Fund, Guerrilla Girls (1989)|
Our spring exhibitions opened last Wednesday, so welcome to a whole new series of Wednesday Exhibitions! One of my favorite pieces in ‘Canceled’: Alternative Manifestations and Productive Failures, organized by Lauren van Haaften-Schick, is a piece of printed ephemera created in 1989 by the feminist organization known as the Guerrilla Girls for the Public Art Fund in 1989. Going into the prestigious Metropolitan Museum in New York City. the group took of survey of the contemporary art section and, noticing a gross gender disparity, created the poster above. Using the famous 1814 painting Grande Odalisque by French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (fitted with a gorilla head, the symbol of the group), the Guerrilla Girls created this design for a billboard. The Public Art Fund, despite having commissioned the Guerrilla Girls, rejected their proposal. When the organization decided to run the poster themselves—they rented advertising space on the side of a New York City bus — the MTA canceled their lease, claiming the image was “too suggestive” based on the fan the woman is holding (which, incidentally, is almost exactly the same as the original painting).
|A reproduction for the 2005 statistics (2005)|
Despite their stated reasons claims, the Guerrilla Girls believe the billboard and MTA advertisement were canceled due to their critique of a major public institution, and declared it as such. While the image was never shown in either space, it continues to be a widely used and known image for the Guerrilla Girls and their followers, and has been shown as a billboard and on buses in Shanghai, Venice, and Paris. Following up in 2005 and taking new acquisitions into buy modafinil brazil consideration, the stats were worse: fewer than 3% of the artists in the Modern Art sections were women while 83% of the nudes were female. A survey in 2011 found that number change slightly: 4% of the artists were women and 76% of the nudes female, yet the exclusion of female artists is still a major concern.
What I love about this picture is not just the reasons behind why it was canceled, however, but also how it utilizes an iconic image and turns it into protest art. The image is compelling—the gorilla head alone demands your attention—and the stark yellow, black, and pink colors make the message loud and clear. Yet at the same time, the information it gives is the most shocking piece of all: when I first saw this poster I expected it to be from the 1960s, from the era of Woodstock and bra-burning, not from only 23 years ago. The fact that the statistics continue to show such a huge gap between the female artists represented and male artists shown—and the fact the poster has been reprinted for the subsequent surveys done!—expose that this issue is still a serious problem.
Canceled will be on display until June 30th, 2012, as well our two other exhibitions: Anne Gilman’s The Jolly Balance and the 2011 Workspace Artist in Residence display, featuring the work of James Case-Leal, Liz Linden, Emcee C.M. (Colin McMullan), and Heidi Neilson.
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