What Is Feminist Art?
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The correct answer is d.
Feminist creativity has brought about "the most far-reaching transformations in both artmaking and art writing over the past four decades," says Stanford scholar Peggy Phelan.
Feminist art of the 1970s was "the most influential international movement of any during the postwar period," declares Jeremy Strick, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
It helped make possible "the very terms of current artistic practice," says Cornelia Butler, chief curator of drawings at the Museum of Modern Art.
The best American artists of the last 30 years "are as interesting as they are in part because of the feminist art movement of the early 1970s. It changed everything," writes New York Times art critic Holland Cotter.
More than any other 20th-century movement, feminism pushed back against the art-for-art's-sake attitudes of modernist abstraction. It pushed instead for work that talked about crucial issues in the world outside. Ever since feminism, in all areas of artmaking, the message has mattered as much as the medium.
One simple way to gauge the influence of vintage feminist art: By how much it's on our minds today.
In January, a symposium on the subject was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in front of an overflow crowd.
Last month, a blowout show of feminist art of the 1960s and '70s launched in Los Angeles, and the Brooklyn Museum opened its lavish new Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
On Friday, the National Museum of Women in the Arts celebrated the institution's 20th anniversary, its galleries filled with an important exhibition of female painters from Renaissance Italy. (Come September, it will be hosting "Wack!," as the L.A. show is called.)
There's a reason all this women's work has come together now -- it's the 30th anniversary of "Women Artists: 1550-1950," the first major museum survey of the subject. But feminists haven't planned a strategic, unified effort to celebrate that moment. Classic feminist art is all around us now simply because it is a perfect fit for what's up in today's art world.