Archives for category: Art

My art crush is showing in Bust: Artist Ghada Amer Makes a Feminist Statement with Ceramics and Embroidery.

For over 20 years, contemporary artist, Ghada Amer, has challenged the oppression of female agency through sexually explicit paintings. With a global perspective, whether resisting oppression in the East’s Muslim-majority countries, where she was born, or in the West’s Christian-majority countries, where she has since made her home, Amer’s oeuvre has continually expanded into bodies of work committed to the message of freeing women — an idea that often takes the form of parted legs, open lips, loose threads, and dripping strands of unveiled hair.

We met in the atrium of Cheim & Read Gallery to discuss her exhibition. Most of the artwork was created around the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I was curious to see how the political context might have influenced Amer.

Portrait of the Revolutionary Woman (2017) greeted me in the entryway by way of an answer and inspired our conversation to interweave the tertiary threads of art technique, cultural critique, and pleasure.

Ghada Amer, Red, Black, and Gold Sculpture (2017); Women in White (2016) at Cheim & Read Gallery

Amer’s embroidered paintings and ceramic plates covered the walls, while the floor held a handful of podiums showcasing ceramic sculptures, Amer called her boxes.   

“Paintings are flat,” Amer said, “but on ceramic boxes you can see them in space. This for me is the pleasure. Making the painting into a sculpture.”

In front of Women in White (2016), she said, “I am always very critical about painting and about the history of art,” and gestured toward the painting embroidered with figures of women in poses appropriated from pornography. “Who writes the history?” Amer remarked. “What do you show?”

“We are fed this history of art with no women painters,” Amer continued. “We are fed that if abstract art is in the Muslim world, it is decoration, but if it belongs to the Western world, it is Abstraction. This is very problematic.”

 

Ghada Amer, Glimpse into a New Painting, 2018

We concluded our conversation before Glimpse into a New Painting (2018). From afar the colors swirl into abstract blocks of purple, indigo, black, and red, conjuring Cy Twombly. Yet to compare her work to the canon master felt similar to drawing connections to pornography. Both ends of the visual high-low spectrum prioritized the predominantly male gaze of approval.

Upon closer inspection, the figure of a woman—just beginning to disrobe—came into shape. She appeared intent on something yet undone. 

“All the time I am thinking,” Amer said, “how can I make a painting with my technique?”

 

Ghada Amer’s exhibition of paintings and ceramic sculptures is now showing at Cheim & Read Gallery through May 12, 2018. The complete exhibition catalog is viewable online.

 

 

 …if you’re female, or female-presenting, or if you’re queer, or a person of color, we have made a lot of inroads in a lot of different fields, businesses, but we are in no way where we should be—where we deserve to be.”

-Lola Flash

 

Lola Flash’s retrospective at Pen + Brush, 1986 to Present, honors creative activism at its finest.

As a queer black woman, Flash, at age 59, has used the medium of photography and photographic processes to confront the dual injustice of invisibility and stereotypical portrayals of gender, sexuality, race, and age for over three decades. Her portraits, many of which were taken with a 4×5 camera, serve to capture those in her communities who are often overlooked. Beginning in 1986, Flash documented her involvement with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) demonstrations and also employed cross-color film processing to reverse the printed photograph’s colors—further illuminating how one person’s blue-sky can be another’s fire-red horizon.

Now on view, Flash’s “Cross-Color” series presents a new world to behold, where black is white and what’s usually identifiable is obscured, exhibited alongside five portrait series, in which Flash invites viewers to see her world, her communities of individuals, in all their unique specificity. The “[sur]passing” series explores the spectrum of race; “surmise” captures fluid presentations of gender; SALT challenges ageism; LEGENDS spotlights leaders of the LGBTQ+ movement; and Incarceration, a singular self-portrait, is the inaugural piece in a series about the mass imprisonment of people of color. Together, this historic retrospective of seventy-one photographs spans a life of advocacy that Flash explains can be united by a simple message: “Look at us,” she implores, “How can you not love us?”

“A lifetime of creative activism needs honoring,” author Juno Roche, writes in the catalog accompanying the photography exhibition, and “needs acknowledgement and celebration.” Pen + Brush, the expansive gallery and organization that has been dedicated to championing women in the arts for over a century, is doing just this by kicking off 2018, another year of resistance, with the Lola Flash Retrospective, now on view through March 17, 2018.

Read our conversation at The Rail.

I’ve been carrying around my Barbara Kruger designed MetroCard for awhile now, and the sight of it still thrills me.

Every time I swipe my way through a turnstile I’m reminded of how much I believe in public art as well as how extraordinary it felt to actually score one of these 50,000 limited-edition cards. I had a plan. It worked. But of course, it was all luck.

Here were my seven steps:

  1. First, I waited. The cards dropped on a Wednesday at four select subway stations. I learned via The New York Times that they were to be randomly distributed and only sold via vending machines. I couldn’t imagine that the existing stack of cards would be swapped out, replaced with the art cards; so I held out until Saturday, hoping other commuters would burn through the generics.
  2. I picked the Broadway-Lafayette Street station, because I frequently pass through here on my way to volunteer at Housing Works Bookstore. Perhaps I’d stored up some synchronicity along the line?  
  3. There were a few entrances from which to choose at this B/D/F/M hub, each had a number of vending machines. I went for one with an attendant, thinking that maaaaybe the cards would be sent out for distribution, addressed to station managers, and they’d stock the machines closest to their booths. I chose the station on the NE corner under the adidas store (because–well–I adore this brand).
  4. Eyeing the line of MetroCard vending machines, all chrome and lit up with “See Something, Say Something” alerts, I felt the same as I did the couple of times in my life that I’ve hmmm-ed over a slot machine to play. Blind. So I gave myself a $20 maximum to spend, in case the art collector in me took over.
  5. The first machine produced a Diesel-branded card. And for a split second, I loathed absolutely everything about SoHo and Capitalism and that I’d ever opened myself up to such a whimsical yet real want in this swirly, grinding whirlwind of a city with deeply rank odds.
  6. I stepped back from the blinking machines. They each held thousands upon thousands of cards. I had four more chances. Three, if I was being strict with staying under my budget. My partner, Melinda, and I watched a few folks buy MetroCards; both of us squinting for flashes of Kruger’s signature red, her iconic white Futura typeface. “I saw red,” Melinda said with conviction, pointing at the machine closest to the turnstiles.
  7. Buzzing like a third rail with hope, I stepped up, slid in my credit card, purchased a minimum stored value card for the amount of $5.25 or something, and held my breath as I flipped over the standard yellow-and-blue printed top to see what might materialize beneath. And with the rush of the right train pulling into the station, I saw it was a Barbara Kruger card.

The Lucky Barbara Kruger MTA Vending Machine

I tried for another, for a friend, a mega Kruger fan, and scored a second card. For the next few days, I directed everyone who cared to the lucky MTA vending machine. They all pulled art cards on the first try.

Many have asked if I’ve framed mine. No way.

Public art is meant to be public–seen by as many people as possible–not locked away, pressed beneath glass, stuck to my private wall.

I only have until 1/31/2019, when the card expires, to carry the message, asking:

Whose hopes? Whose fears? Whose values? Whose justice? 

[Do you seek? Support? Secure? Uphold?]

 

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