L: Pilar Albarracín (Spanish, b. 1968). Long Live Spain (Viva España), 2004. Production still; video, 3 min. 30 sec., color, stereo sound. R: Rebecca Belmore's video installation "The Named and the Unnamed".
via NYTimes, Art Review | Global Feminisms:
They Are Artists Who Are Women; Hear Them Roar
By ROBERTA SMITH
Published: March 23, 2007
The combination of the "Global Feminisms" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and its Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, whose inauguration this show celebrates, is like a false idea wrapped in confusion.
The false idea is that there really is such a thing as feminist art, as opposed to art that intentionally or by osmosis reflects or is influenced by feminist thought, of which there is plenty. Feminist art is a shorthand phrase that everyone uses, but institutionalizing such an amorphous, subjective qualifier should make us all reconsider.
The center seems to have been created mostly for its publicity value. It isn't necessary in order to showcase the only jewel in its crown, Judy Chicago's unruly, inspiring installation "The Dinner Party," a landmark in feminist history that occupies around 5,000 of the center’s 8,300 square feet. Made by Ms. Chicago and scores of volunteers from 1974 to 1979, this immense piece is in many ways the perfect storm of second-wave feminism and modernism: it is lashed together by pride, fury, radiating labial forms and numerous female-identified crafts, most prominently painted ceramic plates and needlework. Whatever you think about it as a work of art, it amounts to one-stop consciousness-raising and historical immersion: an activist, body-centered tribute to 39 important women. Study "The Dinner Party" close enough and your bra, if you're wearing one, may spontaneously combust.
What is confused is the exhibition, a sprawling, sometimes energetic assembly of recent work by nearly 90 women from nearly 50 countries that has been organized by Maura Reilly, the founding director of the Sackler Center, and the veteran art historian Linda Nochlin. It seems worth noting that the show's organizers don’t use the phrase "feminist art" in its title. The same goes for what might be called its sister exhibition, "Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution," which has just opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and will travel to the P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center in Long Island City, Queens, next February.
While "Wack" examines art made by about 120 women in the late 1960s and 1970s, "Global Feminisms" concentrates on the present and, by implication, the future. It is restricted to artists born since 1960 and works made since 1990, although most date from 2000 or later. It is energetic, illuminating and irksome, and in all ways worthy of careful study. But it should have been much better.
In her catalog essay Ms. Reilly emphasizes the second "s" in the word feminisms. To whit, there is more than one way to be a feminist these days; feminist goals and issues are different in different places, as is the rate with which they are realized. Still, the show itself feels narrow. Nearly devoid of significant painting and sculpture and thoroughly dominated by photography and video, with a documentary slant to many of its better works, it is more about information, politics and the struggle for equality than it is about art in any very concentrated or satisfying sense.
The curators have treated New York like just another spot on the globe, which is healthy. Nonetheless, "Global Feminisms" jumps cannily back and forth not so much between mainstream and margins as between the two not completely separate success platforms of the marketplace and the institutional stage. To one side are those who sell like hotcakes, among them Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor-Wood, Sarah Lucas, Pipilotti Rist and Kara Walker. To the other are those known mostly from the international biennial circuit, like Tracy Rose, Arahmaiani and Katarzyna Kozyra.
The show begins in the Sackler Center in the space around Ms. Chicago's opus and then advances through an adjacent wing of galleries. But in many ways it never gets too far beyond the world according to "The Dinner Party."