Dear Art Collector, 1985/1986. Copyright © Guerrilla Girls Courtesy www.guerrillagirls.com

Dear Art Collector, 1985/1986. Copyright © Guerrilla Girls
Courtesy www.guerrillagirls.com

Some notes on LadyGirlyFemale

In the process of organizing this exhibition, it was brought to my attention that the decision to organize an all female group show in 2015 warranted some explanation. This exhibition is not intended as a separatist action. During the height of the Feminist Art Movement of the 1970s when institutional sexism was a nearly universal social and economic reality for women artists, there was a paradigm shift towards self-organized all-female group shows.1 This tactic was incredibly powerful in giving voice and visibility to women artists for the first time, but quickly showed the limits of its utility. A secondary dialogue, outside of the mainstream, will never be fully satisfactory for the participants or for the culture at large.

A generation later, there is a growing track record of small inroads. Esteemed female curators such as Connie Butler and Helen Molesworth can finally admit that they’ve had an agenda of smuggling women’s work into institutions, one exhibition or even one work at a time.2 These are great steps in the right direction, but gross gender inequalities are still pervasive.3 “Bias, both conscious and unconscious, is, rampant through- out the world—down the hall, across the street, on the other side of that cubicle partition. It’s in the umpteenth exhibition not featuring a woman. It’s in the evening auction whose top winners are, well, male. It’s in art schools the world over, germinating and putting down roots.”4 Perhaps we have reached a point when bolder action is not only permissible, but necessary. As Linda Nochlin describes so deftly in Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?5, the larger social implications of organizing an exhibition are actually paramount to the ‘feminist problem’. In spite of the many myths about the artistic genius and ‘great art’, the stuff that survives in history books can only be created with the mentors, the cocktail parties, and the personal taste, all of which occur behind the scenes (or perhaps make up the scene). That which is eventu- ally edited out for the neat historical narrative is actually what is crucial to its myth making.

I stole the title for this exhibition from a Spotify playlist created by my friend Gina Gordon in February 2013 of music performed by female singers. It is intended to act as a hashtag or search term for some of the thoughts behind the exhibition, but not as the main descriptor for the work included, a distinction that is perhaps lost in the ironic hyper speed of today’s Internet culture. There is a difference between being a woman artist (in which gender has a determining role) and having a feminist art practice (in which gendered identity becomes a political position within patriarchal structures of power).6 This exhibition is intended as an expression of artistic merit as seen through the lens
of my personal preferences and taste, not as a politi- cal statement, in spite of the strong political feelings I have for this subject. 

It would be remiss not to note that my current social milieu is overwhelmingly female. When I first moved to Los Angeles two years ago I made it a priority to meet women. This was a conscious attempt to replicate the incredible support network I had left behind in New York. As such, the pool of artists from whom I selected works for this exhibition reflects those personal biases. Many of the women in this show are friend conquests. Others introduced themselves to me because they were interested in the work that I do and wanted to work with me. Still others are women whose work I liked so much I art-stalked them all the way from the Internet to real life.

Even though the physical installation only lasted for two weeks, the social network that was developed over the course of planning and executing this exhibition not only lives on, but is growing and strengthening. The closing dinner consisting of the artists and a handful of female arts professionals was so successful, it has spawned a nomadic women’s salon. This cata- log, which provides a space for the representation
and consideration of the work of these artists, exists is a testament to the talent and intentions brought together by this project, but more importantly, the work itself.

We are living in a time in which a female collector can tell me in one breath how proud she is of her daughter for reading Lean In and in the next explain that she doesn’t generally collect female artists because their market value isn’t strong enough. This exhibition attempts to expose these works and artists to a targeted audience of women who are my elders, be they collectors, curators, or established commercial artists. “Studies have shown that if you submit work to a juried exhibit and the jurors don’t know the gender of the person submitting, it ends up pretty equal in terms of who is selected. But as soon as the artist’s gender is known, women drop back to one third.”7 Acknowledging these realities also means acknowledging that women need each other now, more than ever, and that a professional network of support, camaraderie, and yes, boosterism is crucial to creating a more equitable representation of women in all aspects of the art world. With these facts in mind, I believe giving a venue and a voice to talented women is crucial in my role as an art professional. 

Notes:

  1. Sorkin, Jenni. “The Feminist Nomad: The All-woman Group Show.” WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution. By Cornelia H. Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mark. Los An- geles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007. 459. Print.
  2. Hammer Conversations. Connie Butler and Helen Molesworth. Hammer Museum, 30 Oct. 2014. Web.    
  3. Saltz, Jerry. “Where Are All the Women?” New York Magazine 26 Nov. 2007. Print.                                       
  4.  “We Asked 20 Women “Is the Art World Biased?” Here’s What They Said.” Artnet News. 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 May 2015.
  5. Nochlin, Linda. “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?.” ARTnews Jan. 1971. Print.
  6. Schor, Mira. “Contemporary Feminism: Art Practice, Theory, and Activism—An Intergenerational Perspective.” Art Journal 58.4 (1999): 8-29. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2015.                                                        
  7. Bader, Eleanor J. “Women Artists Still Face Discrimination.” Truthout. 10 May 2012. Web. 14 May 2015.

Download the full PDF Catalog here