Not Nice Girls - A Feminist Exhibition in Düsseldorf

January 16, 2020

In recent times, a great deal of exhibitions is dedicated to pioneering feminist practices. Although the art world has its way of functioning, the reason for this tendency is most probably affiliated with a broader socio-political context and the fact that the matter of gender has become once again compromised by the rise of neo-conservativism, or in other words, the right-wing rhetoric.

Therefore, every survey that has a prefix "feminist" is more than valuable in the ongoing critical debate regarding burning topics such as racial, gender and environmental politics. Such is the case with the exhibition titled I’m not a nice girl that focuses on the activity of four pioneering feminist artists belonging to the first generation of Conceptual artists, Lee Lozano, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Eleanor Antin, and Adrian Piper.

Lee Lozano - Private Notes
Lee Lozano - Private Notes

The Exhibition Context

This presentation is based on the series of rarely exhibited documents such as letters, photographs, and concepts found in the Dorothee and Konrad Fischer Archive; this particular assembly was a result of the communication between the influential international gallerist Konrad Fischer and the leading art historian/curator Lucy R. Lippard who is responsible for establishing prolific women artists from the late 1960s and early 1970s (like Eleanor Antin, Charlotte Posenenske, Hanne Darboven, Adrian Piper, Agnes Denes, and others).

Although the gallerist supported the mentioned artists, their works were not part of his exhibition program.

Adrian Piper - My Calling Card
Adrian Piper - My Calling (Card) #1 (Reactive Guerrilla Performance for Dinners and Cocktail Parties), 1986-present. Performance prop: brown business card with printed text on cardboard. 2" x 3.5" (5.1 cm x 9 cm). Various private and public collections. © Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin.

The Practices of Fierce Feminists

The works of Eleanor Antin, Adrian Piper, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles will be located across the rooms in the Bel Etage of the K21, while the ones made by Lee Lozano will be on view in the Archive Dorothee and Konrad Fischer. In 1969, the artist considered the idea for the Konrad Fischer show in her Private Book 1. Lozano was by then known for her uncompromising attitude that gradually resulted in her boycott of the New York art scene and women artists.

Similarly, Mierle Laderman Ukeles acted and her standpoints were expressed in MANIFESTO FOR MAINTENANCE ART 1969! Proposal for an exhibition ‘Care’, published the same year, through which the artist critically examined the value of everyday actions and the maintenance of work in our society.

Eleanor Antin positioned herself from the very start as a feminist whose practice rotated around Conceptual art, photography, performance, theater, and film. The focal point of her investigations was her own body and its representation in society; the artist perceived the body as a signifier of various processes affiliated with questions the female identity and the politics of desire and sexuality.

Adrian Piper persuaded the principles of Conceptual art devotedly by exploring various abstract and systematic principles. However, she was interested in broadening these methods by taking into account the political articulation of gender and race.

Eleanor Antin - Carving A Traditional Sculpture
Eleanor Antin - Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, 1972 (Detail), (The Last Seven Days), 148 silver gelatin prints & text, 7 x 5 inches each, From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York

I'm Not A Nice Girl! at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

Here it is important to note the specificity of the exhibition title that tends to underline the radicalism of these four artists and the way they contested the mechanisms of exclusion that are present in real life as well as in art.

For this exhibition, the curator Isabelle Malz collaborated with an artist Katrin Mayer who developed a concise display for the exhibition's archives, rooms, and publication from a feminist perspective. Mayer is known for producing site-specific installation on the feminist spectrum. The arrangement she proposed was based on the boxing principle that refers to the archival boxes of the Fischer Archive.

I’M NOT A NICE GIRL! Eleanor Antin, Lee Lozano, Adrian Piper, Mierle Laderman Ukeles will be on display at K21 exhibition space within Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf from 18 January until 17 May 2020.

Featured image: Mierle Laderman Ukeles - Touch Sanitation Performance, 1979-80, July 24, 1979-June 26, 1980. Citywide performance with 8,500 Sanitation workers across all fifty-nine New York City Sanitation districts, May 15, 1980, Sweep 10, Queens 14, photo: Vincent Russo, © Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; Mierle Laderman Ukeles - Touch Sanitation Performance, 1979-80, July 24, 1979-June 26, 1980. Citywide performance with 8,500 Sanitation workers across all fifty-nine New York City Sanitation districts, May 14, 1980, Sweep 10, Manhattan 11, photo: Deborah Freedman, © Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York. All images courtesy Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

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