The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only international museum dedicated to the exhibition, preservation, and acquisition of works by women artists. By bringing to light remarkable female artists of the past while also promoting the best of them working today, the museum directly addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art. Borrowing from the extensive collection of the museum, the Whitechapel Gallery will present an show featuring photography and video works by seventeen contemporary artists who capture women on camera. Titled Terrains of the Body: Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the display features works by Marina Abramović, Rineke Dijkstra, Anna Gaskell, Nan Goldin, Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Candida Höfer, Icelandic Love Corporation, Mwangi Hutter, Kirsten Justesen, Justine Kurland, Nikki S. Lee, Hellen van Meene, Shirin Neshat, Daniela Rossell, Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation, Janaina Tschäpe and Adriana Varejão.
One of the most renowned performance artists today, Marina Abramović explores the extreme boundaries of both the body and the mind inside it. On display at the gallery, the video performance The Hero is dedicated to her father who was a soldier in the World War II. While the portrait photographer Rineke Dijkstra creates unadorned depictions of her subjects that often appear simultaneously revealing and enigmatic, Anna Gaskell is best known for her dream-like narrative photographs of pre-adolescent girls that make reference to children’s games, literature, and psychology. A critically celebrated photographer, Nan Goldin is known for her uncompromising work that often deals with groups on the margins in an often controversial manner. While the Swedish artist Charlotte Gyllenhammar explores issues such as identity, the boundaries between public and private, captivity and terrorism, Candida Höfer explores the psychological environment of social and cultural institutions. Comprised of Ingrid Mwangi and Robert Hutter, the duo Mwangi Hutter reflects on changing societal realities. While Justine Kurland is best known for her surreal depictions of rural landscapes inhabited by nude women, Nikki S. Lee blends photography and performance to investigate the fluidity of individual and group identities.
A pioneer in body art, Kirsten Justesen has used her own body as her art’s primary tool for more than 30 years. On the other hand, Hellen Van Meene is famous for portraying young girls in a search for a non-classical beauty. While Shirin Neshat explores the restrictive Islamic culture of her native Iran, particularly as it impacts the lives of women, Daniela Rossell uses her work to depict the privileged lives of the Mexican political elite related to the PRI Institutional Revolutionary Party. Creating work under the rubric Rufus Corporation, Eve Sussman is known for her lavish narratives told through gesture and group dynamics. While Janaina Tschäpe expresses a flourishing creativity attune to earthly landscapes, ethereal female forms, as well as aqueous tones and biological forms, Adriana Varejão addresses themes of colonialism, miscegenation and anthropology. Lastly, the Icelandic Love Corporation is an artist collective that confronts the seriousness of the art world with works that blend playfulness, humor and spectacle with refreshing genuineness and subtle social critique.
By turning their camera to women, including themselves, these artists embrace the female body as a vital medium for storytelling, expressing identity and reflecting individual and collective experience. The show Terrains of the Body: Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be on view at Whitechapel Gallery in London from January 18th until April 16th, 2017 at Gallery 7.
Featured image: Nan Goldin - Self-Portrait in Kimono with Brian, NYC, 1983 © Nan Goldin, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.