The current global trend of presenting feminist and gender-related exhibitions suggests the urgency of exploration and deliberation of these themes. The initiatives focused on women's production are frequent, which is not surprising due to the misogyny inscribed in the neoconservative discourse according to which women should focus more on their traditional role of a mother and a housewife.
In particular, exhibiting artworks made by women in environments saturated with religious morals is highly considerate, even if they are just taking into account a specific medium. Such is the case with the current show called Paint, also known as Blood, Women, Affect, and Desire in Contemporary Painting at The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw which is the first large-scale exhibition exploring the stereotypes of submission and domination in an international context.
The exhibition title is borrowed from a book written by Zenon Kruczyński, a former hunter, and it refers to a common hunting term that stands for the blood of a hunted animal. According to that, the artists were invited to propose an affirmative interpretation of womanhood in sync with the mechanisms of empowerment and self-determination. Regardless of rapid digitization of experiences and bodies, the curator Natalia Sielewicz believes that "painting remains an exceptionally evocative medium for representing human experience."
The unifying element for all of the artists in the exhibition is the fact they are dealing with the sexuality, inner yearning, and perversion grotesquely and humorously. Interestingly so, the artworks suggest that the majority of them are dealing with the experience of violence with ambiguity.
Here it is important to underline that the work of Polish artists is present in the broader context of international women’s painting, since it is contrasted with works of artists from abroad. The installment as a whole is attempting to present the painterly practice in regards to the current social context of equal access to reproductive and sexual rights, as well as the class and the race issues.
Except for the apparent urge to map the practices of women on a more global scale, the exhibition concept does not seem to do much. If it deals with womanhood in the context of desire (the reference to hunter’s book is slightly bizarre), it shouldn’t focus only on painting, simply because an array of gestures and expressions are far better expressed in other media such as performance, video or installation, as they are more open to the audience then painting.
The impression is that this exhibition operates with commonplaces and serves as an example of neutralization of any concrete politically or socially-charged message (the lack of articulation of the local scene), which makes it fitting for the mainstream international art market.
Paint, also known as Blood, Women, Affect, and Desire in Contemporary Painting is on display at The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw until 11 August 2019.
Featured images: Paint also known as Blood Installation views. Photo: Daniel Chroba. All images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.