Spectacle and Transcendence in Contemporary Art by Women at NMWA

June 21, 2017

Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, The National Museum of Women in the Arts focuses on sixteen renowned female artists through the works of contemporary sculpture, photography and video. Entitled REVIVAL, the show explores how arresting aesthetics and intense subject matter can spur the viewer into a transcendent encounter with a work of art by women creators, many of whom were the pioneers of their respectable media. These ladies harness scale, technique and effect in sculpture and photography in order to reanimate deeply rooted emotions related to the human experience.

Left Louise Bourgeois - Spider III, 1995 Right Alison Saar - En Pointe, 2010
Left: Louise Bourgeois - Spider III, 1995. Bronze, 19 x 33 x 33 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; Art © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY / Right: Alison Saar - En Pointe, 2010. Wood, bronze, graphite, and rope, approx. 90 x 48 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver, Venice, CA; © Alison Saar

The Art of Expression

Through the artworks of artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Sonya Clark, Petah Coyne, Lalla Essaydi, Maria Marshall, Alison Saar, Beverly Semmes, Joana Vasconcelos and Bettina von Zwehl, the exhibition shows the innovative ways to evoke emotion, to testify to the power of both love and fear. The show’s title plays on the drive to reveal female artists and their achievements as well as the stimulating function of the works themselves. The women also delve into the spiritual meaning of the word, striving to crack the meaning of this world through imagery that often refers to death and life. The artworks’ scale and relation to the space they’re in invite us to see the connection to the unconscious, the unspoken and the unseen, mining the suggestive power of the fragmented human body, peculiar creatures, wayward children.

Left Joana Vasconcelos - Senator, 2017 Right Polly Morgan - Receiver, 2009
Left: Joana Vasconcelos - Senator, 2017. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro faience, ceramic glaze, and Azores crocheted lace, 34 5/8 x 21 1/4 x 23 5/8 in. Collection of the artist; © Joana Vasconcelos; Photo © Unidade Infinita Projectos / Right: Polly Morgan - Receiver, 2009. Taxidermy quail chicks and Bakelite telephone handset, 9 x 2 1⁄2 x 3 1⁄2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Ilene Gutman; © Polly Morgan; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

The Three Areas of Subject Matter

The first section of REVIVAL addresses the female body, often distorted or inverted. Here, we can find the suspended figures by Alison Saar, Lalla Essaydi’s photographs and sculptures by Sonia Gomes and Sonya Clark, all highlighting the body’s ability to convey the power and vulnerabilities surrounding ethnic and gender identity. The second sector focuses on animals or other creatures, led by Louise Bourgeois’s trademark spider in bronze and the hybrids by Patricia Piccinini. Hers and the works of Joana Vasconcelos powerfully speak of topics like genetic engineering and creation itself, especially one intersecting with feminism and crafts associated with women. In the third section, the artists portray the child, through photographs like in the case of Bettina von Zwehl or Anna Gaskell.

Left Maria Marshall - Future Perfect, 1998 Right Bettina von Zwehl - Profiles III, No. 6, 2005
Left: Maria Marshall - Future Perfect, 1998. Iris print, 56 x 39 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection / Right: Bettina von Zwehl - Profiles III, No. 6, 2005. Lambda print, 52 1⁄2 x 41 7⁄8 in. Courtesy of the artist and Purdy Hicks Gallery; © Bettina von Zwehl

REVIVAL at The National Museum of Women in the Arts

REVIVAL, an exhibition of works by 16 female artists, will be on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC, USA, from June 23rd through September 10th, 2017. A vital part of the museum’s programming for its 30th-anniversary year, REVIVAL is drawn from NMWA’s collection of global contemporary art, public and private collections, and artists’ studios.

Featured images: Beverly Semmes - Blue Gowns, 1993. Chiffon and crushed velvet, approx. 30 x 31 1⁄2 x 30 ft. Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Patricia Piccinini - The Young Family, 2002. Silicone, fiberglass, leather, human hair, and plywood, 33 1/2 x 59 x 47 1/4 in. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gi of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Patricia Piccinini; Photo by Graham Baring; Lalla Essaydi - Bullets Revisited #20, 2014. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum, 30 x 40 in.; Courtesy Miller Yezerski Gallery; © Lalla Essaydi; Anna Gaskell, untitled #27 (override), 1997. Chromogenic print mounted on Plexiglas, 50 x 60 in. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Anna Gaskell. All images courtesy NMWA.

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