Présentation de l’exposition Berenice Abbott. Published by Jeu de Paume, Paris 2012.
Présentation de l'exposition Berenice Abbott
The above video is a presentation of “Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), photographies” at Jeu de Paume, Paris, France 2012. The exhibition (February 21 – April 29, 2012) a substantial retrospective with 120 photos including lots of vintage prints was co-organized by The Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto) and the Jeu de Paume (Paris).
About Photographer Bernice Abbott
American Bernice Abbott (1898 – 1991) moved to Europe in 1921, to she studied sculpture.”Among her lovers in Paris were artists’ model Tylia Perlmutter and sculptress and silverpoint artist Thelma Wood. In Paris, between 1923 and 1925, she studied photography while working as Man Ray’s assistant. In 1926, she opened her own portrait studio and had a successful one-person exhibition.” (- www.glbtq.com) where she would photograph the rich and famous Parisians and a number of the younger American expatriate lesbian writers, who were living in Paris in the 1920s.
The National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’ show October 2010 – February 13 2011. The exhibition was co-curated by Jonathan Katz, Chair of the Visual Studies doctoral program at SUNY-Buffalo, and David C. Ward, Historian at the National Portrait Gallery.
Hide/Seek: Introduction by co-curator Jonathan Katz
In his introduction to the Hide/Seek show Jonathan talks about knowledge and acknowledgement of homosexuality and queerness in American portraiture. He says, “There is nothing new on the wall, what is new is the way in which we are talking about it, because each of these works talks about aspects of sexual difference and that is new. That has never been addressed.”
The codes which governed the (homo)sexuality presented on the paintings are very different from what we are familiar with today. Looking back at these paintings we need to understand a different world where the straight and the queer was interwoven. In the 1910s and 1920s what we would call a same sex relationship consisted of a straight person and a queer person. Back then what mattered in the intimite moment was your own gender – if you behaved in accordance with your gender you were straight with out regard to with whom you made love. If instead you took on another gender role in a sexual act, then you were queer.
Controversy Surrounding The 'Hide/Seek' ShowThere has been a lot of controversy regarding to the show as a video work by late gay artist David Wojnarowicz was removed from the show shortly after the opening last October. In the video below you can hear some visitors comments to the show and the queer art censorship. And below you find links to other posts about the show at this art blog.
The National Portrait Gallery’s Warren Perry asks visitors their thoughts on the Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.
About Jonathan Katz
Jonathan D. Katz is director of the doctoral program in visual studies at the State University of New York—Buffalo; an honorary research faculty member at the University of Manchester, UK; co-curator of the exhibition ―Hide/Seek‖; and co-author of its accompanying book. He was founding director of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University and founding chair of the very first department of lesbian and gay studies in the United States, at City College of San Francisco. Here, he also co-founded the activist group Queer Nation, San Francisco, and founded both the Queer Caucus of the College Art Association and the Harvey Milk Institute.
The opera lovers shout ‘Bravo!’ when they have heard a great opera aria. Eso!! the tango dancers’ acclamation, was the first thought that came to me, when I learned that MoMA has started looking the role, which women has played in the history of Museum of Modern Art in New York and realized that the MoMA has neglected telling the story about the female (feminist) artists. After 5 years of research they have published a richly illustrated art book/lexicon titled: Modern Women – women artists at the Museum of Modern Art. 48 scollars have contributed to the book with essays about women artists.
Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art
The landmark publication ‘Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art’, in which the museum now openly discusses gender issues, and how instrumental women have been in advancing the arts to where they are today, is the greatest piece of art news, which I have heard in 2010. – Now the museum is finally taking all the feminist artists, who have voiced their concern about the museums (subconscious or deliberate) strategy of giving more space and attention to male artists than women artists, seriously.
Works of art made by women (straight, lesbian, queer, white, black, or…) tell very interesting stories. Stories, which shouldn’t be forgotten by the museums and the main stream art world. The fact that MoMA, which is a role model for many museums, is about to set a new standard makes me smile and dance at my computer.
In the video below you can hear Michelle Elligott, museum activist and researcher talk about her work with the book Modern Women – women artists at the Museum of Modern Art.
I haven’t got my copy of the book yet, but I have had a quick look at book’s index of artists, (the “MoMA the hall of fame of female artists”), and I have picked the following artists, which may be of interest to lesbian and queer art lovers:
BERENICE ABBOTT (USA, 1898 – 1991), SADIE BENNING (USA, born 1973), CLAUDE CAHUN (France 1894 – 1954), LEONOR FINI (Italy, 1907 – 1996), SU FRIEDRICH (USA, born 1954), EILEEN GRAY (Ireland, 1878, 1976), GUERRILLA GIRLS (American group of radical feminist artists founded in 1985),
BARBARA HAMMER (USA, born 1939), HANNAH HÖCH (Germany, 1889 – 1978), FRIDA KAHLO (Mexico, 1907 – 1954), KÄTHE KOLLWITZ (Germany 1867 – 1945), GERMAINE KRULL (1897 – 1985), AGNES MARTIN (Canada, 1912 – 2004), TINA MODOTTI (Italy, 1896 – 1942), GEORGIA O’KEEFFE (USA, 1887 – 1986), EMILY ROYSDON (USA, 1977), CINDY SHERMAN (USA, born 1954), JOAN SNYDER (USA, born 1940), GINGER BROOKS TAKAHASHI (USA, born 1977), and RIDYKEULOUS (an American collaborative art project founded by A.L. Steiner and Nicole Eisenman).
Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art
Cornelia Butler (Editor, Introduction), Alexandra Schwartz (Editor), Griselda Pollock (Introduction)
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: The Museum of Modern Art, New York (June 30, 2010)
In the 1960’ies more or less all lesbian artists were in the closet. There were no lesbian artists – neither in USA nor in Europe – who got the same attention by the medias as American gay artist Andy Warhol or the british artist couple Gilbert & George. The lesbian artists were invisible and there was no visible representation of a lesbian lifestyle either. There existed almost no lesbian erotica made by lesbians before the beginning of 1970’ies, when the first progressive lesbian activists started publishing their own porn mags. The visual representation of lesbian sex was a taboo until the gay and lesbian movement started a general debate about homosexuality.
With start the women’s liberation movement a new source of motivation/ inspiration was born and there was a big creative boom among the female artists/activists: Now it was OK for women to make the images that the society (and their parents) didn’t like…! Women started exploring the creative potential of their body and sexuality and visual art became a media of self-empowerment. At the end of the 1970’ies the first lesbian art shows opened.
The Lesbian Body as a Sexual Object
In the 1970-80’ies the porn industry flowered. The primary target group of the porn industry was hetero sexual males. The erotic depictions of lesbians were not made by women. The “lesbian” images were designed by men for a male audience. I assume that the authors of these images had the idea that when a man turns hot on a photo of one nude woman he will turn twice as hot on an image with two nude women(!)
The lesbian feminists soon pointed to the fact that the commercial “lesbian” porn images were staged. The models were not lesbian as they neither looked nor acted like lesbians. The visual lie, that the models on those photos were “lesbians” sent must have made lots of lesbians feel a big emotional vacuum. They had accepted their own homosexuality, but lived in a world where they were invisible as sexual beings. Lesbian artists soon began to make their own images. They made nudes of “live sex” with real lesbian couples and distributed them to a lesbian audience. The late photographer and activist Tee. A. Corinne (USA) was one of the famous pioneers of lesbian nude photography.
The representation and visibility of the lesbian body as a sexual object for women were the major themes among lesbian artists in the 1970-80’ies. The 1970’ies was also a period, where women artist experimented a lot with their own body and started making performances.
Academics from the women’s studies and a new generation of curators started to focus on women as role models, and it resulted in a number of art exhibitions in the 1980’ies and 1990’ies with vintage prints by lesbian and bisexual photographers among these photographers are Alice Austen (USA, 1866-1952), Mary Willumsen (DK, 1884-1961), Bernice Abbot (USA, 1889-1991), Claude Cahun (FR, 1894-1954) and Germaine Krull (DE, 1897-1985).
The Arts Turned Queer
In the 1990’ies queer art became mainstream. The queer theory discusses gender, body and identity. It disassociates it self from the heterosexual society’s norms and definitions of gender and the gender roles. Inspired by Judith Butler’s Queer theory artists started making ‘queer art’. GLBT photographers Del La Grace Volcano (UK) and Catherine Opie (USA) became known for their queer images of drag kings. The androgyne and ambiguous body was explored by Rebecca Swan (New Zealand) and Linn Underhill (USA) made the photo series “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”, a parody of the porn pin-up and dykes on bikes, to name but a few examples.
The New Trends of Out And Proud Lesbian Art in the 21st Century
The new gay rights (i.e. partnership, the right having a child by insemination, etc.) has made lesbian artist look at the female body and the daily life of lesbian couples in a new way – focussing on the private lives of lesbians. Kelli Connell (USA) makes staged images of a virtual lesbian couple. Artist Christa Holka (GB) snaps photos of her friends and acquaintances at parties and pride events and uploads the images to Flickr.com. Tammy Rae Carland (USA) makes still lives of lesbian double beds. Photographer Verena Jaekel (DE) exhibition “Neue Familienportraits” shows portraits of gay families and photographer Annie Leibovitz (USA) has started exhibiting her private photos from her long relationship with late American academic Susan Sontag.
Visual Art as a Means of Gay Empowerment
In Sweden a survey from 1999 shows that 24% of all lesbians and as many as 36% of all gay men have experienced hate crimes. In Finland 60% of all homosexuals have experienced hate crimes. It the same in Great Britain. Life has improved a lot for gay people over the last 30 years, but the political struggle is not over yet. The fact that there still exist a serious intollerance has made lesbian activist, photographer and TV host Elisabeth Ohlson-Wallin (SE) start a debate about these crimes alongside her exhibition “In hate we trust” (2007). ‘In Hate we trust’ is a show, which consisted of big colour photos with tableaux, by which she illustrates a number the stories of hate crimes, which were almost invisible in mainstream medias. American queer performance artist Mary Coble has also done a number of performances, in which she has questioned hate crimes and other social issues injustices.
In order to explore uncovered ground the lesbian artists often find themselves as visual spokespersons of points of views, which are in opposition to mainstream. They question the complacency, phobias, prejudices and taboos of the mainstream culture. Visual art is a media, which touches our emotions and it is a very efficient tool to make people realize what their point of view is in a social debate and thus it is a powerful tool in the hands of artist/ social provocateurs. Political art still plays a major role in relation to opening our eyes for new thoughts, visions and alternative livestyles. Many lesbian artists work to increase awareness about the core values of the gay communities and thus raise the awareness of the society in general. Their struggle to visualize our lives, emotions, sexuality and visions are yet to be fully appreciated by the gay communities, but I am happy that more and more queer art shows are organized alongside other gay events, so it is easier to get a first hand experience of their works of art.